COP26 must keep practical aspects of developing countries in mind before setting up targets
Oktoberfest in 2021 is about fossil fuel, not beer. The world is gearing up for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow from October 31. The advanced countries may decry the developing world’s inability to cut down on emissions to keep global warming change limited to 1.5 degrees by 2030. They will set up targets like making a faster switch to electric cars, cutting down on coal power, minimal deforestation and protecting more people from the impacts of climate change. Sadly, and the developed world knows this, these targets have already divided the world into those who can meet these targets and are meeting them and those who cannot. COP26 would be effective if it desists from setting up universal targets. The divided regions of the world are poles apart economically and it is simply not possible for one half to deliver. The developing countries do not want to set up zero-emission targets because they are only now increasing their economic, construction and developmental activities for their populations hitherto deprived of even basic needs. These countries are caught in a bind: They know they have to cut down on their emissions but that would be at the cost of not fulfilling the desires of their people. The question that COP26 should seek an answer to from the developed world, or the OECD countries of the West, is how to bridge the economic gap between the two halves so that the poorer half can set practical and reachable emission goals for itself.
Otherwise, the conference will remain a calendar occasion where the gap between the first and the developing world would only be climactic at best, not climatic. The OECD world is mostly covered by net-zero targets and moving towards a low carbon future. Their source of power is mostly clean energy. They use electric and hybrid cars. And they are already into nurturing nature back to its original shape. The non-OECD countries are far removed from this reality. The Oil Producing and Exporting Countries have released the World Oil Outlook 2045 in time for COP26 that says oil will be the primary energy source for decades. It says that 70 per cent of future global energy demand will come from non-OECD countries, growing to 250 mboe/d in 2045. For the OECD region, the demand is set to flatten in the long term. It expects OECD oil demand to peak at around 46.6 mb/d in 2023, before declining consistently. In contrast, the non-OECD region with an expanding middle class, high population growth and stronger economic growth potential, will see its oil demand rise by 25.5 mb/d between 2020 and 2045, reaching 74.1 mb/d in 2045. As a result, per capita, fossil fuel emissions in both worlds will be high in the medium term even as they are forecast to come down in the OECD region. This is a good enough starting point for COP26 to pursue realistic targets.