Opinion

Conference of parties 26, what is it?

By Waakhe Simon Wudu

Juba – world leaders and scientists including activists, journalists, business men and women among many actors on climate change have gathered for the Conference of Parties (COP) in the Scotland’s city of Glasgow. The event which started October 31, 2021 shall last for nearly two weeks. Members shall spend most of their energies in search for better solutions to problems being caused by growing threats of climate change across the globe.

United States President Joe Biden is among the top world leaders attending the biggest occasion. Efforts on how to actualize the Parish agreement on climate change with clear practical ideas and how developed nations should commit themselves to help poor countries fight effects of climate change on their economies are some of the key issues in the center of debates within the two weeks deliberations. Delegates are expected to come out with clear resolutions. 

But what is the COP26 or do South Sudanese know it is happening now in Glasgow? Here are a few answers to some basic questions that attempts to explain some basics and understanding of what COP26 is.

COP stands for Conference of Parties. It is the apex decision-making body of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC), a treaty that was negotiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The COP is being held annually where hundreds of delegates including world top leaders, scholars, scientists, activists among many others attend. Since inception, it was only last year that member states did not hold it due to the corona virus pandemic.

The COP was initiated in June 1992 when 154 nations signed the UNFCCC in a meeting known as Earth Summit held at Rio de Janeiro. It was at the time a secretariat was established with its headquarters in Bonn, Germany. The treaty called for ongoing scientific research and regular meetings, negotiations and future policy agreements designed to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner. The UNFCCC entered into force in March 1994 giving birth to the first Conference of Parties (COP) which was held in 1995 in Berlin, German.

Since its inceptions, UNFCCC member States do meet annually to talk about what is still needed in the campaign to cut greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. This year, the member states to the treaty are sitting for the 26th year, so the COP26. Held under the theme; together for our planet, the conference brings together world leaders involved in decisions that have significance on environment. It also brings scientists who tend to make a lot of research on how climate change is changing the globe and as well cultivate new innovations on how to address the growing threats posed by climate change. Many other influential players and actors including activists, academia, young people among others do attend the COP.

What is the objective of the COP26?

The idea behind COP is to cut down greenhouse gas emission globally by 2 degrees Celsius or to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. In the COP26, leaders shall look forward to achieve one goal and that is getting closer to fulfilling promises that nations made since years ago at the COP21 in Parish.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledged to collectively cut their greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the planet from heating up more than 1.5degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial times. Wealthy countries also promised large amounts of aid to poorer nations to help them cope with climate change and to reduce their own greenhouse emissions.

Scientists have said that planetary “warming is accelerating”, leading to more frequent and intense heat waves and storms and destruction of ecosystems. The planet already warmed by about one degree Celsius. Keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius will require quick, drastic cuts in global greenhouse emissions.

Does COP26 matter to South Sudan?

Yes. South Sudan is a signatory to the UNFCCC since 2014. Climate change has become a global problem that now requires all across the world to make efforts to address it. According to experts, it is no longer a future problem as many would still tend to understand or undermine. Growing effects of heat waves, devastating floods, and droughts are among some of the effects that have been defined result from climate of climate change and are so far life threatening to humans and ecology.

South Sudan is among the poorest countries in the world that are being hit hard by the devastating effects of climate change. While developed and developing countries are biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, researchers say the negative consequences largely impact on poor countries in the globe.

In a document submitted by Josephine Napwon Cosmas, the South Sudan Minister of Environment and Forestry to the UNFCCC in 2018 dubbed Initial National Communication (INC), it says South Sudan is “a minor emitter of greenhouse gas (GHGs). However, it underlined how the Country is negatively impacted by climate change in nearly all its economic sectors such as agriculture, transport and forestry.

“Besides conflict and insecurity, climate change is expected to be the Country’s single most important contributor to food insecurity,” Napwon said, adding “as a developing country that is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, South Sudan believes that the issue can be addressed through developing and implementing sustainable development initiatives that promote strong, clean and climate resilient economic growth.”

In recent years effects of climate change have hit record high across South Sudan. Floods have been affecting many parts of the Country especially the Greater Upper Nile region and where the Sudd wetlands lie. This year alone over 600,000 people have been hit hard by records floods in 27 counties across eight States in the Country since May, the United Nations Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs or OCHA says. Many have been displaced and their property destroyed as vast of their lands deluged into flood waters. Jonglei and Unity States are the hardest hit – representing some 58 per cent of the affected people – followed by Upper Nile and Northern Bahr el Ghazal States.

“Over two thirds of the flood affected counties faced high levels of food insecurity,” says UNOCHA September report. “Schools, homes, health facilities and water sources were inundated, impacting people’s access to basic services”, adds the report.

The current destruction by floods highlights one of the greatest negative effects of climate change that South Sudan government and other actors need to start prioritizing the issue of climate change – which still lies low in the Country. Events like the COP are some of the best stages with opportunities to showcase the devastating effects of the climate change in the Country and request the appropriate aid as efforts for intervention.

COP leaders in past conferences had already agreed that unless humans all over the globe whether in developed or developing countries take action against the issue of climate change, there is no any other way to address the issue and warned in future the world will be in great danger.

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The author is a South Sudanese journalist and an environmental/climate change activist. He can be reachable at waakhewudu@gmail.com.

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