History of the COP
On November 6, the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as COP) took place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The first COP dates back to 1992 when countries joined an international treaty that stated that they would meet to further international cooperation on the matter of climate change. One of the main goals of these conferences is to limit the average global temperature increases.
Before going into the details of this year’s COP, this article will be looking at some of the key milestones of the COPs over the years. In 1997, countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol were legally bound to emission reduction targets. It bound the emission reduction target of greenhouse gasses of thirty-seven industrialized countries. The protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. During this first commit period of five years, the targets were set to an average of 5 percent emission reduction compared to 1990 levels. A second commitment period began in 2013 and ended in 2020. For this second period, the countries of the European Union, as well as Iceland, agreed to meet a 20 percent reduction target compared to 1990.
Another promising milestone of the COP is the 2015 Paris Agreement. The main aim of the agreement is to reduce the rise of the global temperature to below two degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial temperature levels. These temperature goals are what the following COPs have been trying to achieve. For example, one of the main aims of last year’s COP was to “secure global net-zero by mid-century.” Some suggestions were made regarding how to achieve this goal, such as: switching to electric vehicles, encouraging investments in renewable energy, and reducing deforestation. Some other goals which were set by the COP26 include: protecting ecosystems, making sure that developed countries follow their $100 billion pledge to climate finance, and ensuring that the Paris Agreement is operational.
What has Spain pledged to do?
It is with these goals in mind that both Spain and France have pledged during the COP27 to completely stop the sales of gasoline vehicles by the year 2035. This is five years earlier than both nations had previously announced. It is part of their plan to transition to a low-carbon economy to fight climate change. The important agreement could have a real impact. Indeed, according to the president of COP26, Alok Sharma, this promise to aim for zero-emissions vehicles “was a major milestone bringing together leading actors to accelerate the transition to 100 percent new car sales being zero-emission by 2040, and 2035 in leading markets.”
Ending gasoline vehicle sales was not the only decision that Spain took during this year’s COP. The Spanish government has also entered a partnership with the African Development Bank Group and the Swiss Confederation. Spain and Switzerland have promised to provide financial aid to African countries and cities which are suffering the most from climate change. Some steps have already been taken, as both European countries have already pledged to give five million euros to the African Development Bank Group’s Urban and Municipal Development Fund (UMDF). This fund serves to help African urban centers that are vulnerable to climate change. This promise is key, as the population in Africa will only continue to grow in the upcoming years. It is projected that 1.5 billion people will be living in Africa’s towns and cities by 2050. Furthermore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has declared that not only are African countries the most vulnerable to climate change, but they are also the least prepared when it comes to dealing with the consequences of climate change.
How are these pledges in line with Spain’s recent promises?
These pledges are in line with Spain’s decisions in the past few months to help African countries fight climate change. For example, on October 27, one week before the COP, Pedro Sánchez visited South Africa and met with South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa. During this meeting, Sánchez explained that Spain is looking to strengthen its relations with the African continent as the two will face common challenges in the upcoming years due to climate change. Consequently, he pledged that in the next five years, Spain will make available up to 2.1 billion euros in funding to South Africa. This funding will be used to invest in different sectors, but mainly renewable energy. It is needed because currently, South Africa relies mainly on coal to create its electricity. Indeed, South Africa is one the world’s most coal-dependent countries with around 85 percent of its electricity produced by coal.
Moreover, on the second day of the COP, Sánchez and Senegalese President Macky Sall initiated the launch of the International Drought Resilience Alliance. The members of the Alliance include leaders from over 25 countries and 20 organizations. The goal of the alliance is to help countries be better prepared for droughts caused by climate change. There is already a five million euro seed fund which was announced by Spain. Other leaders have also made promises such as Kenyan President. He pledged to plant five billion dollars worth of trees in the next 5 years. This number should be doubled in 10 years.
Spain’s recent decisions before and during the COP27 show a real desire to help African countries be better prepared when it comes to fighting climate change. Sánchez looked to strengthen Spain’s relations with various key players such as South Africa, Senegal, and Kenya. Moreover, the Spanish government is looking to reduce its carbon emission by gradually reducing the number of CO2-emitting cars by 2035 which is a goal that was mentioned in last year’s COP and in the Paris Agreement.
Featured image by: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe