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Comment: A global climate change emergency statement for COP28

“Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequence could be second only to a global nuclear war.”
Delegates head to meeting rooms at the COP28 UN Climate Summit on Thursday in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Peter Dejong, AP

A commentary by the co-ordinator for Global Compliance Research Project. She attended COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, climate conferences in Cancun and Bolivia in 2010, and COP21 in Paris 2015.

Recalling … that in 1988, at the Conference on the ­Changing Atmosphere in Toronto, 300 global scientists, along with other participants, concluded:

“Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, ­globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequence could be second only to a global nuclear war. The Earth’s atmosphere is changed at an unprecedented rate by pollutants resulting from depositions of hazardous, toxic and atomic wastes and from wasteful fossil-fuel use.

“These changes represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe…. it is imperative to act now.”

The conference called for the global community to reduce CO2 emissions by about 20 per cent of 1988 levels by the year 2005 as an initial global goal.

“Clearly the industrialized nations have a responsibility to lead the way both through their national energy policies and their bilateral multilateral assistance arrangement.”

Aware … that in 1992, under article 4 of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, developed states made a commitment to return to 1990 levels by 2000.

Recalling … that in September 2007, at the UN, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Rajendra Pachauri supported moving from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet.

Recalling … that in 2009 at an IPCC press conference at COP15, it was proclaimed that at a two-degree rise in temperature, the poor, the vulnerable and the disenfranchised would not survive, at 1.5, they might.

Aware … that in 2013, all member states adopted Sustainable Development Goal 13: “Climate change presents the single biggest threat to development, and its widespread, unprecedented impacts disproportionately burden the poorest and most vulnerable. Urgent action to combat climate change is needed.”

Appreciating … that in 2015, at COP21 in Paris, then-secretary general Ban Ki-Moon urged states to negotiate with a global vision, not with vested national interests

Welcoming … on Aug. 4, 2019 Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated: “We are facing a grave climate emergency. We need urgently to accelerate with Climate Action for the transformation the world needs. This is the battle of our lives. It is a battle we can win. It is a battle we must win.”

Deploring … the continued war between NATO and Russia and exacerbating the climate crisis.

Implementing Sustainable Development Goal 13, achieving a global vision, addressing the climate-change emergency, and keeping the rise in temperature below 1.5 Celsius would involve:

1. Fulfilling article 2: The ultimate objective the UNFCCC Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

2. Being determined to protect the rights of future generations, and to invoking the precautionary principle — “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage from climate change, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures to prevent the threat” — and enforce the pollution-pay principle.

3. Supporting the principle of common and differentiated responsibility, compensating for historical emissions (loss and damage), and instituting a fair and just transition for workers and communities affected negatively by the new vision.

4. Ending subsidies for fossil fuel, and the investment in fossil fuels.

5. Ending fossil-fuel exploration, production and distribution through infrastructure such as pipelines and tankers and closing LNG ports.

6. Conserving carbon sinks, such as old growth forests and bogs, planting trees, ensuring food security and strengthening conservation of biodiversity.

7. Promoting nature-based solutions, including moving away from car dependency and instituting socially equitable and environmentally sound public transit and energy such as solar, wind, tidal and geothermal, and avoiding all false solutions such as nuclear, geo-engineering, fracking and biofuels.

8. Reducing the global military budget by 75 per cent, signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, ending the exemption of greenhouse gases emanating from militarism, and transferring the savings to address the climate-change emergency.

9. Making a commitment to use the baseline of 1990, and given the climate-change emergency, to use timelines and targets reflecting existing and emerging science such as 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2025, 75 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, 100 per cent below 1990 level by 2040 and decarbonization with 100 per cent ecologically sound renewable energy by 2050.

10. Revoking the call for “net zero” because the call condones business as usual with increasingly dubious offsets.

11. Addressing the climate change emergency would also require, in each article, a ­striving for consensus with a fallback of 75 per cent without compromising the developing countries.

12. Seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on whether the developed states have failed to comply with the objective of the UNFCCC and have not prevented dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

13. Ratifying the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons whose use would cause a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe.

14. Concurring with a number of states about the accreditation and dominance of the fossil-fuel companies.