Climate change is real and is causing widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world. People and ecosystems least able to cope are the hardest hit!
Extreme weather events like floods, storms, drought, heat waves and disruption of food systems are affecting health in a myriad of ways. It is also undermining livelihoods, equality and access to healthcare and social support structures.
Ironically, the people who are worst hit by the climate crisis are those who contribute least to its causes, and who are least able to protect themselves and their families against it. They are the people in low-income and disadvantaged countries and communities!
And the climate-sensitive health risks are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, including women, children, ethnic minorities, poor communities, migrants or displaced persons, older populations, and those with underlying health conditions.
In February last, a report by the United Nations warned that the increase in extreme weather patterns is surpassing the resilience of some human and natural systems. Again, in the beginning of this week, the agency warned that the world is heading towards a catastrophe as irreversible consequences have already been locked in due to global warming.
UN scientists estimate that global temperatures have now risen by 1.15C since pre-industrial times and said the latest eight years were on track to be the warmest on record.
The report also warns of the other wide-ranging impacts of climate change, including the acceleration of sea level rise, record glacier mass losses and record-breaking heat waves.
In this context is the ongoing Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC (COP 27) which is being held in Egypt to decide on actions that will shape how people and nature respond to increasing climate risks.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the planet is “on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator” and called for the creation of a “climate solidarity pact” between wealthier and developing countries to meet key climate goals.
As the heads of countries are meeting for the COP27 in Egypt after the Glasgow summit a year back with the participation of 120 world leaders, have they kept their climate promises?
Leave alone Glasgow, for almost three decades, leaders have met in different venues to discuss the problem of climate change and tried to work toward a solution to global warming. They have negotiated, signed treaties, reneged on those treaties and signed new ones!
No denying the fact that Glasgow COP26 did produce new building blocks to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement through actions that could get the world on a more sustainable, low-carbon pathway forward.
Ironically, even after one year, cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are still far from where they need to be to preserve a livable climate, and support for the most vulnerable countries affected by the impacts of climate change is still falling far short.
Among the ambitious plans were the cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) while reducing coal power use and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies which had never been explicitly mentioned in decisions of UN climate talks.
Even as countries were given a September deadline, only 22 countries out of 196 submitted the plans. At the same time, the UN report estimates that if all targets are met, global emissions will still increase by 10.6 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010.
Significantly, the Sultanate of Oman is among six countries in the Arab world to have achieved 60 per cent of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Oman is currently updating climate affairs management regulations to keep pace with local and international developments. It has pledged to reduce its emissions 7 per cent from business as usual by 2030.