Climate change is emerging as one of the most significant non-traditional security concerns of our time. A report by Nature Climate Change indicates that approximately 85% of the world’s population is already being affected by climate change. Climate change is caused by global warming, which is the result of greenhouse gas emissions trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. The primary sources of these emissions are related to industrial activities and energy production. Climate change causes unpredictable weather patterns, such as rising sea levels, floods, droughts, cyclones, extreme weather conditions such as heatwaves or cold spells, wildfires, and food and water insecurity. It has economic and social implications as well as environmental consequences.
Strategies to Deal with Climate Change:
Mitigation and Adaptation are the two primary strategies to deal with climate change.
Mitigation strategies aim to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to prevent adverse climate impacts. Mitigation measures include investing in renewable and clean energies, forest conservation and reforestation, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and increasing global cooperation. The fundamental principle of mitigation is to identify and eliminate the root causes of climate change, such as changing consumption patterns and utilizing renewable forms of energy like wind or solar power.
Adaptation strategies, on the other hand, focus on compensating for and adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change through adjustments in social, ecological, or economic systems. The goal of adaptation strategies is to increase adaptive capacity, resilience, and reduce vulnerability to harm when exposed to a threat. Adaptation activities may include water conservation, drainage systems, reservoirs and irrigation systems, raising awareness, risk reduction through early warning and response systems, technology transfer, and making sustainable infrastructure.
Global Efforts for Mitigation and Adaptation:
The first World Climate Conference was held in Geneva in 1979. It led to the establishment of the World Climate Programme and the World Climate Research Programme and called on all nations to support the proposed programme and promote research and development on this issue. Its significance is that it was the first conference in which climate change was recognized as a potential threat to the future.
In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization in collaboration with the UN Environmental Program to provide governments with scientific information that can be used to formulate climate-related policies. The convention set out the commitments to all parties involved, putting major responsibilities on developed countries to implement national policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to assist vulnerable developing country parties financially and technologically in taking climate action.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was compiled in 1992. The Climate Convention only set out general actions to limit the greenhouse gas emissions.
During the COP-3 conference in 1997, the Kyoto protocol was adopted and went into force in 2005. The Kyoto protocol was revolutionary because it contained emission reduction goals by developed countries in the period between 2008 and 2012. The protocol introduced two project-based mechanisms: clean development mechanism and joint implementation mechanism through which developed country invest and develop emission reduction projects in developing countries. Emission reduction has mainly been achieved by renewable energy, energy efficiency, and reforestation related projects.
By the end of 1997, over 150 countries had signed the Kyoto Protocol. The United States was actively involved in the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol. However, in 2001, the US refused to ratify it, citing potential damage to its economy by compliance.
In 2013, industrialized developed states such as the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Russia argued that the rise in emissions was no longer coming from developed countries but from major developing countries like China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and others, whose emissions are not regulated by the Kyoto Protocol.
In December 2015, the countries met at the COP-21 conference held in Paris and agreed on a new agreement that would be implemented from 2020 and would be applicable to all countries.
The Paris Agreement brought in new goals, obligations, and rules for reporting to the pre-existing framework aimed at addressing climate change. Its primary aim is to restrict the rise in global temperature to 2°C by 2100, with the intention of striving for efforts to keep it within 1.5°C in the long run. There was an increased emphasis on the fact that all countries should take national measures to fulfill their commitment.
At the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, 193 countries adopted the 2030 Development Agenda and 17 SDGs. These can be divided into three domains: economic, social, and environmental, and climate change impacts all three of them. Goal 13 aims to ‘Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.’ It includes the following goals:
- Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
- To integrate climate change measures into national policies and planning.
- Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and impact reduction.
In 2022, the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) was held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Countries reached a historic decision to establish and operationalize a loss and damage fund, particularly for nations most vulnerable to the climate crisis in the form of droughts, floods, rising seas, and other disasters.
Two UN Bodies, the Technology Executive Committee, and Climate Technology Centre and Network announced plans to accelerate the deployment of “transformative” technologies to counter the climate crisis. Furthermore, UNEP announced the launch of a new satellite-based system designed to detect methane emissions, to notify companies of methane leaks, helping them to take action.
Action for Climate Empowerment is a concept adopted by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its six components include education, public awareness, training, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation to deal with the climate crisis. The main objective of ACE is to involve and empower all members of society to take climate action. It is emphasized that everyone, especially the young generation, must understand and participate to create a climate-resilient world.
Efforts by Regional Organizations
European Green Deal: In December 2019, EU leaders agreed that the EU should achieve climate-neutrality by 2050. By 2030, EU emissions will be cut by at least 55%. In June 2021, the Council adopted the European climate law through which EU countries are legally obliged to reach both the 2030 and 2050 climate goals.
ASEAN Climate Change Initiative (ACCI) was adopted in 2009 to address climate change and mitigate its impacts. The ASEAN Disaster Management and Emergency Relief Fund was established in 2009. The fund is supported by voluntary contributions from member states and external actors.
South Asia Disaster Knowledge Network (SADKN) was established by SAARC. It is a significant platform for sharing knowledge and information about disaster risk reduction management in South Asia. However, cooperation within the SADKN only exists on a bilateral level and through alternative regional configurations.
The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center is an NGO that brings together the national disaster management organizations of different Asian states and works to improve the disaster management mechanism.
The Regional Climate Change Strategy for 2016-2030 was adopted by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African regional organization. They have also established the Climate Prediction and Application Centre and are promoting sustainable development strategies at state and regional levels aimed at building resilience to future climatic and economic shocks.
Hindrances in Achieving Climate Goals:
The biggest issue is the lack of implementation. Initiatives are often proposed and planned but rarely implemented. For example, before starting the COP27 meeting, countries were supposed to submit their national plans to help limit global temperature rises to 1.5 Celsius and also expected to present plans. Yet only 24 of 193 nations had submitted such plans. Even if states agree to take measures, their efforts are rarely coordinated.
Insufficient resources, especially for Asian states and regional organizations, also act as a hindrance. Even if they develop an effective strategy, they don’t have enough funds to implement it.
States often have competing or conflicting priorities for action. The states which are not directly affected by climate change don’t feel the need or urgency to take mitigation measures.
Realist political ambitions of leaders are also a threat to cooperation. For example, Trump backed out from the Paris agreement in 2017 at a protectionist policy as he emphasized that the agreement was detrimental to the US economy.
Uncertainty about the severity of climate change impacts is also one of the issues. Unfortunately, some policymakers still believe that the consequences of climate change are not as drastic as scientists warn and therefore do not view it as a matter of urgency.
To summarize, — The chronological overview of the significant global and regional conferences and efforts undertaken shows how the climate crisis has evolved from being once considered a non-issue to becoming one of the major threats to human existence. As climate change continues to cause an increase in the death toll, world leaders are intensifying their efforts. While these efforts are commendable, more cooperation is required to address the core issues and hindrances that stand in the way of achieving climate goals.