COP26 must give hope to climate-vulnerable communities

Ein von Fluten zerstörtes Dorf im Melamchi Valley, Nepal

This year’s COP comes at a time when the world is witnessing extreme climate-induced disasters around the globe. While rich countries have the means to tackle these impacts, many communities in the poorer countries are left to fend for themselves. The incoming presidency of COP26 and the leaders of the developed world must face this new reality and deliver, demands Raju Pandit Chhetri from Kathmandu, Nepal.

Next week, the Heads of State from around the world will descend to Glasgow, Scotland, to attend the 26th annual climate change conference of the UNFCCC (also known as COP26). This conference comes at a time when the world is vividly witnessing extreme climate-induced disasters around the world. America witnessed a huge wildfire while Canada went through intolerable heat waves. Germany and Turkey had to face massive floods, while the entire South Asian region endured heavy down pour and flooding. Extreme events are increasing around the world. Rich and industrialized countries had the means to tackle these disasters and support their citizens but many communities in the poorer countries were left to fend for themselves.

My own country, Nepal, saw unprecedented flooding and distorted monsoon pattern in 2021. Monsoon, which brings rain into the country, originates in the Bay of Bengal and usually arrives in mid-June. However, this year even before the monsoon came, catastrophic floods hit the Melamchi Valley (100 km East of Kathmandu), killing dozens of people and sweeping away hundreds of houses, covering huge swathe of agricultural land with debris and sand. A similar situation was witnessed in the northern part of the country. Parts of Nepal’s mountain region are receiving rain instead of snow and this is very unusual.

A least developed country can no longer absorb the burden of this magnitude alone

Last week, Nepal again observed heavy rains and flooding, killing over 150 people and damaging property and infrastructures. Farmers lost paddy worth millions of dollars. A least developed country with low capacity can no longer absorb the burden of this magnitude alone. Scientists point out that these extreme events can be linked to the impacts of climate change.

At Glasgow, will the world leaders especially from the developed countries heed to these climate impacts that the low capacitated developing countries are facing? They must. The incoming presidency of COP26, the United Kingdom and the leaders of the developed world must face this new reality and deliver.

Some of the key outcomes that the COP26 must deliver:

  1. Major emitters, led by the developed countries, must raise their ambition to meet the 1.5oC goal of the Paris Agreement. The science is crystal clear and at least 45 per cent GHG gas must be reduced by 2030 as stated by the IPCC report. The latest Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) synthesis report of the UNFCCC Secretariat suggests that the world is heading toward 2.7 oC by the end of this century. This is not acceptable. The ambition must be raised.
  2. The developed countries must meet the US$100 billion per year commitment. Currently, they fall short of meeting the target and most of the resources provided are blended with the Official Development Assistance (ODA). Failure to deliver on this promise will erode trust among parties at the negotiations. Similarly, the process to set a new quantified post-2025 finance goal must be backed by the science and needs of the developing countries. The financing provided to the poor and vulnerable countries must also be simplified and supported based on the country driven needs.
  3. Key issues like the loss and damage have been undermined for far too long, while the developing vulnerable countries feel the need for giving loss and damage the center stage. COP26 must operationalize article eight of the Paris Agreement related to loss and damage. Slow and extreme onset events are wreaking havoc around the world, forcing people to leave their homes and migrate. Financing for loss and damage must be announced.

The decisions of COP26 must give hope to the poorer nations

If COP26 is to seriously tackle climate change and alleviate the suffering faced by climate-vulnerable communities around the world, actions must be driven by climate science. Currently, leadership especially by developed countries is lacking. The decisions of COP26 must give hope to the poorer nations like Nepal and communities on the ground.

Raju Pandit Chhetri is the Executive Director of Prakriti Resources Centre (PRC), an environment and development organization based in Kathmandu, Nepal. He has over 15 years of experience in the areas of climate change policy processes and sustainable development. Policy advocacy, research and capacity building has been his focus at the national level while he also closely follows the international climate change negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Green Climate Fund.