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The future of our planet depends on the success of COP28

We cannot address the question of the survival of humanity without addressing the issue of water


Published : 09 Jul 2023 09:44 PM
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In November and December, Dubai will host COP28, a major event bringing together the representatives of 199 parties (198 countries plus the EU) with the shared objective of accelerating the energy transition and the fight against global warming by ambitiously raising the targets set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

From mountain peaks to ocean depths, climate change continued its progression in 2022. The environmental issue is becoming a global concern and, above all, is anxiety-provoking because it is all about the survival of humanity.

Antarctic sea ice has reached its lowest level on record and the melting of some European glaciers has surpassed records. Droughts, floods and heat waves have affected communities on every continent and cost billions of dollars.

In March, the World Meteorological Organization published an alarming report. It stated that a disaster of meteorological, climatic or hydrological origin had been recorded on average once a day over the past 50 years, leading to the deaths of 115 people every day and damage amounting to $202 million.

According to the organization’s Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Extreme Weather, Climate and Water Events (1970-2019), more than 11,000 disasters attributed to these events were reported during these five decades around the world. These caused a total of just over 2 million deaths and property damage amounting to $3.64 trillion. In 2017, the US experienced three natural disasters that between them accounted for 35 percent of all economic losses attributable to the 10 worst disasters in the world between 1970 and 2019.

We cannot address the question of the survival of humanity without addressing the issue of water. Water consumption is expected to increase further, and already half the planet already lacks drinking water. Today, no less than 900 million people have no access to safe drinking water, 2.5 billion have little access to sanitation and 1.2 billion have no access to water 

sanitation.

Unfortunately, the problem of water shortage is not linked to global warming alone. Other factors contributing to water scarcity include conflicts, particularly in Syria, Yemen and Sudan. The humanitarian and environmental disaster caused by the destruction last month of the Kakhovka Dam in the Kherson region of Ukraine is a sad illustration of this. Other factors include the migration of populations from rural to urban areas, population growth, poor water management, the deterioration of water infrastructure and very intensive agriculture.This dysfunctional water cycle is already taking its toll. On every continent, families, farms, factories and businesses are affected. Every year, millions of people are displaced.

The scarcity of water is also a cause of the increase in delinquency. Indeed, its rarity, which earned it the name “blue gold,” began to generate the first offenses of fraudulent embezzlement of other people’s property in Europe.

In the Spanish region of Andalusia in May, 26 people were arrested for stealing water to irrigate avocado and mango trees. Nearly 26 million cubic meters of water have been stolen from some 250 illegal wells in the Axarquia, an agricultural region in southern Spain where the level of water reserves is already worryingly low.

Finally, when water is not scarce, it is often polluted. The pollution of water resources is characterized by the presence of microorganisms, chemical substances and even industrial waste. It can concern rivers, water tables and brackish water, but also rainwater, dew, snow and polar ice.

It is in this context of climate tension and environmental emergency that the 28th UN Climate Change Conference will take place in Dubai — and the future of our planet depends on its success. We all have in mind the painful memory of Alok Sharma, the president of COP26 in Glasgow, in tears following two weeks of negotiations that ended with a watered-down pledge to “phase down,” rather than “phase out,” the use of coal power, making that meeting a resounding failure.

The preparations ahead of this year’s COP28 offer a chance to reflect on the ambitious objectives of the Paris Agreement and to take stock of the support provided by rich countries to developing countries. Indeed, seven COPs on from the Paris Agreement and with seven years remaining until 2030, the time for the first global stocktake has come.

In other words, the following three questions should be answered: Where are we, where do we want to go and how do we get there?

It should be borne in mind that the first World Climate Conference was held in 1979 in Geneva, Switzerland. Nine years later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created to carry out regular assessments of the state of knowledge on the planet’s climatic changes.

Its first report in 1990 recognized human responsibility for climate change and it is in this context that the report served as support for the development of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The latter has been adopted by 198 signatory parties.

It was in 2015, on the occasion of COP21 in the French capital, that a legally binding international treaty on climate change was enshrined — the famous Paris Agreement. In its preamble, it states that the parties acknowledge that “climate change is a common concern of humankind (and) should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights.”

Article 2 of the agreement states the target of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

Finally, the Paris Agreement highlights a principle: “This agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.”

What are the priorities of the Emirati presidency for COP 28? It aims to make the conference more inclusive and accessible; support mitigation solutions to increase ambitions; focus on the conditions of the Global Goal on Adaptation and improve adaptation financing; progress on the operationalization of the fund for loss and damage created at COP27; and ensure more equitable access to climate finance.

On May 23, in a letter addressed to US President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, 130 members of the US Congress and the European Parliament demanded the withdrawal of the nomination of Sultan Al-Jaber to chair COP28 due to his role in the oil industry.Critics of the choice of location for COP28 and the appointment of Al-Jaber see it as a provocation, insofar as entrusting the presidency of such an event to a representative of the oil lobby, one of the sectors responsible for the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is nonsensical. Shouldn’t we, on the contrary, see it as a major positive development?


Nathalie Goulet is a member of the Senate of France, representing the Orne department (Normandy). 

Source: Arab News