Let Not the Azerbaijan Climate Meet Become Yet Another Damp Squib

The next global climate meet (COP 29) is scheduled to take place in Azerbaijan in November 2024.

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Baku, Azerbaijan [ Photo: İltun Huseynli/Unsplash]

The next global climate meet (COP 29) is scheduled to take place in Azerbaijan in November 2024.

While global climate meetings have taken place 28 times so far in different countries, these meetings have been marked by much fanfare, tall talk, impressive targets, and some action plans, particularly with regard to funding by developed countries to less developed countries.

Rising Global Temperature:

However, the ground reality is that despite such deliberations and action plans initiated during these global climate meetings, the global temperature continues to increase. As a result, erratic climatic and weather conditions are already being witnessed in several parts of the world. It is now predicted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that the world will witness record high temperatures that will be above the 1991–2020 reference period until the year 2028. The global mean near-surface temperature for each year between 2024 and 2028 is predicted to be between 1.1°C and 1.5°C higher than the average over the years 1850 to 1900. These figures send alarming signals that the world should be concerned about.

Several global climate meets, with participation from Presidents and Prime Ministers from different continents, have not resulted in any significant improvement in combating the climate change crisis. In such conditions, the forthcoming Azerbaijan climate meet may be viewed with skepticism and a lack of confidence by people across the world.

Need to Reduce Consumption of Fossil Fuels:

The essential requirement to overcome the climate crisis is that the global temperature rise has to be curbed drastically and ultimately stopped. There is universal agreement that the increasing emission of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane are the primary reasons for the temperature increase. Emission of these noxious gases happens due to the use of fossil fuels such as coal and crude oil, and methane emissions from livestock and crop lands, such as flooded paddy cultivation, which create methane emissions through the decomposition of organic materials. The essential requirement is that the consumption and production of fossil fuels must be significantly reduced immediately. This is not happening.

Tall Targets to Cut Emissions and Little Progress:

In the Paris Climate Meet, Glasgow Climate Meet, and subsequent meetings, several countries have promised to curb emissions and achieve zero emission levels, with time frames indicated by different countries as their target. While targets have been fixed, nothing worthwhile has happened so far to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by these countries. On the other hand, production and use of coal and crude oil have been steadily increasing.

The countries that produce crude oil in massive quantities, such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, the USA, and others, are unwilling to reduce production, claiming that doing so would adversely impact their national economy. Similarly, the countries using coal and crude oil in massive quantities, like India, China, Indonesia, and others, are unwilling to reduce consumption, claiming that it would affect their economic growth. Obviously, the fossil fuel-producing and consuming countries think that the objective of achieving zero emissions would undermine their goal of sustaining economic growth.

The net result is that neither the producers nor the consumers of crude oil and coal are willing to depart from their current positions. In other words, the promises to achieve zero emissions by curbing the production and consumption of fossil fuels sound hollow now.

Other Options:

There are alternative eco-friendly options to substitute the use of fossil fuels for energy and feedstock. However, such options, which include the use of green hydrogen, generation of renewable power (solar, wind, and hydro power), use of biofuels, and nuclear energy, have limitations and cannot be adequate in quantitative terms to substitute fossil fuels on a large scale. In the case of green hydrogen, there are issues with regard to production costs due to various factors. Further, the requirement of green hydrogen to substitute fossil fuels is so large that there would not be adequate availability of renewable power to produce it.

Need for Emission Reduction Without Impacting Economic Growth:

The solution to this vexed problem can only be found by reducing the demand for fossil fuels such as coal and crude oil so that the consumption of fossil fuels would come down, leading to a reduction in the emission of noxious gases.

The question is how to reduce demand/consumption without affecting economic growth.

The only way seems to be to gradually and steadily reduce the global population, which would contribute to a reduction in energy consumption. It is seen that in some parts of the world, hunger is still prevalent, which is largely due to the high level of population with little effort to check population growth.

Reducing the consumption of fossil fuels means that the global population has to be gradually decreased to a manageable level.

Increasing World Population:

In 1960, the world population was 3.3 billion. The population increased to 6.15 billion in 2000 and further increased to 7.97 billion in 2022. The average annual growth rate was around 1.6%. According to several studies, it is said that at the present level of population growth, the world population would be as high as around 10 billion by 2060.

Such population growth could create an unmanageable scenario with regard to the consumption of fossil fuels and the generation of noxious emissions. It would lead to a steep rise in global temperature if the growth in the global population remains unchecked.

Azerbaijan Climate Meet Should Focus on the Grim Population Issue:

The past 28 global climate meetings (COPs) have not improved climate conditions. Instead, over the years, the global climate crisis has become more intense.

While technological efforts should continue to identify and promote eco-friendly energy sources, the problem is too serious, and calculated risks cannot be taken.

Under these circumstances, the only way out is that a global population reduction target should be fixed, and overpopulated developing countries should be firmly asked to reduce population growth. Possibly, the developed countries can provide technological and financial support to overpopulated developing countries to reduce their population and steadily bring down the population density.

To ensure that the Azerbaijan climate meet does not become a routine exercise, as seems to have happened with earlier global climate meetings, the participants in the Azerbaijan climate meeting should take the bull by the horns and arrive at a population reduction target for the world. This seems to be the ultimate solution to check emission levels and prevent a global climate crisis.

N.S.Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause and to promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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