Windfall Article

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Fair Share Concept will Steer the UN COP 26 Negotiations in the Right Direction

by Brent Kopperson

Activities are in full swing at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, where nations have converged for renewed negotiations and submission of increased climate action commitments called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The build-up to the conference has lacked any form of nostalgia besides nervous anticipation. After the monumental Paris conference heralded a promising era of intensified climate actions, subsequent conferences have fallen short of expectations.

The 2021 conference, dubbed COP 26 comes exactly five years after the Paris Agreement was signed in place of the Kyoto Protocol by 197 countries, including Canada, the 'come-back kid at the conference after a lull in its climate activities. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had made the reassuring statement We Are Back, casting a ray of hope over the nation's lagging climate efforts. Has Canada lived up to its commitments since then? A rhetorical question yet with a reverberating answer from Canadians' continuous clamour for action and the most recent demands that the newly re-elected government take immediate, decisive steps to fulfill pre-election climate promises.

Canada, however, isn't the only nation falling behind on climate targets. A recently released guidebook by the International Energy Agency (IEA) reveals that shortcomings in current global climate policies will bring about just 40% emissions reduction by 2050-well below the required level to limit the worsening effects of climate change. If we must avert the danger of crossing the 1.5°C global warming level, countries need to act now and fast! COP 26, a platform for global collaboration, must drive this urgency for action and accountability. So, now is the time to embrace the concept of 'Fair Share' as the bedrock of negotiations at the conference-a recommendation the international climate activist community has consistently advocated for as an effective system for allocating appropriate climate responsibilities.

Like the preceding mediations, COP 26 is already labelled the Most Important COP. However, the jury is still out on how the anticipated negotiations will set this conference apart on a scale of importance, particularly with some fundamental issues raised by climate activists. Earlier this year, the Climate Action Network (CAN) called for a revision to the UK's covid vaccine requirements, which would impede participation of some parties critical to these negotiations, particularly from the less developed world. Africa, for instance, has only 3% of its population vaccinated compared to the UK's 60%. This imbalance is one of the equity issues plaguing the conference even before it begins. The extent to which this would impact negotiations is yet to be known, but successfully brokering other daunting gaps will mark a pivotal moment in the history of these negotiations.

The ambition gap is one of the issues taking centre stage at this year's COP. The NDCs pledged by countries in the past remain insufficient to curb emissions and keep global temperatures off tipping points. Countries have barely kept their pledges; even if they did, it still wouldn't bridge the gap. Although some countries have already increased their NDCs with others intending to, this repetitive cycle of blindly ramping up NDCs without any guiding principle will cause futile efforts. Adopting the 'fair share' concept is a way out of this bind. It would set the tone for conversations on effectively measuring and determining each country's fair share. Countries that have historically contributed more to climate change through decades of industrial emissions have a higher responsibility-a fair game of ratios.

Another issue that must be tackled in Glasgow is the finance gap, which takes us back to the concept of fair share. It is only logical that countries with higher emissions bear higher financial burdens. Nevertheless, all countries must chip in as the Paris Agreement requires. Developed countries had committed $1 billion in finance, which is yet to be realized. They need to take the lead in fulfilling their financial obligations to trigger any action from less developed countries. In retrospect, the crucial framework of the Kyoto Protocol that held countries legally bound to pledges could have been a great building block for the Paris Agreement, as voluntary commitments seem ineffective. COP 26 should close out with a consensus on the need for a system of accountability in adherence to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which makes provision for the protection of human rights and transparent sharing of climate finance proceeds.

We may be far from reaching our global climate goal, but this conference is a chance for redemption, especially for Canada, which could have been the belle of the ball at COP26 if it had ridden on the Paris momentum. Canada and others need to create and implement clear-cut policies urgently. Only then will we see positive shifts even ahead of the 2023 UNFCC stock take, and at the next climate conference, we can look back and say COP 26 was truly significant.

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