The mission of COP 30

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By LUIZ CÉSAR MARQUES FILHO*

The 1992 Climate Convention died, it is imperative to resurrect it, redefine it in a much more radical way, in short, make it, finally, effective

The failure of climate governance

In 2017, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued the following warning:[1] “The rate of increase of CO2 atmospheric pressure over the past 70 years is nearly 100 times greater than at the end of the last ice age. As far as direct and indirect observations are concerned, such abrupt changes in atmospheric CO levels2 have never been seen before. (…) Geological records show that current levels of CO2 correspond to an “equilibrium” climate last observed in the mid-Pliocene (3–5 million years ago), when the climate was 2°C to 3°C warmer, the ice of Greenland and western Antarctica melted and even some of the East Antarctic ice was lost, leading to sea levels 10 to 20 meters higher than today.”

This is the world that current greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations are recreating. A sea level rise of 10 to 20 meters will not occur in this century, but rises between 20 and 50 cm above 2000 levels, which should occur in the second quarter of the century, will already be enough to flood many coastal regions and cities in the tides high, generating millions of climate refugees.[2]

Many other warnings followed after 2017, including the 2018 Special Report and the 2021/2022 IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, about this vertiginously rapid anthropogenic change in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, reiterating the failure of the United Nations Framework Convention on on Climate Change (UNFCCC[3]). The objective of this Convention, established in ECO-92, was stipulated in its Article 2: “The ultimate objective of this Convention (...) is to achieve (...) the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that avoids anthropogenic interference hazards in the climate system”.

The last 30 years have seen an almost uninterrupted increase in these concentrations, such that hopes of avoiding “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” are long since gone. In 1992, atmospheric concentrations of GHG (or CO2-equivalent) had reached 430 parts per million (ppm); in 2022, they reached 523 ppm, an increase of around 20% in 30 years, and have been increasing since 2018 at an average rate of 4 ppm per year.[4] Atmospheric concentrations of CO only2 need to go down to 350 ppm if we want a stabilized climate system, but they are increasing faster and faster.

In May 2021, they reached 419,13 ppm; in May 2022, 420,99 ppm and, in May 2023, 424 ppm, a jump, therefore, of about 3 ppm in relation to the last 12 months.[5] As a result, from 2016 onwards, global average warming entered a second phase of acceleration, going from a rate of 0,18°C per decade (1970-2015) to 0,36°C per decade (2016-2040).[6] The current rate of warming puts humanity in the anteroom of an average global warming of 2°C compared to the pre-industrial period, with its catastrophic impacts.[7]

Bill McGuire summarizes well the scientific consensus regarding what the years 2025-2050 have in store for us, if the current trajectory is maintained:[8] “Have no doubt that warming above 1,5°C will see the advent of a world plagued by intense summer heat, extreme drought, devastating floods, declining agricultural harvests, rapid melting of ice sheets and rising sea levels. An increase of 2°C or more will seriously threaten the stability of global society.”

Notwithstanding the redundant failure of the 1992 Framework Convention, there are still those who believe that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will finally begin to decline in the discernible future. The lower the credibility of the promises of rulers and corporations, the greater the credulity required of those who place their hopes in them. The next two COPs seem doomed to the same failure as the previous 27. COP28 in 2023 will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates and will be chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). This is an insult to the objective of the 1992 Convention, since between 2022 and 2026 alone, the portfolio of investments already decided by this state-owned corporation in oil and gas exploration amounts to US$ 127 billion.[9]

Its target, set in July 2022, is to increase its oil extraction capacity by 25% by 2030.[10] COP 29 will probably be hosted by Australia, a country that is the 5th largest coal producer, the 2nd largest exporter and the 3rd largest in reserves of this fuel in the world.[11] Australia has a recurrent record of obstructing attempts to make progress in negotiations at previous COPs.[12]

 

The mission of COP 30

I published an article on Journal of Unicamp on December 13, 2022 entitled “The Climate Framework Convention is dead. And now?"[13] The answer to that question remains the same: staying on this trajectory of failure for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is not an option. Given that there is no proposal to replace the 1992 Climate Convention in sight, it is imperative to resurrect it, redefine it in a much more radical way, in short, make it, finally, effective.

And behold, suddenly, the golden opportunity presents itself to rescue, at the 25th hour, the Climate Convention. On May 26, 2023, Brazil's candidacy presented by the Lula government to the UN was accepted, which represents an important victory for that government. A COP in the heart of the Amazon never happened. Its meaning lies at the opposite end of the next two COPs, based in countries managed by the fossil industry. Certainly, this victory implies a gigantic mission, by far the most important of this government for the present and immediate future of humanity and millions of other species.

In the current state of negotiations, the Lula government and Brazilian diplomacy have the mission of leading the delegations of the signatory countries of the Climate Convention to assume five legally binding commitments, much more audacious than those proposed in the Paris Agreement:

(i) Immediately reduce GHG emissions, so as to increase the chances of human and other species adapting to the already inevitable warming of 2oC by mid-century. Reducing these emissions immediately was never on the agenda at the previous 27 COPs, it will not be at the next two, and it is the IPCC's ultimatum in its Sixth Assessment Report to avoid an uninhabitable planet at ever-widening latitudes.[14]

(ii) Immediately reduce deforestation of forests, especially tropical forests, and eliminate this deforestation by 2030 at the latest. Deforestation deserved a negligible mention in the Paris Agreement (COP21) of December 2015. should” (shouldnt, rather than shall) act to conserve and improve GHG sinks and reservoirs and “are encouraged to act” in the sense of adopting policies and incentives “related to the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation”. It's ridiculously understaffed. A draconian global treaty against deforesters is needed.

Tropical deforestation is mainly caused by cattle ranching and soy cultivation, notably for animal feed, and palm oil often for ultra-processed foods, in short, by a corporate food system, extremely globalized, based on animal proteins and foods with low nutritional content. This system is responsible for about a third of GHG emissions.[15] Yes, a third! Scientists demonstrate that even without emissions from burning fossil fuels, GHG emissions from this dysfunctional food system alone would make it impossible to limit warming to the levels targeted by the Paris Agreement.[16]

(iii) Establish realistic national inventories of anthropogenic GHG emissions. A basic precept of science is that you can only know, predict and therefore manage what you can measure. Countries are not correctly reporting measurements of their net anthropogenic emissions to the UN. The global magnitude of these discrepancies between emissions reported by Parties to the UNFCCC and actual anthropogenic emissions was recently revealed by a study by the journal The Washington Post, according to which there is “a huge discrepancy between the GHG emissions declared by nations and what they are actually sending into the atmosphere. The discrepancy ranges from at least 8,5 billion to 13,3 billion tonnes per year of underreported emissions — something big enough to move the needle on how much the Earth will warm.”[17]

(iv) Kick off the immediate fulfillment of pledges and commitments made at COP15 and 16 (2009 and 2010) by developed countries to “jointly mobilize US$100 billion a year by 2020 from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral , including alternative sources, to meet the needs of developing countries, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency in implementation”.[18] This agreement was never fulfilled by the rich countries[19] and it is blocking the climate negotiations, as the failed June meeting in Bonn, preparatory to COP28, showed.[20]

(v) Make the so-called Financial Mechanism for Losses and Damages effective (The Loss and Damage Finance Facility), in addition to the $100 billion annually pledged for mitigation and adaptation efforts in poor countries. This mechanism came to the fore at COP27, after the Bali Action Plan under COP13, in 2007, and after COP19, in November 2013.[21]

Is this fivefold mission feasible? Probably not. But it will only have a chance of success if it has in its favor a much more vigorous mobilization and pressure from society itself in decision-making, not only in this COP, but in successive ones and at all levels of governance, including the highest level. of the global legal order. The Lula government will do nothing without this mobilization. He needs society to support, pressure and encourage him to face such challenges.

 

The University's mission

Brazilian society, for its part, is not realizing the crucial importance of this mobilization. And here enters the true function and main reason for the existence of the University in our days: to educate for the harsh realities of the climate emergency. This must be approached in scientific terms, but also and above all as the greatest political, intellectual and spiritual challenge of our time. In addition, it must be understood as part of a broader socio-environmental emergency, as the climate crisis is inseparable from three other systemic and accelerating crises: the annihilation of biodiversity, industrial pollution and the abyss of economic, social, racial, and gender inequalities. etc. These four emergencies – climate, biodiversity, pollution and inequalities – amplify each other and together express a crisis of democracy, a crisis of capitalism and, more broadly, a crisis of civilization.

In the next two years, the University can and must join other social forces – popular movements, NGOs, political parties, the church, etc. –, in the sense of preparing this mobilization, but it can and must also take on its own initiatives, intensifying scientific and socio-environmental education inside and outside the walls of the University, through hybrid courses (face-to-face and online), podcasts, internet portals, always with an up-to-date language that is as accessible as possible. Here, just by way of example, is a possible grid of topics for this task of scientific and political education:

  • Climate emergency and its current and expected impacts on societies
  • The intrinsic harmfulness of agribusiness
  • Forest fires, land grabbing and violence promoted by agriculture and livestock
  • Deforestation and annihilation of biodiversity
  • Defense of indigenous territories, quilombolas and Brazilian biomes
  • Growing food insecurity
  • Droughts and water insecurity
  • Pollution, pesticides and intoxication of organisms
  • Agrarian reform, MST and the creation of a healthy and sustainable food system
  • Democracy and reduction of inequalities
  • Proposals for reducing urban inequalities
  • Geopolitics and the growing risks of a nuclear war
  • Democratic Global Governance
  • Sea level rise, vulnerable regions and climate refugees
  • Nuclear energy, a false solution in the transition of the energy matrix
  • Growing health risks, including new pandemics
  • Challenges of the Brazilian and Latin American political process
  • The fight against the extreme right and science denialism
  • Misinformation and manipulation of information through new technologies
  • Ongoing proposals for overcoming capitalism

 

Partnerships and articulations with existing programs and initiatives

There are many institutions and organizations with objectives converging with this proposal. As an example, in the political-partisan sphere, one can mention the Parliamentary Front to Combat Climate Change, made up of 27 state deputies from São Paulo, launched at Alesp with great success on May 29. There are possibilities for joint work with institutions such as the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, ICMBio, INPE, CEMADEN, and with organizations such as the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), the Institute for Environmental Protection (PROAM), the Climate Observatory , An Eye on the Ruralists, Instituto Socioambiental, the Pan-Amazon Social Forum (FOSPA), the World Assembly for the Amazon (AMA) etc.

Within the scope of religious institutions, it is possible to work together with the teams engaged in the work of publicizing the Encyclical Laudato Si ', the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) etc. Other state and federal universities may host joint educational proposals. These are just a few examples of a range of possibilities for cooperation and articulation that will help the University to strengthen its scientific role in society and to strengthen itself in this process.

* Luiz Cesar Marques Filho He is a professor at the Department of History at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Capitalism and environmental collapse (Unicamp).

Originally published on Unicamp Journal.

Notes


[1] See WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, 30/X/2017.

[2] Cf. William V Sweet et al., "Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States”. NOAA, Technical Report NOS CO-OPS 083, 2017, p. 23, Table 5

[3] See if United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

[4] See National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA/AGGI) Annual Greenhouse Gas Index 2022, Spring 2023. 

[5] See “CO2-earth"

[6] Cf. James Hansen & Makiko Sato, “July Temperature Update: Faustian Payment Comes Due”. 13/VIII/2021

[7] See Michael Mann, “Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036”. Scientific American magazine, 1/IV/2014; “When might the world exceed 1.5C and 2C of global warming?”. Carbon Brief, 4/XII/2020.

[8] Cf. Bill McGuire, Hothouse Earth, Icon Books, 2022, pp. 26-27.

[9] Cf. Archana Rani, “ADNOC to invest up to $127bn between 2022 and 2026”. Offshore Technology, 2/XII/2021.

[10] See D. Saadi, “ADNOC to pursue more foreign investments”. S&P Global, 13/VII/2022.

[11] See Australian Government, Coal

[12] See Adam Morton, “Australia is pushing to host a COP meeting”. The Guardian, 18/IX/2022.

[13] SeeClimate Framework Convention is Dead, Now What?

[14] In fact, for the IPCC, that deadline should be “before 2025”. Cf. IPCC, Sixth Assessment Report 2022, Working Group III – Mitigation of Climate Change, 5/IV/2022, Summary for Policymakers, p. 21.

[15] See Francesco N. Tubiello et al., "Greenhouse gas emissions from food systems: building the evidence base". Environmental Research Letters, 8/VI/2021; EDGAR, European Commission.

[16] Cf. Michael A Clark et al., “Global food system emissions could prevent achieving the 1.5° and 2°C climate change targets”. Science, 6/XI/2020.

[17] Cf. Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin, Desmond Butler, John Muyskens, Anu Narayanswamy & Naema Ahmed, “Countries' climate pledges built on flawed data, Post investigation finds”. The Washington Post, 7/XI/2021; Carlos Bocuhy & Luiz Marques, “Studies show that global warming may be underestimated”. Le Monde Diplomatique Brazil, 18/IV/2023.

[18] Cf. UNFCCC, "Roadmap to US$100 billion".

[19]. See J. Timperley, “The broken $100-billion promise of climate finance — and how to fix it”. Nature, 20/X/2021.

[20] See Zia Weise, “Divisions deepen at Bonn climate talks amid UAE leadership vacuum”. Politico, 15/VI/2023; "What Happened (and What Didn't Happen) at the Bonn Climate Conference". Climate Observatory, 16/VI/2023, originally published in Laclima.

[21] Cf. Lívia Preti Boechat & Wagner Costa Ribeiro, “The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage: an analysis of its first cycle”. Development and Environment, 58, 2021, p. 830-849.


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