Dr. Avit Bhowmik | Environmental Scientist · Climate Solutionist

COP 21 - The hardest path is ahead of us!

Image credit: Columbia University       

The world was delighted when Laurent Fabius waved the gavel of the COP 21 conference in Paris on 12 December 2015. This was the very first time, when humanity observed the world leaders congressing, negotiating and eventually outlining the unique Paris Agreement to battle the greatest threat. This is unique, not only because that the world has managed to agree on a common agenda to cease anthropogenic global warming, but also because that the world now has a target, which is quantifiable and plausible as well as can be, and has been to some extent, translated into strict policies (a summary is here).

Whereas a great momentum has been reached by the Paris Agreement, this was probably the easiest part of the task considering the gigantic responsibility ahead of us. In this era of Great Acceleration, planet earth is experiencing dynamics in such a rapid pace that leaves us with little time to react and cope up. Moreover, in this world of disparity, it is extremely hard to form and leverage local, institutional and community aims that adhere to a global aim and feed up to the achievement of humanity as a whole.

Three things are crucial in my opinion:

  • Downscaling targets to a level that is relevant for policy execution. This involves a deep understanding of the dynamics on that scale and sorting our locally plausible targets, e.g. negative emissions for the West whereas adapting renewable energy sources in Asia. Understanding the dynamics raise acute need for high quality spatiotemporal data on local scales through continuous monitoring and pushing the analogy between past and present forward. The local targets should also be mutual, so that they shape a collaborative effort in achieving the global targets, e.g. a combined effort for achieving the global target of 1.5 degree.

  • Transparency in decision making, information sharing and resource mobilization across governmental and institutional bodies. Continuous evaluation of the state of art in the process of fulfilling local and global targets is thus essential. Institutional data on earth dynamics and indicators collected for specific and general purposed should be made publicly available.

  • Institutional reforms are essential as the current institutions have been incapable of leading the humanity to a sustainable future. Moreover, they were inefficient in local-global communication and adaptation of policies. New institutions may be necessary to back up the existing ones and to entail a social transformation towards sustainability.

In a ideal world, these might appear to be pretty straight forward. However, we are accompanied by extreme poverty, unequal distribution of resources and development pressure that can flip the coin again and again. Amazon deforestation and destruction of mangroves for shrimp culture in Vietnam are two living examples, which expanded the challenges by manifold.

These issues were well covered by a Huffington Post this week, which is indeed a nice read.