For COP27, a Missive From a 15th Century Poet

'Do today what must be done tomorrow, and what must be done today, right now/ For the deluge comes in an instant,' Kabir had said.

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For the first time since multilateral climate negotiations began decades ago, 190 countries have agreed to include special funding for loss and damage caused by climate change. It is now part of the agenda of COP27, now in progress at Sharm el-Sheik.

This is significant because a mechanism is urgently needed to support poor and vulnerable nations, which are bearing the brunt of climate change.

India has been pressing for defining how climate finance would flow to the less developed nations. While the developing nations have suffered more in recent years, the developed world too has realised the urgent need for more detailed criteria to enable the flow of climate adaptation and mitigation financing.

In the 14 years since $100 billion in climate finance was promised in 2009, no steps had been taken to elaborate a mechanism to ensure its flow. Perhaps recent unprecedented climate-related events, including Europe’s worst drought in centuries and the worst flooding in Pakistan, which displaced over 35 million people, have served as a warning to take urgent measures.

Climate change experience is closer to the skin than ever before.

According to a report by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the proportion of climate-related natural disasters has doubled in 2009-19, compared to the previous two decades, claiming 1.23 million lives and costing nearly $3 trillion. This shows the enormity of the problem ahead, and the $100 billion annual pledge in 2009 could prove to be too little, too late.

Experts believe that $1.3 trillion would be needed annually to deal with both mitigation and adaptation costs by 2030.

Given that unprecedented climate disasters are already at our doorstep, the rich and developed nations cannot afford the implementation laxity seen after announcing $100 billion in climate finance in 2009.

It is now a question of collective survival, with both the developed and developing world contributing to keep global warming under 1.5°C from the pre-industrial period.

A single data point is enough to illustrate how close we are to the survival threshold ― the world has already expended 2,500 billion tonnes of CO2 from 1850 to 2021, and less than 500 billion tonnes of carbon space remains to keep warming under 1.5°C. So only about 15% of the carbon space remains, to be used by 8 billion people on the planet.

Time is of the essence.

The 15th century poet saint Kabir Das must be recited incessantly at COP27― Kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so abPal mein parlay hoyega, bahuri karega kab.

‘Do today what must be done tomorrow, and what must be done today, right now/ For the deluge comes in an instant.’

This article was first published on The India Cable – a premium newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas – and has been republished here. To subscribe to The India Cable, click here.