Another key, Stavins said, will be whether China and the U.S. can turn back the clock on their relationship as it relates to climate change. The world’s two largest emitters embraced the Paris Agreement in a spirit of cooperation, but that relationship has since soured and shown few signs of improving even after a change of U.S. leadership.
“It’s not because of disagreements on climate; it’s because of confrontation over international trade, intellectual property rights, national security in the South China Sea, human rights,” Stavins said.
Though the nationally determined contributions are a likely headline-grabber for the meeting, which runs through Nov. 12, Stavins said there are several other important pieces of business scheduled to take place. First is a final piece of negotiating over the “rulebook” that fleshes out the Paris Agreement. Negotiators are finalizing Article Six to ensure that emission reductions in different jurisdictions aren’t double-counted in cross-border programs, a technical provision that may become more important as different jurisdictions link domestic policies across international borders — whether those involve performance standards, carbon taxes, or cap-and-trade mechanisms. Emission-reductions programs would allow trading of credits from one place — presumably where the cost of making such reductions is lower — to another — presumably a higher-cost location — and may be important in lowering the overall cost of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Stavins believes the language around such “linkage” should be kept as simple as possible to encourage a flourishing free market, while others prefer a heavier hand in driving down emissions through regulation.
Another key area of discussion will be the matter of funding for developing nations. Developed countries pledged $100 billion a year to help less-developed peers adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change in the decades to come. Those nations outnumber the major economies that will be represented and have argued they should be compensated for the impacts of a problem they had little hand in creating, but whose ills their citizens may feel most heavily. Delegates from those nations will be pushing for details on how the developed nations will meet their obligation and seek to make that $100 billion a minimum, not a maximum, amount, Stavins and Aldy said.
Stavins’ team from the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, which includes the project’s manager, Robert Stowe, who is also executive director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, and Jason Chapman, program manager with the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, will be in Glasgow for several days during the conference’s second week, he said. They’ll be conducting panel discussions and, when requested, briefing country representatives on technical aspects of the agreement, as well as meeting with environmental organizations and other interest groups.
MGH’s Salas, who expects to attend for the full two weeks, won’t be the only Harvard representative trying to make health care a central issue at the COP. Muhammad Pate, Julio Frenk Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has been invited to discuss the climate-related health needs of developing nations in the decades to come.
Pate served as health minister of Nigeria and led a successful anti-polio campaign. He is slated to speak at two events and intends a similar message at each: It’s critical that communities in developing nations build resilience when thinking about the unavoidable impacts of climate change over the decades to come. Those communities are likely going to be facing a host of challenges including food shortages, shifting water supplies, and disease patterns. Each of these can have health effects, Pate said, which means that an important element in building resilience will be strengthening community health-care systems and extending them to places where they’re absent. And, Pate said, if we’re wondering where the global health fault lines lie, we can just look to COVID-19.
“Half the world’s population still lacks access to basic health care services. Those places are some of the poorest in the world, and the people left behind are those who are living in extreme poverty,” Pate said. “COVID-19 hasn’t made it easy, but it has showed the fault lines in the world, where you’ve got the haves and have-nots. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that every person on this earth has access to basic health services.”
Harvard senior Krista also plans to deliver a message. She expects to take a prominent role in an event presenting the manifesto from the Youth4Climate conference to those at the COP. Among its provisions are recommendations around education, sustainability, the energy transition, and, she said, the drive to ensure that young people, whose participation is mostly symbolic, gain decision-making roles.
The Daily Gazette
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