The 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP25) to the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held from 2 to 13 December 2019, in Madrid,
Spain. The event marked a milestone by being the longest COP as also it ended without
consensus on pressing issues related to climate change. COPs have been a regular annual high-
level gathering since 1995 and 26 COPs have been held during 1995 to 2019 at different
destinations across the globe with the first held at Berlin, Germany. This suggests that the event
has gained prominence and importance and rallied major actors and stakeholders around the
urgency to tackle climate change and address pressing issues which jeopardize the future of the
planet in the face of the imminent dangers and threats of climate change.
The effects and consequences of global warming and climate change are now felt across the globe, and the economic, social and human costs of its impact are a matter of concern. Climate change results into more natural disasters which, in turn, cause damage to environment, fauna, flora, human habitation, human lives, infrastructure etc. The Californian wildfires, Australian bushfires, the Japanese typhoons Hagibis and Faxai, Mozambique’s cyclone Idai, floods in India and China are all examples of how disasters have become more frequent and their high intensity has far reaching devastating impact on economies and human lives.
According to a report by the noted CNN Business “Hurricanes, wildfires and floods cost the world $150 billion in 2019 and losses for business and the economy are only expected to increase, because of a decade-long rise in natural catastrophes with direct links to climate change.” Predictions regarding future investment in climate highlight the high investment requirements for climate change adaptation. In September 2019, it was predicted that investments of the order of nearly $1.8 trillion will be needed by the year 2030 to meet the consequences of global warning.
In order for countries to adapt to natural disasters, states need to invest in disaster risk preparedness, its management and reduction. Apart from investment, there is also the need to focus on training, setting up of dedicated specialized agencies/institutions, political willingness and effective monitoring of climate, and involving the community, among others. It is a multi- stakeholder environment which ultimately results in higher resilience to natural disasters. Adaptation and mitigation to climate change are important areas which states need to focus on to reduce vulnerability to climate change.
Since its onset, climate change diplomacy has endeavoured to portray the scientific evidence to convince the international community about the external cost of climate change and high-risk and vulnerability of various countries, particularly low-lying countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDs). Consensus at international level around climate change negotiations remains a challenge. From an International Relations perspective, Professor Robert Falknerrightly argues that “In an anarchic international environment, international society can be expected to prioritize order over justice and the interest of the most powerful states over those of the most vulnerable states.”
The academic discipline of international relations with its strong theoretical basis provides informative and insightful modes of analyzing climate change negotiations in terms of the behavior of states, the potential and limits of diplomacy, the role of institutions, regional institutions, international organisations, regime theory, normative perspectives, the role of civil society and global youth activism, the power and limits of international law and environmental law amongst many other themes and perspectives. Consequently, there is a broader understanding of the various actors and stakeholders involved in international climate politics.
The relevance and strength of climate change activism merged with the international diplomacy has given rise to ‘Green Diplomacy’ which is a form of multilateral diplomacy and an institutional structure which has gained popularity and international power.‘Green Diplomacy’ is “the major objective of this modern type of diplomacy is highlighted to empower the human beings, the micro and macro human community towards protecting, conserving and sustainable development of the Earth’s natural heritage.”
As a transnational issue, climate change has emerged as an issue which has spill over consequences on almost all aspects of human life; it affects food security, water resources, biodiversity and environment (fauna, flora, ocean resources), rise in sea levels, security at land and sea,infrastructure, migration and refugee crisis and ‘climate wars.’ The domino effect of climate change shows how if a ‘global deal’ and climate finance are not addressed effectively and with urgency, there is high probability that there will be crises in various parts of the world.
In order to break the stalemate and the ‘disappointment’ of the COP25, a different approach is needed. The top-down approach, espoused by international organisations such as the United Nations, often results into roadblocks towards consensus-based agreement. It has been argued that a “strategic rethink” is required to make headway in international climate protection bearing in mind the “current global political and economic environment.” An alternative solution i.e. “building blocks’ strategywhich develops different elements of climate governance in an incremental fashion andembeds them in a broader political framework” could be useful choice. This approach “offers the hope ofbreaking the current diplomatic stalemate butremains a second best scenario.”Although it is only part of the solution, a “strategic, long-term vision is required forthe building blocks model to lead to the creation ofan ambitious international architecture for climateprotection and prevent the slide into a purely de-centralised, ‘bottom-up’ approach.”
There is a rationale behind adopting a building block’s strategy given the fragmentation of the global consensus. Countries around the world also have varied vulnerability to climate change and the nature of disasters or issues depend on geographical location and several factors. Regional organisations should become platforms for issues such as climate change and adaptation to be discussed and viable strategies and solutions can be articulated at national and regional level, bearing in mind the most vulnerable and poorest states.
In the Indian Ocean region, there are various regional institutions and organisations such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) consisting of 22 Member States and 10 Dialogue Partners and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) consisting of five nations namely Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, and Seychelles. These regional institutions, if effectively used, can become promising platforms to address climate change issues. A coordinated approach aimed at strong policy making and creation of regional warning systems, food aid provision, and joint management of climate change risks will definitely pave the way for better adaptation to climate change.
Ms Madvee Jane Moteea is a graduateof the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).