Societal measures are important
Professor Siri Eriksen is one of the NMBU authors contributing to the next working group report from the IPCC about the impact of climate change and climate adaptation measures. The report will be published in February 2022. The chapter in which Eriksen is a lead author discusses how the global community can transform towards more sustainable and climate-robust development. But the climate has already changed, creating problems in many places:
"Yesterday, it was announced that Norway will double its climate aid from NOK 7 to NOK 14 billion. But as far as I can see, this is just about helping poor countries reduce their emissions. Thus far, Prime Minister Støre has said nothing about financing climate adaptation measures, which only comprises one fifth of financing at the international level. The rest goes to reducing emissions. Many of the poorer communities have low emissions, but are hit hard by climate change. Climate adaptation financing is therefore an important issue. It will be appalling if Norway doesn’t signal the implementation of robust climate adaptation measures, but merely its intention to fund emission reductions."
Adaptation is crucial
"For a long time, climate adaptation was 'politically incorrect' because, among other things, it was feared that it would draw attention away from emission reductions. This has changed. Climate adaptation is now high on the agenda, because we realise that it is essential, even if we succeed in making dramatic cuts and achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees."
Eriksen says that it is important that the mechanisms and procedures at the heart of negotiations in Glasgow facilitate ‘deeper’ and more long-term climate adaptation measures, among other things through national and local climate adaptation plans. This includes more societal measures such as strengthening the health and education sectors, the rights of marginalised groups, and local co-determination and the capacity to implement measures. One important aspect of the negotiations is to agree on the financing of climate adaptation measures in poor countries. There has long been a backlog in this type of financing.
"Society cannot 'adapt its way out of' climate problems, but adaptation is essential if we are to avoid the worst effects. It’s therefore important that the countries with the highest emissions flag their intention in Glasgow to reduce their emissions drastically and quickly, so that emissions can be significantly reduced in the next ten years. It’s also important that countries like Norway set a good example and show their ambition to transition from a global development based on fossil fuels and high consumption to a more sustainable and socially just type of development."
"For me, a positive outcome of the Glasgow conference would be increased financing of climate adaptation measures in poor countries, and a clear signal that such measures represent an opportunity to promote a more sustainable development and a step away from “business as usual” which only increases emissions, vulnerability and social injustice. We have to see climate change as part of globally complex problems such as loss of biodiversity, poverty and inequality, and take a holistic approach to solving them as part of the transformation towards sustainable development."
Drastic emission reductions are required
Professor Tor Arve Benjaminsen is the other NMBU co-author of the IPCC report. He is a lead author of the introductory chapter. The report is about ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’. Benjaminsen is also a lead author of a paper on deserts, semi-arid areas and desertification, which is also included in the second working group report.
Benjaminsen is sceptical that there is sufficient political will to restructure:
"Unfortunately, I think it’s much too late to stay within the 1.5 degree target. We're looking at well over 2 degrees of global warming. This is potentially very dramatic, although the long-term impacts repercussions are very uncertain. I fear that the Glasgow conference will lead to a doubling down on a green growth strategy that only leads to more exploitation of resources and destruction of nature, in combination with cosmetic climate measures that have so far not worked in the Global South, such as forest protection and big tree planting projects."
"What we need are extensive climate measures in the parts of the world with the highest levels of consumption per capita. That’s where we must begin, not least from a social justice perspective. There’s no way to do this without drastically reducing consumption, especially of fossil fuel. But I doubt there’s the political will to do so. Instead, they’ll go on pretending to contribute in other ways, for example by maintaining the Norwegian rainforest initiative, which has been in operation for 13 years with hardly any results, except a negative impact on the living conditions of the people who live in and near the forests. And we’ll likely see some big plans on extensive tree planting in Africa which will drive small farmers and shepherds from their areas. We know that such projects don’t work. In dry areas, few of the trees survive and the projects also generate a lot of local opposition. But we're unlikely to hear very much about the negative consequences of such climate measures in Glasgow."
People are demanding emission reductions
Professor Ståle Navrud was a member of the IPCC when the last assessment report was published. He was responsible for quality assuring the socio-economic assessments of climate adaptation measures that can make us more robust in relation to types of climate change that are unavoidable even if emissions are drastically reduced. He has his finger on the pulse of public opinion in 2021 and thinks that the time is ripe:
"Of course, I hope for the best. I’m optimistic because the population, industry leaders, voluntary organisations and public authorities now not only expect the countries to reach an agreement and share emission cuts so that we can achieve the 1.5 degree target, but to an even greater extent than before now actually demand it."
"Of the countries with the highest emissions, China is planning extensive emission cuts, whereas India is less ambitious. This means that rich countries must go beyond zero emissions by 2050 if we are to achieve the 1.5 degree target, which means negative emissions using e.g. carbon capture and storage. The fear is that the rich countries are still not ready to do this, or are willing to help fund the restoration of natural areas or climate adaptation measures that can make the agricultural sector and infrastructure more robust to climate change. However, I think the rich countries will go to great lengths to achieve this, not only out of consideration for the most vulnerable countries, but for the sake of our children and grandchildren."
The level of ambition must be raised
Guri Bang, former climate researcher at the Cicero Center for International Climate Research and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), now Associate Professor at NMBU, will pay special attention to what the US and China have to say about their raised ambitions. Her expectations of the climate conference in Glasgow are particularly connected to the following two targets:
"Firstly, that the member states report that they have increased raised their climate target ambitions. It will be particularly interesting to see what the US and China have to say about their increased ambitions, since President Biden had to leave for Glasgow without his climate plans having been approved by Congress, which means he cannot point to a strong national climate policy to follow up on the promise of the US being an international climate leader. China, for its part, has created uncertainty about the country’s coal consumption, since coal production is on the rise again following the pandemic. This may make it harder for China to reach peak carbon emissions well before 2030, which the country has previously announced. It is important to the agreement that these two major high-emission countries, as well as other G20 members, set good examples and demonstrate credibility and a willingness to increase their ambitions to a level that make it possible to achieve the Paris Agreement goals."
"Secondly, it will be very important to secure as much as possible of the international funding that was pledged in Paris in 2015 – namely USD 100 billion per year – to help poor countries implement climate adaptation measures and cut their own emissions. Unless major steps are taken is made to secure this funding, the gap between the North and the South in these negotiations will only increase, the trust between the parties will be undermined, and it will be more difficult to deliver on the agreement."