Expert Speak Terra Nova
Published on Nov 02, 2021
Large climate financing is a prerequisite for net-zero transformation and innovations to reduce emissions. However, such financing must be recognised as investments rather than mere expenses.
Roadmaps and frameworks for achieving net-zero targets This piece is part of the essay series, Towards a Low-Carbon and Climate-Resilient World: Expectations from COP26
The devastating impacts of the climate crisis are already being realised by both developing and developed nations. These consequences do not discriminate by sectors, and all industries are under distress—including human health, food security, agriculture, and livelihoods. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts, pluvial and fluvial floods, cyclones and hurricanes, heat waves, bush fires, and ocean acidification are on the rise, as highlighted in the Sixth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-AR6) report<1> and other scientific literature, e.g. Moishin et al. (2021)<2> and Prasad et al. (2021).<3> These, in turn, have caused an increase in humanitarian crises including malnutrition, hunger, infectious diseases, and poverty. With salt-water intrusion and rising sea levels swallowing the coastlines, governments have resorted to building sea walls, climate-induced relocation, and migration in the small island developing states and other coastal communities. Yet, this is not the most appropriate approach as the livelihoods of the coastal and maritime dwellers are intertwined with the ocean, and they have a strong attachment to their customary land. To prevent catastrophic and irreversible damages from the changing climate by curbing global GHG emissions, 196 countries made a pledge under the Paris Agreement in 2015. The document now has 189 Parties. Realising the urgency of the crisis, countries intend to strengthen their ability and those of other countries to deal with the impacts of climate change whilst limiting the global temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Under the Paris Agreement, countries are to prepare, communicate, and maintain their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), taking into account domestic circumstances and capabilities. They must formulate low emissions development strategies, mitigation measures, implementation roadmap, adaptation plans, GHG inventory, monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions supported by enabling policies and frameworks, with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. However, some scientists believe that this goal is too ambitious and unachievable at this point. They stress that the longer it takes to curb the temperature rise, the worse the conditions will become.
With salt-water intrusion and rising sea levels swallowing the coastlines, governments have resorted to building sea walls, climate-induced relocation, and migration in the small island developing states and other coastal communities.
The global emissions show that energy use is the biggest emitter (73.2 percent), of which 24.2 percent is from energy use in industry, 16.2 percent is transport (road transport – 11.9 percent; aviation – 1.9 percent; shipping – 1.7 percent), and 17.5 percent is from energy use in buildings (residential – 10.9 percent; commercial – 6.6 percent). While the scenario could vary across countries, the energy sector is often the larger emitter. Taking this into consideration, more deliberations are needed in the COP26 regarding SDG-12, i.e. responsible consumption and production, which is about “promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all.” This essentially emanates from the energy pyramid—with energy conservation at the base, energy efficiency above it, and alternative or renewable energy at the apex. The base has a larger area, showing that a large chunk of reduction in energy use and, therefore, emission reduction could be achieved through energy conservation. Further, it is critical to understand the importance of energy conservation and efficiency, to reduce unwarranted wastages and support SDG12 as well as synergise with GHG emission reduction actions and ramp up efforts to tackle poverty around the world. There is a lot to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic. When it began, there was significant scepticism about the gravity of the situation, similar to the phenomenon of climate change denial. However, with a massive increase in cases and the unfortunate loss of lives, the full focus of governments across the world was eventually aimed towards combatting the pandemic. Within a short period of time, humanity embraced and adapted to the “new normal”, and the accelerated development of vaccines was set in motion. Thus, the pandemic brought about a paradigm shift in the way people lived and worked, and in their everyday routines. A similar paradigm shift to enhance low-carbon innovation and investment is needed to prevent overshooting the emissions budget in maintaining temperature rise well below 1.5°C. Similarly, concerted and synchronised action from all actors, decision-makers, governments, private sectors, and stakeholders is imperative for climate change. Everyone must join hands to avert the climate calamity, from the big emitting countries to every individual.
For developing nations, energy efficiency in buildings with climate and cyclone-resilient buildings is also important.
Consequently, in COP26 discussions, an agreement on more equitable actions is required for energy efficiency, alternative energy options, and low-carbon transportation: Energy Efficiency (EE) and Energy Conservation: Although these comprise largely individual choices and sense of responsibility, they are crucial. Discussions on having more stringent EE standards are essential for all countries, particularly for industries, electricity generation, demand-side management, and transportation. For developing nations, energy efficiency in buildings with climate and cyclone-resilient buildings is also important. It would not be sensible for a developing country to achieve 100-percent electricity access without having proper measures for climate-resilient and energy-efficient dwellings. For small island states, early warning and coastal-defence systems are also needed to protect the vulnerable energy, industry and transport infrastructures. Electricity Generation: Gradual phasing out of coal power and a quick switching over to alternatives is critical. In addition, an increase in capacity and capability in renewable energy production and supply, with improved grid infrastructure and smart grids, should be made utmost priority by all countries. Transport Sector: Accelerated transition to e-mobility (Battery Electric Vehicle and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) and non-motorised transportation is required. Developed countries need to deliberate and cooperate towards electric-mobility developments and assist the developing countries into transitioning towards non-motorised transportations, alternative energies in the land and maritime transportations, and improving public transportation networks and infrastructure. Developing countries will need assistance towards infrastructure development for non-motorised transport and e-mobility. Financing and Policy Enablers: Funding and financing have always created a bottleneck for climate actions, and there does not exist a one-size-fits-all policy solution. Though the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated many economies, it has also provided an opportunity for countries to re-evaluate the recovery strategies to build back better with green recovery, incorporating pandemic-proof and climate-proof foresight. Targeted consumer education and behavioural change–similar to the one witnessed amidst Covid-19—is required for energy efficiency, green and alternative energy options, and low-carbon transportations. The demand created by consumers is bound to compel manufacturers and businesses to move swiftly to responsible alternatives. The process of recovery and climate-proofing will be expensive, as indicated by both developed and developing countries. However, the pandemic has shown the merits of foregoing short-term profit and risking economic losses over long-term gains, which will allow for quick adoption of measures for a new normal. Moreover, the establishment of new climate-sensitised norms and policies is expected to cushion economies from future climate shocks. It is imperative that contextualised green recovery policies are implemented to create green jobs while also empowering and strengthening communities.
The establishment of new climate-sensitised norms and policies is expected to cushion economies from future climate shocks.
Large climate financing is a prerequisite for net-zero transformation and innovations to reduce emissions. However, such financing must be recognised as investments rather than mere expenses. Funding for technological innovation for renewables integration, smart grids, energy storage and power-to-X storage, and conversion and reconversion pathways will be revolutionary in transforming the intermittence renewables into reliance and dispatchable energy. One such strategy for countries can be to increase investor confidence through policy frameworks and entice large petroleum companies to invest in e-mobility ventures, since these companies are important levers of change with a key allocative role in society and who have the power to accelerate investment and transition towards a net-zero low-energy future. Developing countries, however, are dependent on donor agencies and access to climate financing is often bureaucratic and challenging. Thus, simpler climate-financing mechanisms are necessary along with capacity-building, to support propitious policies in developing countries for expeditious low-carbon transitions and developments. Countries must now take concerted actions to combat the climate calamity with respect to technological adoptions, policies, and most certainly, financing. As the new developments take place, discussions pertaining to newer viable options need to be incorporated and climate actions revisited and rejuvenated accordingly. Download the PDF of the report here.
<1> Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , Cambridge University Press. <2> Mohammed Moishin et al., “Designing Deep-Based Learning Flood Forecast Model with ConvLSTM Hybrid Algorithm,” IEEE Access, 9: 50982-50993, 2021. <3> Ramendra Prasad et al., “Daily Flood Forecasts with Intelligent Data Analytic Models: Multivariate Empirical Mode Decomposition-Based Modeling Methods,” Intelligent Data Analytics for Decision-Support Systems in Hazard Mitigation, pp. 359–81, 2021.
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