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Much ado about nothing: Little substantive was said at the UNCAS despite huge expectations from large economies to announce ambitious targets | Photo: CNBCTV

UN Climate Action Summit falls short on expectations

All expectations of announcement of concrete action at the UN Climate Action Summit came crashing down this fortnight. The target UN chief António Guterres wants the world to achieve is net zero emissions by 2050. But most major economies failed to enhance their ambition. Guterres, however, chose to focus on the positives and spoke about how a coalition of 77 smaller countries said they were committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and 70 countries expressed their intention to set a more ambitious climate plan next year in his closing remarks.

The failure of countries to make concrete announcements is even more disheartening because a report released just before the summit found commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions must be at least tripled and increased by up to fivefold in order to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. A tall ask given the hesitation shown by larger economies.

There was one person, though, who grabbed international headlines at the otherwise lacklustre summit – Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg. After denouncing world leaders for failing to tackle climate change in a speech at the start of a climate summit, Thunberg was named as one of four winners of the 2019 Right Livelihood Award, known as Sweden’s alternative Nobel Prize. She also inspired four million young people worldwide to flood city streets to demand political leaders take urgent steps to stop climate change.

Sixteen kids, including Thunberg and 11-year-old Ridhima Pandey from Uttarakhand, India, filed a legal complaint to the United Nations, which outlines how their human rights are being violated by the failure of nations, particularly five nations – Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey – to seriously address the climate crisis.

Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, countries have specific obligations to provide for the health and well-being of children, which aren’t being met as the climate crisis intensifies, according to their petition.

India’s climate adaptation fund woefully inadequate, say experts

India maybe leading the renewable energy race, but it is seriously falling behind in its efforts to adapt to climate change. This year’s Union budget allocated ₹ 100 crore to the country’s National Adaptation Fund for 2019-2020, which is only a fraction of the total budget of over ₹ 2,900 crore allotted to the Union environment ministry – 16% lower than that in 2017-18. According to experts, the adaptation projects that are currently ongoing in states such as Punjab and Kerala are also very small in scope. This is a cause for concern because India is facing floods and droughts with increasing frequency, making climate adaptation the need of the hour.

A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) emphasised the need for public funding to achieve the UN-mandated sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. Why more public funding? This is because, according to the report, the world has been sinking in private debt, which, in turn, has fomented inequality since the past four decades and consequently led to environmental degradation. 

Blow for airline industry as China backtracks on support for UN aviation emissions plan

At a time when the aviation sector’s increasing carbon footprint is creating quite a stir among activists, a landmark UN deal, which aims to cap emissions from international flights, has seemingly lost the support of China, which has one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation systems. China – once a critical early supporter of the UN plan called Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which was announced in 2016 – joined Russia in arguing the proposal would unfairly penalize emerging and developing countries because it raises costs.

“Given the difference among countries in development stage, historical responsibility and coping capability, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for CORSIA implementation orchestrated by developed countries is a de facto reversion to the law of the jungle,” the paper said.

Shipping sector sets goal of achieving zero carbon emissions by 2030

With the maritime sector under tremendous pressure to cut down on emissions, leading ports, banks, oil and shipping companies launched an initiative that aims to have ships and marine fuels with zero carbon emissions on the high seas by 2030. The sector has been taking significant steps in recent times to ensure it reaches its target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050. The initiative has been backed by some big names in the industry, including AP Moller Maersk, which owns the world’s biggest container shipping line.

Russia officially joins Paris climate agreement

In some good news, the world’s fourth-largest emitter, Russia, formally adopted the Paris Agreement this fortnight. This is a welcome sign from a country where climate policy has been largely non-existent for years. On the cards currently are two national plans for low carbon development and adaptation, which the government is reviewing.