2020 showed us just how vulnerable human beings are before the invisible virus. At the same time, we have also experienced how easily we can accept the change of lifestyle and habits.
Despite the shadow of the pandemic, COP26 kicked off on a positive note after two years of preparation. This is the year the world is watching how the Paris Agreement can be executed. Being the biggest COP since COP21 - Paris Agreement signed, the world seems more prepared to stretch the target, and also more aggressive in executing it. The future generation will also look back at COP26 and make judgements on the decisions we made.
The 1.5 DegC to all of us, is 3 DegC for Africa, or 6 DegC in the Antarctic Circle. These are not just numbers, they are precious lives and homes. That is also the impact of billions of dollars. The vulnerable countries are crying for help and support, and the worsening climate change impact will force them to take on a heavier load and continue to fight a harder battle.
The main points are:
1) The agreement is not ambitious enough to set the limit of global warming well below 1.5 DegC above pre-industrial level;
2) The language used to "phase out" of coal was watered down to "phase down" at the last minute.
3) Failed to establish the proposed dedicated loss and damage fund by vulnerable nations.
In short, global warming may not get any better soon, the "rich" seem not helping the "poor", and the "poor" will be more affected by the global warming.
But, is this the end of the world yet? Apparently we are also seeing some positivity and hope from the COP26. At least, even phase down the coal, we all received the signal that it's going to be the end of coal sooner or later. At least, loss and damage fund proposal will continue and it received some alternative ideas. At least, the Paris Agreement rulebook has been completed. At least, the unprecedented adoption of "Glasgow Climate Pact" noted more ambitious climate responsive political decisions. At least, the 1.5 DegC goal is getting closer.
Although we may feel disappointed and emotional about the outcome, we should also step back and encourage each other that this is a game that we are all in with no choice. We put our lives on the line to bet for survival, and we must continue to fight, even if others may not be putting in their best effort. That is why you are still reading this article up to now.
After the COP26 and after we have heard from the leaders and from the media, what do we really need to put our attention and interest on? What else do we need to do now?
Keeping the Cost in control!
Money used for the right purpose will become the resources we need. Setting and managing the carbon market is therefore the immediate actions of many nations. Therefore, through carbon trading, nations are promoting the decarbonisation strategies. This will also allow other nations to use carbon credit to neutralise its emission impact globally.
In order to operate the carbon market transparently and effectively, decisions are also made to avoid double counting and to manage the data quality through United Nation's supervision. The key is to create good quality carbon credits, and also standardise the trading market. Ideally, nations should have the Carbon offset and Carbon trading as mandatory requirement leading to Net Zero vision. The success of green financing highly depends on the delivery of Article 6 in Paris Agreement.
However, we can't stress enough: carbon offset is only the last resort. Reducing demand and using less are the first and most effective steps!
Continue to Race to Zero!
Net Zero is the new buzzword since COP26. This is a clear and measurable solution to tackle the climate change and limit the Greenhouse Gas emission to 1.5 DegC above pre-industrial level.
World Green Building Council launched the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment in 2018, and enhanced its requirement this year. The commitment recognizes leadership actions in the building and construction sector. It requires projects to achieve Net Zero for both Operational carbon and Embodied carbon by 2030.
Led by the High-level Climate Champion for Climate Action, the Race to Zero global campaign also opened more options for businesses to step forward and contribute to the global movement. By the time of COP26, it collectively covered nearly 25% global CO2 emissions and over 50% GDP.
Behind these commitments, the industry leaders are already beginning to adjust their strategies to get ready for the Advancing Net Zero movement. To achieve Net Zero, projects should look into the following key areas:
Reduce demand for carbon; optimise the business and project operation.
Align with or be more aggressive than the local and regional government policy; become the leader in advancing Net Zero in the local industry.
Embrace new technologies and solutions that support total decarbonisation.
Actively promote and advocate Advancing Net Zero.
Become more climate-resilient
Many parts of the world are experiencing unusual or extreme weathers this year, such as heat waves, unusual temperature in the season, heavy rainfall, drought, etc. These phenomena are giving us clear and painful warnings that the climate change is indeed getting closer.
We are not just going to wait for the COPs to make anything drastic to change this. Rather, we must be active and responsible for our own country, our own district, our own home and our own lives.
Being resilient and being sustainable are two sides of the same coin. They support each other and hold the bottom line for each other too. Sustainable buildings look after their resource usage, integrate with nature, actively engage the users, and stay open and inclusive; on the other side, resilient buildings are sensitive to the climate. By collecting and processing useful data, they are able to stand firm under changes and impacts, and also use the resources efficiently.
We still have COP27, COP31 and COP 36!
Since COP21 - Paris Agreement, countries are expected to update the pledges every 5 years. They are also optional to do so anytime. And there will be an annual "pre-2030" ambition from COP27. COP is an ongoing platform to create awareness for the world, and also the platform to channel ideas and decisions. And yes, there are still more COPs to go, and the most successful one is yet to come!
The Pandemic, Extreme weathers, COP26 are all valuable lessons for us in 2021. Human beings learned to accept, we also learned to stand up and fight. However, where are we right now? What if this is already the turning point for humanity to face the extinction? How would we know this is NOT the extinction point for the human society? Who would shoulder the responsibility if we are not making the decisive actions today? Will we have the chance to regret if we pass the point of saving our future?
Joy of Sustainability is inviting a "friend" to share about his experience with us, and this is the wake up call!
World Green Building Council, Advancing Net Zero Status Report https://www.worldgbc.org/advancing-net-zero-status-report-2021
Carbon Brief, COP26, key outcomes agreed at the UN Climate talks in Glasgow.
Race to Zero campaign, UNFCCC, https://unfccc.int/climate-action/race-to-zero-campaign
COP26 event, UKCOP26.org
IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.