COP meetings must use climate science to promote justice and equity

COP meetings must use climate science to promote justice and equity


The discussion is regarding the evolving nature of United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) meetings since 1995, transforming from bureaucratic gatherings to inclusive carnivals. Apparently, despite global acknowledgment of the urgent need to address anthropogenic climate change, the sluggish response in curbing fossil fuel use and the politicization of climate science has hit the surface.


GS-02 GS-03(Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests, Conservation)


28th Conference of Parties (COP28), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Loss and Damage (L&D) Fund, Global Stocktake Draft, Paris Agreement

Mains Question:

How can future COP meetings utilize climate science to foster justice, equity, and amplify the urgency required for global action on climate change? (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Evolution of COP Meetings
  • The Global Consensus and Urgency Gap
  • Politicization of Climate Science
  • Using Science for Justice and Equity
  • Causes of the Issues

Evolution of COP Meetings:

  • Since its inception in 1995, the COP meetings have evolved significantly, transitioning from closed-door bureaucratic sessions to inclusive and bustling events.
  • The expansion includes the growth of activist groups, indigenous representatives, businesses, consultancies, traders, and a substantial media presence.
  • This transformation reflects a heightened global awareness of the existential threat posed by anthropogenic climate change, a departure from the era when climate denialists held influence.

The Global Consensus and Urgency Gap:

  • While every country publicly affirms its commitment to scientific assessments urging drastic reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, there remains a stark disparity in translating this consensus into urgent action.
  • Despite the consensus, fossil fuel use, a primary source of GHGs, continues largely unabated. The slow acknowledgment of this reality, as highlighted in the Dubai Consensus after nearly three decades of COP meetings, reveals the reluctance to address the urgency required in cutting fossil fuel dependence.

Politicization of Climate Science:

  • The Dubai Consensus underscores the unfortunate weaponization of climate science, where political expediency and strategic maneuvering hinder decisive action.
  • Countries responsible for significant carbon emissions cite rising temperatures as evidence when advocating emission reductions for developing nations.
  • However, these same nations resist accepting this link when confronted by demands for reparations from developing and island nations impacted by climate change.
  • The approval of the Loss and Damage Fund at COP 28, with commitments of $750 million, is celebrated, but conditions prevent it from being considered compensation for historical carbon pollution.

Using Science for Justice and Equity:

  • A crucial shift is proposed for future COP meetings to leverage climate science for promoting justice and equity. This entails transcending the mere insertion of new phrases and focusing on substantial actions that align with the urgency outlined by scientific assessments.
  • The politicization of climate science should be replaced by a genuine commitment to address the historical responsibilities and reparations for the damage caused.

Causes of the Issues:

Lack of Urgency in Implementing Emission Reductions:

  • Cause: Despite global consensus on the need for drastic emission reductions, there is a significant gap in translating this agreement into urgent action. The slow pace is attributed to political reluctance, strategic maneuvering, and the inertia of established fossil fuel-dependent systems.
  • Underlying Factors: Political considerations, economic dependencies on fossil fuels, and a lack of effective policies contribute to the delay in implementing necessary emission reductions.

Politicization of Climate Science:

  • Cause: The weaponization of climate science hampers genuine efforts by linking scientific evidence to political agendas. This has led to a lack of trust and cooperation among nations, hindering progress in addressing climate change.
  • Underlying Factors: National interests, historical responsibilities, and disputes over compensation for climate damage contribute to the politicization of climate science.

Insufficient Financial Commitments and Technology Support:

  • Cause: COP meetings often focus on rhetorical achievements, labeling themselves as ‘historic’ without substantial progress in providing financial resources and technological support for transitioning away from fossil fuels.
  • Underlying Factors: Economic considerations, reluctance to bear the costs of transition, and a lack of concrete plans for financing sustainable alternatives contribute to the insufficient commitment of resources.

Historical Responsibilities and Reparations Disputes:

  • Cause: Disagreements persist between developed and developing nations regarding historical responsibilities for carbon emissions and demands for reparations. This has created hurdles in establishing a fair and just framework for addressing climate change impacts.
  • Underlying Factors: Economic power imbalances, differing interpretations of responsibilities, and a lack of consensus on compensation mechanisms contribute to disputes over historical responsibilities.

Way forward:

  • Enhanced International Cooperation: Encourage stronger international cooperation by fostering diplomatic dialogues that transcend political differences. Establish platforms for open discussions on emission reduction strategies and the shared responsibility of nations.
  • Policy Reforms for Transition: Implement comprehensive policy reforms that incentivize and facilitate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Provide economic support to nations heavily dependent on fossil fuels to ensure a just and sustainable transition.
  • Depoliticizing Climate Science: Establish an independent, scientific advisory body within the UN framework to depoliticize climate science. Ensure that scientific findings guide policy decisions, promoting transparency and trust among nations.
  • Fair Distribution of Financial Resources: Develop a fair and transparent system for distributing financial resources among nations to support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Prioritize funding for projects that actively reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • International Climate Fund for Reparations: Create an international climate fund specifically designated for reparations, addressing the damage caused by historical carbon emissions. Establish clear criteria for accessing and distributing funds, ensuring fairness and accountability.
  • Public Awareness and Advocacy: Foster global public awareness campaigns to highlight the urgency of climate action. Mobilize civil society, NGOs, and grassroots movements to advocate for ambitious policies and hold governments accountable for their commitments.
  • Inclusive Decision-Making Processes: Ensure the inclusion of representatives from diverse nations, especially those most vulnerable to climate change, in decision-making processes. Enhance the democratic nature of COP meetings to reflect a collective and equitable approach.
  • Technology Transfer Initiatives: Facilitate technology transfer initiatives, promoting the exchange of sustainable technologies between developed and developing nations. Establish partnerships and agreements that support the adoption of cleaner technologies.