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Climate change conferences and matters arising – Prof Idris

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the highest decision-making body on matters related to climate change faced by the Earth. The just concluded 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the convention in Madrid, Spain closed with a big disappointment.

By Professor Nasiru M. Idris
Professor Nasiru M. Idris

United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, expressed disappointment immediately after the meeting ended on Sunday, December 15, 2019 with a message: “I am disappointed with the results of COP25, the international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle climate crisis. But we must not give up, and I will not give up. I am more determined than ever to work for 2020 to be better to be the year in which all countries commit to do what science tells us is necessary to reach carbon neutrality in 2050 and no more than 1.5-degree temperature rise.”

The theme of COP25 was “Time for Action” for the rulebook that was adopted during the 2018 COP24 Climate Change conference in Katowice, Poland for the Paris Agreement. We should all know that a goal without a plan is just a wish and therefore COP25 put in its best towards tackling climate change.

Nigeria should continue to commit herself to her Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the document Mr. President deposited during the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2016 to be in line with the 1.5o threshold. The 2020 budgets of all the three tiers of governments should factor in peculiarities of climate change issues. This is so important because climate change is affecting our daily life in so many ways and this is evidenced in several dimensions, depending on the region, from drought and desertification in the north, erosion in the east, flooding along the coastal zones and patches of other environmental disasters which are directly or indirectly linked to climate change.

One might wonder what has been happening since the first COP held in Berlin, Germany in 1995. COP1 produced the “Berlin Mandate”, a decision reached at the flagship climate summit in March 1995. The convention established a process for dealing with matters of climate change.

COP2 took place in July 1996 in Geneva, Switzerland. During the COP, ministerial declaration was noted but not adopted so as to reflect the position statement made by the United States.

COP3 took place in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. The COP produced the “Kyoto Protocol”, which outlined the greenhouse gas emissions reduction obligation for developed countries.

COP4 took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1998. The expectation was that outstanding issues unresolved during COP3 in Kyoto would be concluded in the COP4. However, things became complex and thus participating countries adopted a two-year “Plan of Action” to advance efforts and to devise mechanisms for implementing the Kyoto Protocol, to be completed by 2000.

The fifth UNFCCC Conference, COP5, took place in Bonn, Germany in 1999. The conference was mainly a technical meeting and no major conclusions were reached.

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COP6 took place in the city of Hague, Netherlands in 2000. The conference discussions centred on a high-level negotiation over the major political issues especially on the position of the United States proposal to allow credit for carbon “sinks” in forests and agricultural lands that would satisfy a major proportion of the U.S. emissions reductions. Unfortunately, no agreement was reached, and all decisions collapsed due to the suspension by the then President of COP6, Jan Pronk, and further informed parties that meetings would resume in Bonn later.

COP7 took place on African soil in Marrakech, Morocco in 2001 where negotiators wrapped up the work on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, thus finalising most of the operational details and setting the stage for nations to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The main decisions at COP7 included operational rules for international emissions trading among parties to the Protocol and for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and joint implementation, among others. The COP produced the “Marrakesh Accord”.

The UNFCCC COP8 took place in New Delhi, India in 2002 and adopted the Delhi Ministerial Declaration which called for developed countries to transfer technology and more action from parties to the convention.

Milan, Italy hosted COP9 in December 2003. Most of the decisions reached during the meeting were centered on the review of the First National Communication from parties included in Annex 1 to the convention and the use of Adaptation Fund that was established at COP7, among others.

The city of Buenos Aires, Argentina hosted the UNFCCC Conference again in 2004 as COP10. The meeting was in support of developing countries towards coping with climate change and programme of work on adaptation and response measures. The fate of Kyoto Protocol was extensively discussed especially modalities and procedures for afforestation and reforestation project activities under the CDM into the guidelines under Articles 7 and 8 of the Kyoto Protocol. The conference came up with a document tagged “Buenos Aires Plan of Action”.

COP11 took place in Montreal, Canada in 2005. This was the first meeting of parties that marked the entry force of the Kyoto Protocol. The major objectives emerged include implementation of Kyoto Protocol, improvement on Kyoto Protocol and the innovation for the future COPs. Therefore, the Montreal climate conference adopted the rulebook of the Kyoto Protocol and it was called “Montreal Action Plan” to extend the life of Kyoto Protocol.

For the second time, the UNFCCC conference took place on African soil but now in Nairobi, Kenya in 2006. COP12 gave birth to the “Nairobi Framework” and focused on four issues: moving forward on adaptation, improving equity and accessibility of the CDM, reviewing the mandate of the expert group on technology transfer and maintaining momentum in discussions on future climate regime. The meeting also called for support for developing countries and adopted a five-year plan of work to support climate change adaptation.

COP13 took place in Bali, Indonesia in 2007 and it set a timetable for negotiations for a new international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol and include all countries. The conference produced the “Bali Roadmap”, which also included a decision to launch an Adaptation Fund and further decisions on technology transfer and on reducing emissions from deforestation.

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The UNFCCC COP14 was held in Poznan, Poland in December 2008. The meeting resulted in delegates agreeing on principles for the funding of the poor nations in order to cope with the effects of climate change and the meeting also approved a mechanism to incorporate forest protection into the efforts of the international community to combat climate change.

The 15th COP meeting of the UNFCCC was hosted by the Danish government in the city of Copenhagen in 2009 and end with the “Copenhagen Accord”. The objective of the conference was to keep the global warming below 2o C which was validated, and developed countries committed to financing developing countries in the long term. The conference raised climate change conference to the highest political level with over 110 world leaders attended the high-level segment. More than 40,000 people attended representing governments, NGOs, intergovernmental and faith-based organisations, media and UN agencies.

COP16 was held in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 and it formalised the commitments set out in Copenhagen, this was because many issues remained outstanding. Therefore, the outcome of the summit was an agreement adopted by the parties which called for mobilisation of $100 billion per annum which was for Green Climate Fund. This was created mainly for climate actions in developing countries.

For the third time, an African country hosted the COP. Durban, South Africa hosted COP17 in December 2011 and the COP ended with the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”. This time around, all countries agreed to start reducing emissions, including the US and emerging countries (Brazil, China, India and South Africa). It was decided to negotiate a global agreement that would be into force in 2020. Progress was also made regarding creation of Green Climate Fund and the framework was adopted.

COP18 was held in Doha, Qatar in 2012 and the meeting decided to extend the Kyoto Protocol until 2020. Countries like US, Canada, Russia and China did not support the extension. The conference produced the “Doha Climate Gateway”.

COP19 was held in Warsaw, Poland in 2013 and all parties agreed on seven decisions and build on the Cancun Agreement especially framework for REDD+. The decision includes framework on national forest, monitoring systems, safeguards, forest references emission levels, measuring, reporting and verification and the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.

The 20th UNFCCC COP took place in Lima, Peru in 2014 and the parties adopted the “Lima Call for Climate Action” and also with a roadmap to 2015 climate conference in Paris. Lima conference was also a platform where all countries agreed to develop and share their commitment to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

After 20 years of negotiation, all parties unanimously adopted to keep the global warming below two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial and continue efforts to limit it to 1.5oC at COP21, held in Paris, France in December 2015. The conference adopted the famous “Paris Agreement”.

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For the fourth time, the COP came to Africa, this time in 2016. With COP22, the Moroccan city of Marrakesh hosted the COP for the second time after COP7 in 2001. The Paris Agreement came into force a few days before the summit, after being ratified by most nations. The results of the negotiations at this meeting were encapsulated in three documents: the “Marrakesh Action Proclamation”, a strong political message supporting the Paris Agreement at a time when the change in White House was generating uncertainty; the “Marrakesh Partnership” to strengthen climate collaboration for a period up to 2020 and the first meeting of the CMA, the decision-making body for the Paris Agreement.

COP23 was hosted at the UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn, Germany under the Presidency of Fiji and the conference utilised the “Talanoa Dialogue”. The summit made progress on the rulebook to detail how the Paris Agreement would work in practice (Paris Rulebook) with the aim of concluding it in 2018. The dialogue was launched to promote the participation and dialogue of local and indigenous communities. A Gender Action Plan was adopted to ensure the role of women in decision-making related to climate issues.

The next Conference of Parties to UNFCCC was held in Katowice, Poland in 2018 as COP24 with over 23,000 delegates in attendance. The main aim of the conference was hashing out the Paris Agreement “rulebook” and the progress in cutting them for every two years from 2024. At the end of the conference, the parties failed to agree on the rules for voluntary market mechanisms, pushing part of the progress to COP25.

The controversial COP25 was originally supposed to hold Brazil. But, upon the election of a new seemingly right-wing president, the country withdrew and Santiago, Chile took the baton. Unfortunately, due to political uncertainty in the country, the city of Madrid, Spain came to the rescue. The city of Madrid is called the Green Capital. The conference theme was “Time for Action” and is now. COP25 ended with no concrete results reach and experts are currently expressing varying views on the outcome. The next COP, COP26, is expected to take place from November 9 to 19, 2020, in Glasgow, Scotland in the UK. What are we expecting?

What have we learned from COP25 in Madrid, Spain?

Was there disconnect between politicians and the people? What has science shown to us regarding the hottest temperature in recent years? Who are the big emitters and what are currently doing? Is time on our side as temperature continues to rise? As a country, are we really prepared to adapt to the climate emergency? Are we restructuring our economy? What are we doing about carbon credit and capture & storage? Are we undertaking research on adaptations and mitigations in line with global best practice? How far have we gone with our Nationally Determined Contribution?

We should also take note that most decisions taken during COP meetings will affect Africa’s growth and transformation, but it will also be an opportunity for Africa to take advantage if we intend to do well because resources are very sufficient. Therefore, climate change will affect African development if we are not careful. However, the private sector has a key role to play in driving this crusade.

Preparations for COP26 in the UK

Early preparations with representatives of relevant sectors and MDAs in Nigeria will help towards showcasing what Nigeria is doing as a country and what we intend to do in the future.

Finally, can Nigeria host future UNFCCC COPs? Is there a possibility that COP27 or COP28 can be on Nigerian soil?

Are we ready?

By Professor Nasiru M. Idris (Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Nasarawa State University, Keffi; nasiru@nsuk.edu.ng)

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