The responsibility of the developed world to fight climate change

LI MIN / CHINA DAILY

The United Nations Climate Change Conference underway in Glasgow, Scotland has been touted as a global effort to adapt to climate change.

The global response is the only way to fight climate change, as it requires an optimal allocation of global resources. The globalization of trade is also an optimal allocation of world resources, but with mainly economic interests. Tackling climate change is primarily a matter of responsibility and contribution, so it requires global dialogue and cooperation.

Indeed, the international community has no choice but to take concerted action, in particular by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and following a low-carbon development path. Otherwise, climate change could have a more devastating effect on international trade and commerce, which facilitates economic development, benefits producers and consumers, and improves the livelihoods of people around the world.

But the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, remains the world’s greatest challenge. Many countries, especially developing countries, want to tackle climate change, but to do so they need funds, technology and cooperation from other countries.

As such, de-globalization and trade wars are the greatest threat to the global fight against climate change, as they undermine communication and cooperation between countries.

As many countries have not set a timeline to peak their carbon emissions or achieve carbon neutrality, or have made determined national contributions to global climate action under the Paris Agreement depending on their actual capacity, many say the glasgow conference may be the last chance for countries to unite to tackle climate change.

The goal of the United Nations climate conference is to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, including limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5 C, compared to pre-industrial levels. But many climate analysts and activists are pessimistic about the success of the Glasgow conference because they don’t believe a deal would be reached to achieve those goals.

In fact, Alok Sharma, who was appointed president of the United Nations climate conference by the UK government, said: “It’s definitely more difficult than Paris in many ways. And given the differences and varied interests of the 197 countries, it is not easy for them to reach consensus on climate actions.

Yet on this year’s agenda are two key questions: “how are different countries meeting their different carbon emission reduction commitments” and “how can developed countries increase their financial and technical support to developing countries ”on which countries could not reach a consensus at the last United Nations climate conference in 2019.

For a long time, the most controversial issue in climate talks has been the various emission reduction obligations of developed and developing countries. Developed economies focus on the current and future impacts of global warming and want all countries to follow a universal policy of reducing emissions while promising to reduce as many emissions as possible.

Developing countries, for their part, emphasize historical responsibility and call for common but differentiated responsibilities, as enshrined in UN documents, as they cannot achieve the same objective of emissions reduction than developed countries for lack of funds or technology, or both. That is why the two sides failed to find an effective solution.

More importantly, developed countries have failed to fulfill their commitment to provide financial and technological support to developing countries. At the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, rich countries pledged to channel $ 100 billion a year to developing countries by 2020, to help them adapt and mitigate rising prices. temperatures. But an OECD report released in September said developed countries contributed only about $ 80 billion to their developing counterparts last year.

Some developed countries do not believe they have a responsibility to help low-income countries adapt to climate change and mitigate the potential rise in temperatures after 2020, which will make climate-vulnerable countries even more vulnerable. and helpless.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic and growing global uncertainties have prevented many countries from setting ambitious emission reduction targets. And until the pandemic is contained worldwide, global economic and scientific cooperation, including taking effective climate action, may not be possible.

The pandemic has increased the financial burden on developing countries and hampered their efforts to reduce emissions. Worse, many low-income economies, which are at a critical stage in their development, are facing an economic recession as a result of the pandemic. They therefore cannot balance development and climate action, as this would mean compromising poverty reduction, job creation, improved livelihoods, which will make it more difficult for them to contribute to the global climate action in the future.

In addition, developing economies are reluctant to avoid coal. Over 35% of the world’s electricity production comes from coal, with most coal-fired power plants in developing countries. This is because the switch from fossil fuels to clean energy requires huge funds and advanced technologies, which developing countries do not have. But despite developing countries not giving up coal, China has announced that it will stop funding overseas coal projects.

No country can fight climate change on its own or is immune to the impacts of global warming. Only global efforts, especially by developed economies, can mitigate the impacts of climate change. Therefore, the Glasgow climate conference should urge the developed world to honor its commitments and help developing countries with the funds and technologies needed to tackle climate change.

The author is the head of the Chinese Institute for Energy Policy Studies at Xiamen University. Opinions do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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