Skyline University Nigeria

Knowledge Update 24-6-2024

Towards a sustainable future: the role of international collaboration in climate action

Introduction

The devastating impact of climate change has become one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity today, joining the ranks of global issues such as terrorism, immigration, and poverty. Addressing internationalized problem requires concerted efforts from the international community, as no single nation can effectively tackle it alone. Like terrorism and other global challenges, there has been international response to climate change over the years.

The journey to combat climate change on an international scale began in earnest with the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. The IPCC was created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to assess scientific information related to climate change and provide policymakers with regular updates. This marked the first significant step towards understanding and addressing the global nature of the problem.

The role of international collaboration in climate action

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The UNFCCC provided a framework for international cooperation to combat climate change and its impacts. It established the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, recognizing that developed countries have historically contributed more to greenhouse gas emissions and should therefore take the lead in mitigating climate change. This framework set the stage for subsequent international negotiations and agreements.

The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997 and entering into force in 2005, represented a major milestone in international climate efforts. It was the first legally binding treaty that required developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol set specific targets for emission reductions and established mechanisms such as emissions trading, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and Joint Implementation (JI) to facilitate compliance. While the Kyoto Protocol was a significant achievement, it faced challenges due to the non-participation of key emitters like the United States and the limited scope of its commitments.

As the scientific consensus on the urgency of climate action grew, the international community continued to seek more comprehensive and inclusive solutions. Although it fell short of producing a legally binding agreement, 2009 Copenhagen Conference (COP15) marked a turning point in the efforts towards curbing the scourge of climate change by recognizing the need to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. COP15 also introduced the concept of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), where countries voluntarily pledged their own emission reduction targets.

Building on the momentum from Copenhagen, the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015 during COP21. The Paris Agreement represented a landmark achievement in international climate diplomacy. It was the first universal, legally binding climate agreement, with 196 parties committing to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement noted the importance of adaptation, climate finance, and transparency in achieving these goals. It also established a mechanism for countries to regularly review and enhance their NDCs, fostering a cycle of increased ambition over time.

In the years following the Paris Agreement, countries have made varying degrees of progress in implementing their climate commitments. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established to support developing countries in their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Additionally, initiatives such as the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy and the Climate Action Summit in 2019 have added to the increasing need and involvement of non-state actors, including cities, businesses, and civil society, in driving climate action. COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 resulted in the Glasgow Climate Pact, which called for enhanced ambition in NDCs, increased climate finance, and the phase-out of coal power. It also prioritized the urgency towards addressing loss and damage associated with climate impacts by reflecting on the growing need for comprehensive support for vulnerable communities.

COP27, held in Sharm el-Sheikh in November 2022, made history with the establishment of a new fund for “loss and damage” to support the victims of climate disasters. This marked the culmination of decades of advocacy by vulnerable nations.

However, the conference faced criticism for not making significant progress on reducing emissions and phasing out fossil fuels. Despite the mixed outcomes, COP27 underscored the need for increased financial support for developing countries and set the stage for future climate action​.

COP28, held in Dubai from November 30 to December 13, 2023, marked another critical juncture in the global fight against climate change. The conference was noted for its historic agreement on the first ‘global stock take’ to evaluate progress towards the Paris Agreement goals.

This stock take underscored the urgency of cutting global greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also called for a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling of energy efficiency improvements by the end of the decade. The conference saw commitments totaling over USD 700 million to a new loss and damage fund, aimed at supporting countries most vulnerable to climate impacts​.

Conclusion

From the early days of the IPCC and the UNFCCC to the landmark Paris Agreement and beyond, there has been a clear trajectory towards greater collaboration and ambition. While challenges remain, the collective efforts of nations, non-state actors, and individuals offer hope that the scourge of climate change can be effectively addressed through sustained and inclusive international cooperation.

Nyam Elisha Yakubu is a lecturer II in the Department of International Relations of the School of Arts, Management and Social Science in Skyline University Nigeria. He holds an M.Sc. in International Relations and Strategic Studies, B.Sc. in Political Science both from the University of Jos, Nigeria. 

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