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After #COP26 Glasgow, what next?

The 26th Conference of Parties (COP) in Glasgow Scotland which had stakeholders from all over the world in Government, environmental Non-Governmental Organizations, climate activists, business leaders, educational institutions, members of the diplomatic corps, the press, lobbyists, and ordinary citizens gathered under the umbrella of climate emergency. Since the conference started there have multiple headlines of protests disrupting sessions, different forms of passionate speeches, notably from the Tuvalu officials and Mia Mottley, the Barbados Prime Minister. Bjorn Lomborg has described the “standing in the water” speech by Tuvalu officials as “misleading” and a clickbait similar to UN Secretary General’s Time Magazine cover. He mentions that Tuvalu’s land area increased by 2.6% but some have countered the claim that land increase is not inhabitable, so it would not count. Including many discussions both online and offline.

Talks and negotiations were due Friday, 12th November but the major point as previous conferences remained: moving from reliance on coal, fossil fuel, and financial support to poorer countries who were relatively worse off due to climate change impact. Lest we forget, Jeff Bezos, pledged $2billion from Bezos Earth Fund to support the fight to restore nature and food systems after which he sold about $2 billion of Amazon.com Inc. stock to fulfill that pledge. According to Bloomberg “Bezos sold 608,450 shares under a pre-arranged trading plan, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings. It brings the amount he’s offloaded this year to about $8.6 billion”.

COP26 President, Alok Sharma, (a member of the UK parliament) who presided over multiple negotiations urged everyone to stay motivated and urged more corporations towards achieving the goals. In a tweet on November 11th, he said “Following yesterday’s plenary I continued engagement with negotiating groups and Parties on the cover decisions and rulebook Several new draft texts were published this morning”.

Accelerated Climate Change impact was supposed to mean that everyone would have to commit not just with mere words to cut global emissions by 45% by 2030 and to cap it to zero by 2050. As part of the 2015 Paris agreement which many countries signed up to was limiting warming temperature rise to 1.5C backed by scientific facts compared to pre-industrial levels to “save us” from the impending doom.

Nigeria at COP26

On the side, talks on social media questioned the presence of countries like Nigeria at the conference considering how multidimensional poverty had ravaged the country due to weak economic policies, insecurity, poor infrastructural regulations from the Ikoyi 21storey building collapse, which was not only ludicrously overpriced but also, alleged issues of no insurance and ignoring “worthiness” advice from structural engineers. The Eko Atlantic project exposing Lagos to the dangers of rising sea levels and displacing people, wastes dumping in the Lagos Lagoon, and yearly flooding compounded by blocked drainage systems remain big environmental concerns. There have also been stories of endangered species of Whales and Dolphins ending up dead in riverine communities and beaches in Nigeria. Then there is the Port Harcourt black soot and marine pollution from excessive burning of fossil fuel in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. All these headlines many argue should be a priority for Nigeria, a country that is heavily fossil-fuel dependent instead of going to the conference because there was nothing tangible to contribute. From biodiversity loss, insecurity driving food prices up, poor preparation for environmental disasters, more needs to be done.

Nigeria has big deforestation issues with a rising population dependent on the forest for survival and business practices that relies on continuous, indiscriminate use of natural resources with no alternative on sight

Toward Climate Change mitigation, Nigeria had earlier launched a “REDD+ strategy to curb deforestation and forest emissions” before the conference. There is an earlier strategy framework version from 2016. According to ThisdayLive“ The development of the REDD+ Strategy document was done with the support of the UN-REDD Programme, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility of the World Bank, and the technical guidance of other development partners like the United Nations Development (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)”. This strategy to reduce emissions and save the forest was again presented at the Nigeria Government Pavilion at the COP26 Glasgow Conference. Nigeria has big deforestation issues with a rising population dependent on the forest for survival and business practices that relies on continuous, indiscriminate use of natural resources with no alternative on sight. The national coordinator of the program, Moses Ama in his interview with the Peoples Gazette mentions “that only seven states (out 36 states) in Nigeria have agreed to be part of the REDD program so far, noting that partners would support program in those states”.

As with previous SDG-related projects, Nigeria must aim to approach this contextually, not a “copy and paste” method which has resulted in failure and waste of resources. Implementations should involve a lot of scientific research, taking “effectiveness, efficiency, and equity” lessons from other places where similar projects have been implemented. The limitations and challenges of previous experiments like issues of land grabbing, displacing of poor people to plant trees must be taken seriously considering the issues of land ownership complexity across different cultural settings and there should be some type of pilot projects to test feasibility before being embarked on a large scale. As with many SDG-ish projects, approach issues on Climate Change impact must overcome ambiguity and be context relevant. But we await the implementation.

Read also: COP26 keeps 1.5C hanging by a thread – experts

After the promises what next?

Like many outsiders are wondering, after the conference what is next? How is this conference different? We are “still heading for 2.4C of warming above pre-industrial levels, according to a report by Climate Action Tracker”. How much impact can aid relief from rich countries achieve considering how the negative impact of development aid and weak governance/democratic structures? Not like the previous pledge of annual $100bn contributions to poor countries have been fulfilled even though some would say “It is a drop in the ocean”. The Friday draft mentioned a fund for “Climate reparations to help developing countries transition” dependency on hydrocarbon-powered energy sources.

The latest draft of the agreement after multiple deliberations has been inserted with caveats that have diluted the supposed concrete measurable targets to cut down Green House Gas (GHG) emissions according to some analysts. These caveats would offer fossil and coal companies the little spaces they can still take advantage of. The draft released on Wednesday gave us some hope but like previous conferences, after all the fanfare and talk we may be back to where we started. Maybe we underestimate the lobbying power of fossil fuel companies and how many economies have no viable alternatives to fossil fuel. Also, we should probably take some steps back on how climate change problems are represented, an example is the concept of Net-Zero. When such foundations are wrong, solutions are already doomed.

I guess these UN conferences need to reach a point where they have to start accepting divisions and conflicts, creating spaces for it not aiming to “suppress” it to give an illusion of progress, the unspoken rage and pain people feel towards each other cannot be ignored because human pettiness and feelings (whether they are genuine or valid is another issue) can ruin negotiations. Since everyone at least has every right to be there (including fossil company lobbyists, Nigerian government officials no matter how we feel about them), human rights aids and cancel law and ethics altogether. The place of inequalities that may never put people from the “South” and “North” on an equal playing field should be taken seriously, approaching like the unlikely nature of water and oil ever mixing.

The BBC summarizes the series of agreements between groups of countries that have been announced so far:

● In a surprise announcement, the US and China agreed to work together this decade to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C

● More than 100 world leaders promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, including Brazil, home to the Amazon rainforest

● The US and the EU announced a global partnership to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by 2030 – reducing methane in the atmosphere is seen as one of the best ways to quickly reduce global warming

● More than 40 countries committed to moving away from coal – but the world’s biggest users like China and the US did not sign up

● A new alliance that commits countries to set a date to ending oil and gas use – and halting granting new licenses for exploration – was launched

Negotiations and deliberations are not exactly easy. Some conference attendees have tweeted about sleepless nights, the stress of conflicts and disagreements. To have all that go to waste over lack of action is even more exhausting. George Monbiot, the British environmental writer, tweets about the conference:

“I’m on my way home from #COP26, full of frustration and fury after reading the draft declaration. The world’s powerful governments propose to do more to defend the fossil fuel industry than to defend life on Earth. If they were serious about preventing more than 1.5C of heating and, potentially, systemic environmental collapse, they would decide to burn no more fossil fuels after 2030 and to launch today an emergency program of full-scale economic transition. But they are not serious. Some delegations will be glowing with satisfaction about defending their fossil fuel industries from anything more challenging than the “perhaps … one day … but only if you feel ready” draft text. But there are no winners here. We are all losers”.

I guess that summarizes how many would feel after so much “conference fatigue” yet, no concrete action, an endless cycle that keeps us busy doing nothing, maybe the barest minimum. We are still going to have Black Friday and CyberMonday. Millions are going to shop; many brands present at the COP26 Glasgow will make us “price offers” too good to pass and there will be even more waste. For millions, those deals will be their one shot at luxurious brands, and it is easy to cast a stone if you have the liberty of options not to want it.

Besides, there are so many hungry, homeless, jobless, depressed, and oppressed people across the world who may not consider climate issues as priorities. All these issues and even more complex ones are all intertwined into a quagmire at COP26.

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