COP 27—The Way Forward – Challenges and Responses Lest Cataclysmic End Averted for Posterity.

1. 1 Introduction:

The annual summit of COP  27 comes at  a  crucial  juncture against  the backdrop of spiraling  global  inflation,  energy  crisis, food  and supply chain  crises and   the ongoing  war in Ukraine. This is overshadowed by the extreme weather events.  The available data show   that the  world is  shying away from acting  decisively. It does not suit the private interest  of  the  major  emitters  to focus  on the  efforts  to decarbonize  financing climate action measures and other  related issues of  food security,  energy  and biodiversity.

 The  COP  27  is scheduled to be  held in Egypt on  6th  November 2022 to   stave off the worst   effects  of global warming. The background is very critical as the world underwent the  covid-19  pandemic  for  almost  two years  with   unheard of misery  to the  peoples and  the  economies. It is estimated that some ten million  people  perished due to  covid-19  and  the   world  development received  the  worst  deceleration  with  multiplier effects. A breakthrough must be made in correcting historic mistakes  committed by the affluent  west in exploiting the  rest  of  the world. The heavy burning of  fossil  fuels by the  top  five  emitters namely China, USA, India, Russia and Japan must  be an  eye opener  at least   to the  World  conscience.

COP 27 priorities, among others,  include  the  following.

  1. Climate Action
  2. Climate Finance.
  3.  Renewable Energy
  4. Fossil Fuels
  5. Global Green Gas Emissions.

It is woven around  the   theme of climate  change  adaptation  and mitigation.

1.2Climate change

  • Climate change includes both human-induced global warming and its large-scale impacts on weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known events in Earth’s history.
  • It is “a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming, but also encompass changes such as sea-level rise; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic, and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in flower/plant blooming; and extreme weather events.”
  • Global warming is just one aspect of climate change. In fact, they say that global warming refers to the rise in global temperatures due mainly to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. On the other hand, climate change refers to the increasing changes in the measures of climate over a long period of time – including precipitation, temperature, and wind patterns.
  • Following the same line of thought, global warming refers only to the Earth’s rising surface temperature, while climate change includes warming and the “side effects” of warming—like melting glaciers, heavier rainstorms, or more frequent droughts. Ultimately, this means that global warming is one side of the much larger problem of human-caused climate change.
  • When we talk about climate change, we are often talking about the increase in temperatures linked to industrial activities and in particular the greenhouse effects. Therefore, we sometimes speak of global warming, which is said to be “of anthropogenic origin”. Ultimately, the causes of global warming (at least at its current rate) are not natural but driven by the human, economy, and industries.
  • Many scientists are studying this phenomenon and trying to understand how activities of human societies are responsible for this heating. These scientists are grouped together in the International Group of Experts on Climate, and they regularly publish reports studying the evolution of climate change, such as the one published in late 2018.

2.1 Background

The first assumptions about the greenhouse effect were made by scientist Jacques Fourier in 1824, whose work was followed by several scientists who tried to quantify this phenomenon, like Claude Pouille, John Tyndall, and Svante Arrhenius. In fact, Arrhenius was the one who conducted the first experiment that accurately validated and quantified the greenhouse effect, at the end of the 19th century. He discovered that an air rich in carbon dioxide retains more heat from solar radiation leading to an increase in air temperature.

In the end, he concluded that if large quantities of carbon are released into the atmosphere (because of industrial activities that burn coal), the air will be charged with CO2 and more heat will be retained. By that time, the first estimates of temperature increases made by Arrhenius and other scientists were that if the greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere doubled, the average temperature of Earth would increase by 5º Celsius. In 1901, Gustaf Echols used for the first time the term “greenhouse effect” to describe this phenomenon.

For decades, these discoveries were not taken seriously in the scientific community. At that time, many experts believed that nature could self-regulate and that the impact on man was minimal. Notably, many scientists thought the excess CO2 would be absorbed by the ocean anyway, which is true within specific CO2 limits. Nevertheless, the thesis that global warming was linked with greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) was proven to be true and validated in the 1940s by Gilbert Pass. Nowadays, with modern technologies, there is solid evidence that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere affects the ability of the air to retain infrared radiation and heat.

3.1Global Warming Awareness and Green Economy

In the 60s, several scientists showed the assumptions on the greenhouse effect were actually real. For what matters, Charles David Keeling proved, for instance, that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was gradually increasing thanks to its measurements near Hawaii.

By its turn, Roger Revelled also proved that the carbon gases released by burning fossil fuels were not immediately absorbed by the ocean, as was previously thought. This discovery accelerated scientists’ worries about climate change and as a result, society and politicians slowly began thinking about these issues as a possible problem in the future.

A decade later, in 1971, during the first Earth Summit, the definition of global warming and its consequences were broadly discussed and a year later, in 1972, John Sawyer published a scientific report highlighting even more clearly the links between global warming and the greenhouse effect.

For over a decade, evidence of climate change has been accumulated in the scientific community until in the mid-1980s, the world’s 7 largest economic powers (the G7) called on the UN to create a group of experts to study this issue. This was the first time there was a real consideration and a true definition of climate change as a public problem by international institutions.

 IPCC was created in 1988 with the purpose of studying the evolution of the phenomenon of climate change and its consequences. It brought (and stills brings) together hundreds of scientists, climatologists, geologists, oceanographers, and biologists, but also economists, sociologists, engineers and other specialists in various fields – with the goal of having a global vision of this phenomenon. The IPCC is structured in three working groups:

  • The first group studies climate change as a phenomenon: they focus on the process and its magnitude;
  • The second group is specialized   and interested   to know the vulnerability of ecosystems and societies, as well as how the planet reacts and adapts to climate change;
  • The third and last group is responsible for studying the ways of fighting climate change. The IPCC made its first report in 1990 and they kept making new ones periodically until they published their last report in October 2018 that focuses on the impacts of a temperature increase of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, its GHG emission pathways and was built in an attempt to address policymakers more directly.

Overall, in these reports, the IPCC scientific community analyses the causes of climate change and its impacts on the ecosystem and on society by developing predictive models. These models and forecasts are then used by governments and businesses, helping them to put in place strategies to combat climate change or adapt to it.

4.1 Impact of Climate Change on the Planet’s Ecosystems

An increase in temperature due to global warming   is not only about a heat increase that can be felt by humans or glacial ice melting – it has the potential to affect the planet’s entire ecosystem. As we have been watching in many different countries, from the US (California) to India or South Africa, the weather is getting disruptive. Extreme weather events are more regular and their patterns are changing – they are more intensive, aggressive, and with more energy. This means more storms, floods, cyclones, and droughts will take place over the next years.

At the same time, the regulating capacity of oceans is also being affected by an increase in temperatures. If global temperatures increase dramatically, ocean levels will not only increase – they will also be facing the ecological challenges of oceanic acidification and deoxygenation. At the same time, forest areas (e.g., Amazon rainforest), fragile ecosystems (e.g., coral reefs) and biodiversity (e.g., corals, insects and mammals) are also under threat.

5.1Impact of Climate Change on Society and the Economy

Furthermore, climate change is already challenging and can further challenge our societies. With the increase in temperatures in some countries, especially in equatorial regions, the flow of climate refugees is changing and increasing, putting pressure on other countries to host them, help them strive and overcome political barriers.

The reasons for this move have to do with natural resources, such as drinking water, that are getting more limited and many crops and livestock that are unlikely to survive (affecting locals but also the global economy of the several industries that rely on raw materials) in specific locations because of the temperature being too hot or too dry, too cold or too wet. And as it turns out, studies say that the wealthiest countries of the world will be the ones experiencing fewer changes in their local climate compared to the poorest regions if the global average surface temperatures reach between 1.5º and 2º Celsius.

6.1 Review of  Progress  Since  COP 26:

It  is  known   that   participants are  signatories to the United Nations Frame work Convention on  Climate Change or  UNFCCC. It  adopted  30  years ago the  UNFCCC. The first  COP  was held in  Berlin in 1995. A  few other  COPs  were outstanding  on account of the  far-reaching  decisions  taken  for  the  world   with far reaching   consequences. The  Kyoto  Protocol  was adopted in the   COP 3 in  1997. It committed the industrialized nations  to  limit  the greenhouse  gas  emissions. COP  21 was held   in Paris  in  2015. In this  summit  member  nations  agreed  to keep  global warming below  2   degree Celsius, ideally below  1.5  degree compared  to  pre -industrial levels. COP 26 ended in Glasgow with a pact on  climate that called  for  the phasing  down of  unabated  coal  burring  for   power generation.

 The  declared  objective  is to  achieve  carbon neutrality by  2050 to help keep temperatures rise below 2 degree Celsius as envisaged  in the Paris  agreement. To make  the  task  faster and  easier,  the  COP 27  summit  muster  courage to name  the offenders. It is not easy as international  diplomacy shy  away  from  it.  On the other hand, serious  efforts must be made to  focus on  the  economic  benefits  of decarbonization.

If  we  look  back , the  rich  countries  have  the  will and  resources  to  face  any  global   emergences  like the   2008-09  international  finical crisis. Again,  a sum of   $15  trillion was  committed  to  fight the  covid  pandemic  by the  major  economies. But  they  fail the  climate in raising the  UN  -global  funds  by  allocating    a sum of   $ 100 billion  annually in climate finance  for  helping the  developing   countries.

If  we are  to  achieve  the  carbon neutrality by  2050,  all major  emitters must  fall in line. Let us stretch the  logic  a bit  further. The  price of achieving carbon neutrality is   only marginal  compared to  the  cost  of  having to  adapt to  an increasingly unlivable  planet. The  choice  is  one  of  “to be  or  not to be”.

The  way out is  to  explore  the  renewable  energy possibilities in  a  big way. Solar,  wind  and  tidal  wave energy may be tapped.  Nonetheless,  we must   come out of the  associated  problems  like  weather  conditions,  weak  transmission  in girds and  poor  financial  conditions of the  stake holders.

Apart  from  the  liberal incentives,  one must think  of disincentives  like  the  introduction of  carbon tax on  the  source of   pollutions.

Member countries must be  fully  convinced  of  the outcome  of  the  COP 27  as it  would make  its   citizens  healthier and  cites  cleaner.

6.2. Alarming  Signs since  COP  26

 The  planet is  witnessing climate  enhanced heat waves, storms and  floods after recording  just 1.2 degree Celsius of warming . Assuming  the  countries  shy away to keep  the  pledges, the world may be on  a  track  for  around  2.5  degrees of  warming. That is   a sure recipe  for a  global  disaster.  The country specific action plans , reviewed  so far, also known as  NDCs—Nationally  Determined Contributions to cut the   emissions and  adapt to  climate  impacts  are  far from   satisfactory in the light of the  Paris  Agreement.


How to Augment the Green Process?

7.1Aggressive tree planting must be taken up on war footing. If one tree is cut, plant 10 immediately.  Bamboos are known for their store house effects of carbon and wherever possible plant the best bamboo varieties for making it to benefit the farmers for value addition, etc as well as   containing soil erosion. Once mature, bamboo poles can be selectively harvested every year, and used to make a wide range of durable products, which lock in carbon for the duration of a product’s lifespan. This high yield makes Bamboo a surprisingly effective carbon sink and important nature-based approach to mitigating global warming. By the same logic, stop deforestation. The amazon forests are to be   replenished as the lungs of the world.

7.2People to choose    the best diet for keeping the balance between nature and the creator.  Meat diet is dangerous for the human system as   the body anatomy is designed for vegetarian food. The wrong fuel will damage the machinery. Hence for better environment, let people turn back to the ecological food habits.

7.3Adopt the solar life style for heating, lighting, etc as it is the best for replacing the   fossil fuel-based life style. It is sustainable as well in the long run.

7.4The use of paper must be kept minimum in offices and households, so that the need to cut trees is minimal.

7.5The reckless use of power from fossil fuel must be contained for a gradual change over to eco-friendly sources, so that the planet is worth living for humans and all other creatures and plants.

7.6All out efforts must be made to educate school children, college students and even the grown-up men and women to create awareness about carbon emission, carbon credit and the ill effects of carbon emissions. Essay competitions   and elocution competitions may be organised in schools, colleges and NGO type organisations like Rotary, Lions, YMCA/YWCA/ WCC/ NSS of  schools /colleges, and places of worship to create awareness on the   need to cut  the methane   emissions, climate finance, etc. Make use of electronic media and print media as well as social media to sphere head an ongoing campaign   on the ill effects of the green gas and as how to contain it on war footing.  Every home must aim for one bamboo per member. If land is a limiting factor, we must use pots to plant   bamboos.

7.7 Decarbonisation must be the talk of the town for policy makers and politicians alike. Mercury rising must influence our thought process day in and day out, if we love the planet that we live and bequeath to the posterity.  The concept of carbon credit   must be widely popularised. It represents the right to emit a measured amount of GHG. Carbon credits work as a certification that business or individual owning them is counterbalancing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG).  The ultimate purpose of carbon credits is, therefore, to reduce the emission of GHG into the atmosphere.

7.8 It is not about   the CO2 only. Carbon dioxide is by far the most important driver of climate change. But methane is not small culprit either. Methane (CH4) is a hydrocarbon that is a primary component of natural gas. Methane is also a greenhouse gas (GHG), so its presence in the atmosphere affects the earth’s temperature and climate system. Methane is emitted from a variety of anthropogenic (human-influenced) and natural sources. Hence policy focus must be directed at it   as well.

7.9 The people   who are least   responsible for the global warming are destined to suffer the worst consequences.   It is the real irony of the drama. Is it not anything for the collective consciousness of world community? There is an old   adage   coming   from the realm of jurisprudence, “better that the guilty escape, than the innocent suffer”!  Here   we must focus on   salvaging    the planet holistically.

7.10 It is said that some $100 billion per year must come as   commitment aimed at   climate finance. Despite the conflicting  claims of its  actual  quantum  among  the various  groups like Oxfam,  how  it is being measured empirically is  the  moot  question. What constitutes the $ 100 bn? It is worth recalling that  the  developed  nations have   committed under  the  Paris Agreement to  allocate $100 billion per year from  2020 onwards to facilitate emission cuts in poorer  countries and also  effect technology  transfer in this  context. Nonetheless,  developing  countries needed  space  to grow  and  the  developed  ones must  move to a net minus paradigm  and meet   climate  finance obligation.

7.11The extremes of flood and fire are not going away, but adaptation can lessen their impact. Greenhouse gas-emissions have produced a planet more than 1 degree C warmer compared  to the  pre-industrial days. Six years ago, in Paris, the  world nations committed themselves   to  avoiding the  worst  of that nightmare by eliminating net  greenhouse  gas emissions quickly  enough to hold the temperature  rise below  2  degree  Celsius. Alas  the  progress  towards that  end is  woefully inadequate. It is  worthwhile   to  study the most  spectacular and  scary form   of  adaptation–  solar geoengineering. Research done  during the last  decade and  half  has  suggested  solar   geoengineering might  significantly reduce some of the  harms from  greenhouse  warming. This  offers  a ray  of  hope. The  most recent  sudden  deluge struck  again  Kerala  –India,  can be  best  understood, if  we  go through the  internationally  famous  Madhav Gadgil  Report  on Western Ghats.   

7.12Many  questions were on the minds of  world leaders in the run up to  the  UNs  COP 26 climate  submit  held from Oct  31st to 12th  November in Glasgow. It  is  said  that hydrogens moment has  come  at last. If taken seriously, the   hydrogen technologies could eliminate some ten per cent of  the greenhouse – gas  emissions by  2050. Hydrogen has its limitations. Research may be focused on blue  hydrogen. It can play a vital role in bringing about cleaner energy.

7.13 Some 80 percent of the emissions are   caused by oil producers, utilities, cement firms, and mining companies. It is assumed that only a tiny number of firms are investing heavily in renewable energy or breakthrough energies. This demands   a better   energy transition regime under the SDGs of the United Nations by 2030. We must collectively give it a chance to hope.

7.14 Once the member  countries  are  fully  convinced  of the need and urgency  of   taking  collective   and  concerted  actions  to address  the   issue  squarely, civil  societies  in  member   countries  may be  roped  in a big way  to  become  the  grassroot  level  executing  agencies  on  a war footing.  Schools,   colleges  and universities, NGOs, hospitals, hostels  and  hotels  all  must be torch bearers of  climate resilience. Educational  institutions, as  mentioned above,  must  run  essay completions and  elocution   competitions   among the students, teachers and   parents  to become  participants as  ambassadors to inculcate climate  consciousness.

7.15  Similarly civic  society  like  Rotary, Lions, YMCA,  WCC, YWCA  local  libraries  and  the  like  must  play active  role  to  contain greenhouse  gas emissions. Housing   societies  seeking  building  plans   to be  permitted by  the  local  government  offices  must  submit  plans    for  green belt  around  them for  compliance.

7.16 Religious  establishments  of  all  shades  must be  given special  targets  by the  governments  to  become active  partners in arresting   the ill effects of gas  emissions. They  all must have a fixed  land -building green  park   ratios in  action.

7.17Targets  may be  given to  all local  bodies  to  comply  with emission  containing  measures  with   stipulated  time frame  as  2030 is  a  non-negotiable  date to achieve  the  global  target.

7.18  Every  school  must  set  up a  well  maintained   green park and  at  appropriate  places  local governments  must  identify  suitable  places  for bird  sanctuaries.

The  area  under  forest cover must be fully  protected and  the depleted  forests  must be  replenished on an ongoing basis.

7. 19The  national  and  state/ provincial  governments  must keep on adding incremental efforts with  political will,  so that  a  visibly greener landscape  would  emerge on  a sustainable basis.

7.20 Participating   governments  must setup a Green Climate Fund  expeditiously, so that  the  target  of  2030 is  achievable.

7.21 It is very  sad  to  recall  the  available  UN  data, which  says  only 26  out  of 193  countries have  followed up the  COP  26 recommendations. It  leads  to  a logical heart  searching  question,  are  we  all  making  a mockery  of  the  annual pilgrimage to  places in the  name  climate  changes and   fooling   the vast majority!

7.22Big economies like India should also use their global monopsony, or the power of a large buyer in international trade, to impose a carbon tariff as envisaged by the EU. Focusing on trade is vital because reducing the domestic carbon content of production alone would not avert the harm if imports remain carbon-intensive. Therefore, leading emitters should use their monopsony, diplomacy and financial capabilities to forge a climate coalition with partners.

7.23 India is among the nations that are hardest hit by climate impacts. There is growing public support for climate action, but we need solutions that are seen to be in India’s interest. A market-oriented approach to tax and trade carbon domestically and to induce similar action by others through international trade and diplomacy offers a way forward.

7.24 Efforts  must be in place  to  set  up Green Climate  Fund  Corpus  in every  member  country,  so that  our mission  is not  a bite without and   a  smoke  without fire.

7.25  Let the   torch bearers of  the  SDGs of the  UN embrace  a new  paradigm in the  form  of  launching environmental  evangelism  as   our  new  creed. The   future beckons, shall we falter!


I place on record my sincere appreciation  for the  timely support   and technical help provided  by Dr. K P P  Nambiar, Former FAO Director,  Prof Dr. Ms. Suparna S Mukherji, Dr.  BJ Meledom and Dr.  AC Peter while finalizing the  first draft  of  this  paper.

Dated  1stst November–2022

Leave a Reply