The Parliamentarian 2021 Issue Three: Looking ahead to COP26: key challenges facing the Commonwealth

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COP26 AND THE ROLE OF PARLIAMENTARIANS IN ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE THREATS WITHIN THE COMMONWEALTH'S VULNERABLE NATIONS Where we are now Transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050 is the new target for climate and global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions policy, following the 2015 Paris Agreement of "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels" (UNFCCC, 2015). But this net-zero aspiration, which aims to balance the amount of GHG produced and the amount removed, hasn't yet resulted in any state-of-the-art, clear-cut or widely applied interventions to avoid the worst environmental pollution and climate impacts, which would require global GHG emissions to drop by half by 2030 and reach netzero around 2050. Recognising the urgency of the situation, a rapidly growing number of businesses, national and local governments, academic institutions, emissions firms and experts are all working on solutions and making commitments to reach net-zero emissions within their jurisdictions or businesses. As a result, over 50 countries have set such net-zero targets, including the world's largest emitters (China and the United States), whilst hundreds more regions, cities and businesses have set targets of their own. Notably, many national and local governments – especially in the Global North – are transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050. For example, having passed net-zero emissions by 2050 into law (UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 2019), the UK plans to accelerate the shift to netzero emission electric vehicles (EVs) by banning petrol and diesel cars sales by 2030 to decarbonise its transport sector. Moreover, the EU has adopted a series of legislative proposals setting out how it intends to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, including the

intermediate target of at least a 55% net reduction in GHG emissions by 2030.1 However, against the backdrop of extreme heatwaves, droughts, fires and floods across the globe, it remains crucial that vulnerable and low-medium income countries (LMICs) are not left behind and excluded in international decisions, particularly ahead of the COP26 climate policy discussions later this year. It's crucial that any decisions at COP26 take account of vulnerable countries when deciding their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), in particular the world's 42 small states (of which 32 are Commonwealth members). Such considerations are essential since small states are particularly vulnerable because of their geographic positioning, strong dependence on trade, limited access to development finance, and disproportionate impact from natural disasters and climate change.2 Indeed, the effects of climate change are being felt particularly amongst the world's poor and vulnerable, and their consequences will continue to grow in severity and occurrence. Considering that the world will likely surpass a critical warming threshold up to a decade sooner than previously predicted, with virtually no scenarios that avoid it, it's even more vital that COP26 discussions following the Paris Agreement address support for vulnerable countries and LMICs in the Commonwealth. Article 4, paragraph 2 of the Paris Agreement says: 'Each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions'. Thus, this article recommends COP26 to support and stimulate conversations about the impacts on the Commonwealth's most vulnerable nations when pursuing domestic mitigation measures towards net-zero emissions by 2050.

Dr Nana O Bonsu is a Research Fellow in Sustainability at the Lloyds Banking Group

Centre for Responsible Business at the Birmingham Business School. His professional and research interests relate to sustainability policy and governance as well as environmental issues and their impact on public health in LMICs. Before joining the University of Birmingham, he worked for Surrey County Council, London Borough of Hounslow and London Councils where he worked on Infrastructure, Transport, Environment and Health related policy and projects.

256 | The Parliamentarian | 2021: Issue Three | 100 years of publishing

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