COP Out?

The acronym COP has been hitting us in the face for the last few weeks. We know that there is a meeting happening at Glasgow, and that Climate Change is being discussed. And that the decisions made or not made will affect the future of the Planet and of humankind.

COP 26

But what is COP? COP stands for Conference of Parties, i.e., all the nations which have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). This is the foundational treaty on climate change, and came into being at the landmark Rio Convention in 1992. A ‘Framework Convention’ is one wherein parties acknowledge that there is a problem, and commit, more or less in principle, to work together to solve it. However, there are no specific obligations laid out in these. The UNFCC is ‘subject to ratification, acceptance, approval or accession by States and by regional economic integration organizations’. 

Over time, as more information, knowledge and science come in, and consensus grows, a Framework is fleshed out, and specific Protocols and Agreements with clear obligations come in. From UNFCC for instance, we have the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, laying down specific obligations on the parties. Each of these has to be signed and ratified separately—and this is where the crux of it is. Easy enough to sign statements of intent, but countries baulk at signing on to specific commitments.

The UNFCC opened up for ratification at the Rio Conference on 4th June 1992. It came into force on 21st March 1994, after the 50th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession had been deposited. India was one of the early movers, signing the Convention on June 10, 1992, and ratified it in Nov 1993.

As of now, there are there are 197 Parties (196 States and 1 regional economic integration organization). And these are the ‘parties’ referred to in COP. The COP is the highest decision-making body of the Convention and all States that are Parties to the Convention are represented here.

The COP meets every year, unless the parties agree otherwise. The first meeting was held at Bonn in 1995, the year after the Convention came into force. The COP presidency rotates among the five UN regions. COP 8 was held in New Delhi in 2002.

Apart from the Parties, COPs are attended by Observer States. Beyond this, there are two more categories of participants. The Press and Media are one category of participants. The last category is of observer organizations. These ‘observer organizations’ include the United Nations System and its Specialized Agencies; intergovernmental organizations; and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The number of people registered for COP 26 at Glasgow was close to 40,000, approximately double the numbers from COP 25 held in 2019. But there have been allegations that many delegates and participants from developing countries could not make it because COVID-related travel restrictions for their countries were lifted too late, thereby restricting the voices of the Global South.

This is not the only angle from which COP 26 has been criticized. More than half way through the event, many are concerned with the progress made. Greta Thunberg feels that it has been a “two-week long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah”.

What can we do but hope? And take actions at the personal level, while the powers talk and discuss and negotiate.

Till another COP next year, at a yet-to-be announced venue.

–Meena

Environmental Scolder-in-Chief

E_SDG goals_icons-individual-rgb-13“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!’ said Greta Thunberg to world leaders at the UN.

And that is a scolding they will not forget in a long time!

Greta, the girl, who in her teens is shaking up the world! Deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and even more concerned that world leaders were not taking it seriously, a few years ago, Greta took off from school to protest outside Sweden’s Parliament, calling for action on climate. She tried to get some of her school mates to join her, but no one was interested. So she took time off from school every Friday, and sat alone outside Parliament for three weeks, holding signs which said ‘School Strike for the Climate’, and handing out pamphlets. Her strikes found their way to social media and started attracting worldwide attention.

As time went on, inspired by her, more school children joined in, and organized protests in their own communities. This developed into the School Climate Strike movement, or ‘Fridays for the Future’. And there have been strikes involving tens of thousands of school children in major cities of the world.

So strong were these voices of the youth that Greta was invited to address the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2018. Her advocacy is forcing governments to acknowledge that they need to do more for the future generations by taking climate action.

Greta is not just about advocacy and telling other people what to do. She challenged her family to adopt more a more environment friendly life style and reduce their carbon footprint. And she succeeded! Her family is vegan now, and her mother has even given up her career as an international opera singer—which involved a lot of air travel– in order to reduce her carbon footprint!

Greta herself made the headlines once again when in August 2019, she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, UK to New York, US in a 60ft racing yacht equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines to participate in some key meetings. The 15-day voyage demonstrated that it was possible to reduce emissions and do a carbon neutral transatlantic crossing serving. Greta attended the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City and COP 25 (Conference of Parties) Climate Change Conference in Santiago, Chile.

Greta has told the world what young people expect. Will world leaders and adults like us be able to step and do what it takes?

–Meena

Haiku…Then and Now

The Haiku is a 17 syllable poetic form that has been written in Japan for three hundred years. Haiku poets have, over generations, celebrated the changing seasons, and also the mystical relationship between non-related subjects. Most of the poets reflected the Zen Buddhists doctrine that all things and creatures in this world are part of the universal and interconnected brotherhood of creation.

Today the cycle of seasons is not what it used to be.  The world is apprehending, rather than celebrating Climate Change. Reports predict the dire consequences of the 1.5 degree rise in temperature, for all living things, interconnected as they are in the intricate web of life.

Among the scientists too there are poets! Some of them have tried to interpret the consequences of Climate Change in Haiku!

Interesting indeed to compare the Haikus from then and now.

 

Then Now
Snow is melting…

Far in the misted

Mountains

A caw cawing crow

 

Big, fast carbon surge

Ice melts

Oceans heat and rise

Air warms by decades

 

Icicles and water

Old differences

Dissolved…

Drip down together

 

Seas rise as they warm

Rates quicken

Last century

Melting ice joins in

 

Even the ocean

Rising and falling

All day

Sighing green like trees.

 

 

More warming,

Higher seas.

Maybe much higher.

Could wake sleeping giants.

 

 

 

Ultra-pink peony…

Silver Siamese

Soft cat…

Gold-dust butterfly…

 

Warming is bad news

For many species.

Once gone…

We can’t bring them back

   

The Then Haikus are from compilations of haiku by some of the best loved Japanese poets—Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki.

The Now haikus are from the compilation by oceanographer Gregory Johnson (https://www.sightline.org/2013/12/16/the-entire-ipcc-report-in-19-illustrated-haiku/and  Andy Reisinger one of the contributing authors to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5 °C (https://cicero.oslo.no/no/15-graders-haiku)

–Mamata