Authors: Xu Guoying & Zhao Qingtong
Since the 1960s, the effects of global climate change have alarmed the peoples over the world. It includes unprecedented stronger storms, floods, droughts, landslides, rising temperatures and glacier melting. The nature is becoming more fragile, as Harvard scientist James McCarthy warned, “Now the Earth is populated with 6 billion people and natural and human systems that provide us with food, fuel, and fibre are strongly influenced by climate.” It does not matter whether carbon dioxide is placed in the atmosphere from China or the United States, it still affects global change. Truly as climate change accelerates, future change may not occur as smoothly as it has in the past. Despite considerable public attention, for example, the Vienna Conventions in 1985, FCCC in 1994 and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, still less impressive progress has been made in reducing CO2 emissions globally.
Considering this, world leaders from some 70 countries staged a virtual gathering on December 12 to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Paris climate accord, the international agreement to curb global warming, with a view to drawing pledges by countries to increase efforts in tackling global climate challenges. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, the world needs to reduce global emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and urged world leaders to “take the right decisions” to push their countries towards carbon neutrality. As a response to Guterres’ address, the president of the European Council Charles Michel reiterated the importance of international cooperation in fighting climate change. Chinese President Xi announced China’s determined commitments to combatting climate change along with other countries. The U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also pointed to the global efforts in developing coronavirus vaccines as an example of the strength of countries working together. As he said, “Together we can use scientific advances to protect our entire planet, our biosphere, against a challenge far worse, far more destructive than coronavirus.”The world indeed needs the golden thread of climate action to weave through every international gathering next year, including the G7, the G20 and other meetings, in order to fight climate change much more efficiently and substantially.
More encouraging, although the administration of President Trump, who withdrew the U.S. from the Paris accord, wasn’t represented at the meeting. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement in a written statement sent shortly before the meeting started. As the United States is returning to the Paris Agreement, the international community expects that the U.S. will commit to carbon neutrality, simply because others have done in the past days and weeks, countries such as China, Japan and Brazil. Yes, the countries that are party to the Paris Agreement are required to submit their updated targets to the United Nations by the end of this year.
As the largest developing country and a rising power as well, China vows to lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by over 65 percent from the 2005 level, increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25 percent, increase the forest stock volume by 6 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level, and bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kilowatts. As a matter of fact, China has called for the global commitments to work towards a range of issues, including climate change, marine ecosystem protection, sustainable land use, restoring migration routes and many other areas to prevent the alarming scale of biodiversity loss in the world. This is a recognition of the crisis and an expression of the need for a profound re-commitment from world leaders to take urgent action. Yet, pragmatically with the world facing the coronavirus pandemic and failing to meet the 2020 biodiversity targets agreed previously, this summit was seen as an opportunity for world leaders to revise their goals and commitment to protect nature. As they have agreed, the challenges of climate change and COVID-19 show us the importance of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use to ensure a more secure, inclusive and resilient world. To that end, they must develop and agree on a shared plan together for the biodiversity and climate negotiations scheduled for next year, to secure a carbon-neutral, nature-positive and equitable future for all. There has never been a more crucial time to act for nature than now, as the UN chief Guterres warned, people over the world must stop a “suicidal” war on nature.
Historically the first convention on global climate change was adopted in 1992. Now the question remains “Can global cooperation succeed in a combating climate change? At its root, the answer to our puzzle is quite simple and plain. From a realistic point of view, each country would like to benefit from a cleaner environment but would also like others to bear the costs of protecting environmental quality. Given this, all countries share the benefits of a healthy atmosphere and all face private costs in changing individual behavior. Accordingly, all countries have attempted to free ride on one another, hoping to reap the benefits of a greener environment without having to give up our current lifestyle. For example, the United States and Australia remain the only two industrialized countries that have declined to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Astonishingly, they even question climate change science and seriousness of the predicted impacts of global warming, maintaining that undertaking emission reductions would harm their economies, and also arguing that Protocol is flawed because it does not require the major developing countries like China to undertake mandatory emission measures.
The next problem of collective action is compounded by the distributional consequences of alternative policy solutions, especially in the case of global climate change. For example, hydrocarbon fuels are the life blood of modern economies, and the interests who would lose from any seminal policy-changing are large and politically powerful. Even nowadays these vested interests have played upon the basic incentive of all actors to free rise to block any policy change. Due to this, international institutions are expected to play a role in facilitating and codifying cooperation in global climate change. Negotiations have occurred necessarily among global leaders who have reached the agreements and the consensuses in order to use them as the efficient legal tools.
In light of the analysis above, some countries, such as Japan, Canada, France and the U.K., recently declared a “climate emergency” and pledged to make its public sector carbon neutral by 2025.In September, China also publicly committed to bring carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Since the presidential race in the US is over fundamentally, John Kerry signaled Washington’s seriousness about climate shortly after being tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to serve as U.S. envoy on climate, a new cabinet-level post. As he said, “America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is.” In addition, the UN is urging countries around the world to take more aggressive actions to match their commitments to the global climate change. In fact, although the pandemic is still the biggest concern to many people in the world in 2020, for millions in climate vulnerable places, the climate emergency remains the biggest threat and sadly there is no simple vaccine to fix the climate.
In order to show China is a responsible country in the world affairs, Beijing announced more new measures to fight climate change and stressed the important role of “solidarity, cooperation and confidence.” First, in term of the climate challenge, China argues that no one can be aloof and unilateralism will get us nowhere. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected over 50 million people globally, international community needs to work together to combat these natural disasters in terms of both virus and climate.”All countries need to maximize actions in light of their respective national circumstances and capabilities,” Xi said, calling on the developed countries to scale up support for developing countries in the financing, technology and capacity building. Only by upholding multilateralism, unity and cooperation can we deliver shared benefits and win-win for all nations.
For sure, the Prisoner’s dilemma that exists at the individual level is easily reproduced at the international level with the same consequences. The United States, as the world’s largest source of greenhouse gases, is unwilling to take an initiative to control its own emissions in the absence of a global solution. As former U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman (2006) stated, “We are a small contributor to the overall problems when you look at the rest of the world, so it’s really got to be a global solution agreed by all other countries.” In contrast, as the largest developing country and the second-largest economy in the world, China has been striving to coordinate economic growth and environmental protection and committed to the global fight against climate change. China has persistently exceeded its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by 2030 under the Paris agreement, thanks to its efforts to cut growth in energy use and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Now Beijing vows to continue making new progress in building an ecological civilization, optimize the development and protection of territorial space, and achieve notable results in green transformation of production and lifestyle.
By the end of 2020, the great news is that President-elect Biden reiterated his campaign pledge that his administration will cut U.S. emissions to net zero “no later than 2050.” He goes further saying that the United States will engage closely with the activists, including young people, who have continued to sound the alarm and demand change from those in power. It is quite clear that under a Biden-Harris administration, the U.S. will be back working with other countries around the world to ensure realizing those goals for the sake of the world and future generations. The paradoxes of collective action are every bit as important for countries as for individuals. After all, together, the world never fails.
A liveable future for all is possible, if we take urgent climate action
A major UN “report of reports” from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), outlines the many options that can be taken now, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change.The study, “Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report”, released on Monday following a week-long IPCC session in Interlaken, brings into sharp focus the losses and damages experienced now, and expected to continue into the future, which are hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems especially hard.
Temperatures have already risen to 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a consequence of more than a century of burning fossil fuels, as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use. This has resulted in more frequent and intense extreme weather events that have caused increasingly dangerous impacts on nature and people in every region of the world.
Climate-driven food and water insecurity is expected to grow with increased warming: when the risks combine with other adverse events, such as pandemics or conflicts, they become even more difficult to manage.
Time is short, but there is a clear path forward
If temperatures are to be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, deep, rapid, and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions will be needed in all sectors this decade, the reports states. Emissions need to go down now, and be cut by almost half by 2030, if this goal has any chance of being achieved.
The solution proposed by the IPCC is “climate resilient development,” which involves integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in ways that provide wider benefits.
Examples include access to clean energy, low-carbon electrification, the promotion of zero and low carbon transport, and improved air quality: the economic benefits for people’s health from air quality improvements alone would be roughly the same, or possibly even larger, than the costs of reducing or avoiding emissions
“The greatest gains in wellbeing could come from prioritizing climate risk reduction for low-income and marginalized communities, including people living in informal settlements,” said Christopher Trisos, one of the report’s authors. “Accelerated climate action will only come about if there is a many-fold increase in finance. Insufficient and misaligned finance is holding back progress.”
Governments are key
The power of governments to reduce barriers to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, through public funding and clear signals to investors, and scaling up tried and tested policy measures, is emphasized in the report.
Changes in the food sector, electricity, transport, industry, buildings, and land-use are highlighted as important ways to cut emissions, as well as moves to low-carbon lifestyles, which would improve health and wellbeing.
“Transformational changes are more likely to succeed where there is trust, where everyone works together to prioritize risk reduction, and where benefits and burdens are shared equitably,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.
“This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”
UN chief announces plan to speed up progress
In a video message released on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the report as a “how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb.”
Climate action is needed on all fronts: “everything, everywhere, all at once,” he declared, in a reference to this year’s Best Film Academy Award winner.
The UN chief has proposed to the G20 group of highly developed economies a “Climate Solidarity Pact,” in which all big emitters would make extra efforts to cut emissions, and wealthier countries would mobilize financial and technical resources to support emerging economies in a common effort to ensure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Mr. Guterres announced that he is presenting a plan to boost efforts to achieve the Pact through an Acceleration Agenda, which involves leaders of developed countries committing to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040, and developing countries as close as possible to 2050.
The Agenda calls for an end to coal, net-zero electricity generation by 2035 for all developed countries and 2040 for the rest of the world, and a stop to all licensing or funding of new oil and gas, and any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves.
These measures, continued Mr. Guterres, must accompany safeguards for the most vulnerable communities, scaling up finance and capacities for adaptation and loss and damage, and promoting reforms to ensure Multilateral Development Banks provide more grants and loans, and fully mobilize private finance.
Looking ahead to the upcoming UN climate conference, due to be held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December, Mr. Guterres said that he expects all G20 leaders to have committed to ambitious new economy-wide nationally determined contributions encompassing all greenhouse gases, and indicating their absolute emissions cuts targets for 2035 and 2040.
Journey to net-zero ‘picks up pace’
Achim Steiner, Administrator, of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) pointed to signs that the journey to net-zero is picking up pace as the world looks to the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference or COP28 in the United Arab Emirates.
“That includes the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S., described ‘the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis’ and the European Union’s latest Green Deal Industrial Plan, a strategy to make the bloc the home of clean technology and green jobs,” he said.
“Now is the time for an era of co-investment in bold solutions. As the narrow window of opportunity to stop climate change rapidly closes, the choices that governments, the private sector, and communities now make — or do not make – will go down in history.”
A Treaty to Preserve Oceans – And Our World
There is cause for celebration in our climatically distressed world for a treaty of historic proportions has been signed by the UN member states. It is the culmination of 15 years of talks and discussions.
Vital to the preservation of 30 percent of our earth, i.e. land and ocean, the oceans treaty broke many political barriers. The EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius applauded the event saying it was a crucial step towards preserving marine life and its essential biodiversity for generations to come.
The UN Secretary General commended the delegates, his spokesperson calling the agreement a “victory for multilateralism and for global efforts to counter the destructive trends facing oceanhealth, now and for generations to come.”
The real problem is the oceans belong to no one — and thus available to everyone — because the exclusive economic zones of countries end beyond 200 nautical miles (370 kms) from their coastlines.
These high seas are threatened by overfishing, man-made pollution including damaging plastics, and also climate change. People are unaware that oceans create half the oxygen we breathe, and help in containing global warming by absorbing the carbon dioxide released by human activities — one can think of all the coal and wood fires, particularly in developing countries, and the coal-fired power stations everywhere among other uses of fossil fuels.
The fact is we have to value the environment that nurtures us for the consequences of our disregard can in the final analysis destroy life itself. As it stands, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports in its 2022 Living Planet Index a 69 percent decrease in monitored populations since 1970, a mere half century. Their data analyzed 32,000 species.
As the apex species, such a loss forces humans to assume responsibility. It rests on each and everyone of us from individuals to governments to corporate entities, and across the spectrum of human activity.
The treaty furnishes legal tools to assist in creating protected areas for marine life; it also requires environmental assessments for intended commercial activity … like deep sea mining for example. The nearly 200 countries involved also signed a pledge to share ocean resources. All in all, it has been a triumph of common sense over the individual greed of people and nations.
So it is that the treaty has made possible the 30×30 target, namely, to protect 30 percent of oceans by 2030. Now comes the hard work of organizing the protection. Who will police the areas? Who will pay for it?
Environmental Crisis in South Asian Countries
During thetwenty-first century, South Asian countries have been facing and dealing with enormous problems. But the environmental crisis is one of the major and most emerging issues. South Asia is the southern part of the continent Asia, which is also known as the Asian societies. Mainly consist of eight countries India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sir Lanka, and Bangladesh. Most of the environmental problem has been started after the 1960s due to high economic activities, population growth, industrialization, urbanization, and poverty. The combined effects of all these factors caused the situation more complex because of less management of negative and deviant behavior in economic activities. South Asian countries are the developing region that mainly constitutes middle-income countries struggling to flourish their economies and to cope with challenges of political and environmental sustainability, although they are still yet facing many environmental crises which are highly interactive, interlinked with human activities and also human life which it is the need of the hour to be addressed.
Population Density and Population Pressure
Population growth is one of the major elements which play an important role in environmental crises. As all the South Asian developing countries have an extensive density of populations such as India which considers the world second most populated country after China, because the growing population in all South Asian countries, it’s put tremendous population strain on natural and environmental resources such as increase the extraction of resources from the environment influence negatively in our environment. The Intergovernmental Panel Discussion (IPCC) on climate change says that most of the environmental crises are attributed to human activities. The population of Pakistan is also increasing at the rate of 1.9 % annual changes and the population of other South Asian countries is also not up to the mark, but increasing day by day which adversely affects the economy and the natural setting of the environment.
Climate change is also a major problem. South Asian developing counties are vulnerable to climate change-related disasters. The history of Pakistan, and Bangladesh showed how much they suffered due to climate flood disasters. Pakistan and India are facing the brunt of extreme weather almost every year. Being affected by environmental problems severely influence economic activities in the summer of 2022 due to “Heat Waves” in India and Pakistan, “Flood Crisis” in Pakistan last year affected the largest region about one–third of the whole country. Melting glaciers in Pakistan, almost twenty glacier bodies in Nepal, and twenty-five in Bhutan are so unsafe glacial water bodies. Land erosion in India, and Nepal land erosion, and land sliding. With rising sea levels in Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pakistan it is expected that by 2050 most of them swallowed by the sea. This climate condition is not new for this region, according to the World Bank Report 750 million people across South Asian societies are impacted by the last almost 20 years. In Afghanistan, farmers face climate-induced drought, and nearly 19 million Afghans are unable to feed themselves and almost 5 million people across India and Bangladesh. According to the climate change risk index Bangladesh and Pakistan ranked sixth and seventh while India ranked fourth among them respectively. A recent report of intergovernmental on climate change called “Code Red for Humanity” by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, it is predicted that in the next two decades, global warming will increase up to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Almost all Asian societies adversely face the problem of pollution associated with indoor and outdoor elements which may be the source of pollution. With the increase of demographic pressure and urbanization, pollution is also considered a vital concern in South Asian countries. Due to industrialization, transportation, burning of coal, and biomass, excessive use of metals, and soil depletion of natural resources and minerals merely falls under the category of pollution. According to the report of the Air Quality Life Index Pakistan is the fourth most pollution-causing country in the world and India is the second most polluted country in the world and number one in Bangladesh. Excess methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, sulfur, and insoluble and soluble materials emitted by vehicles and industries are harmful effects on humans such as lung cancer, asthma, and water-borne diseases. It badly influences plants and animals.
Water scarcity is a major concern in almost every region. South Asian countries have become water-default regions due to population exploitation, and unplanned urbanization. Almost 90- 95 of water is consumed by agriculture and industries, and there is insufficient storage and a wasteful irrigation method. Per capita, water availability is less than the world average and 4.5% of freshwater resources availability. Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan face varying degrees of water scarcity. Groundwater depletion caused by irrigation, agriculture runoff, industries, and the unregulated release of sewage needs a major concern. Along with scarcity of water quality and quantity, both are also affected by the reduction in the quantity of water because of the recession of glaciers and disruption in the monsoon.
Furthermore, global warming is also a main issue that is observed globally it is specifically due to human activities primarily the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, and petroleum, fire burning, and along with the emission of harmful gases. South Asian countries are the major source of carbon dioxide, so it is a crucial component in global warming. However many South Asian countries implement a tax on the use of carbon-related components, a form of small fiscal policy to reduce the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere.
In addition to all these South Asia approximately uses only 5.9 % of global energy resources excluding the non- commercial energy resources. South Asian counties have increased the demand for energy in the last few decades, increasing demand by up to 50% since 2000. The rising energy demand is induced by population growth and the manufacturing sector. All the south Asian countries have increased the demand for electricity on average by more than five percent annually over the past two decades and are expected for the future that requires more than double by 2050. More than two third of the energy is imported. So it put pressure to increase cost recovery if the demand increase. In South Asia, disruptions due to conflict among other countries adversely impact fuel imports and put greater pressure on the government to ensure the security of their energy supply.
South Asian countries are major part and contributors to the world economy. Due to the crisis, economic activities were destroyed and diminished in many regions, because of damage to productivity and infrastructure, security threats, and mass migration, as the results growth rate declined and the world economy gets affected. Globally, all the economies of the world somehow depend upon each other for trade. To facilitate this connection it is necessary to maintain a balance. There are many organizations are working in South Asian countries to control the environmental crisis, such as the intergovernmental organization of South Asia Co-operative Environment Program (SACEP). Climate Action Network of South Asia, South Asian form for the environment. So the main purpose of all these organizations is to provide support, protection, and management in context to contribute in terms of sustainable development, along with issues of economic and social development. In addition to all these, urgent action is needed to curb all the challenges. The most immediate and pragmatic step to cope with the challenges is to make a collective UN committee for collaboration among the countries, reduce the global emission of harmful gases, decarbonize the energy sector, educate people to spread awareness among people start campaigns related to the protection of environmental at county level, uses of renewable resources, new policy initiation, formulation, and Implementation.
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