Disagreements must be set aside for the good of the planet

Disagreements must be set aside for the good of the planet

Disagreements must be set aside for the good of the planet
Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron at the COP27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Monday, November 7, 2022 (Reuters)

About 120 world leaders are scheduled to arrive in Sharm el-Sheikh this month. It’s time to wonder, how is the planet going? How has the global effort progressed since COP26 in Glasgow?

Despite all of its critics, COP26 has seen some major conventions. Countries agreed to try to stick to the goal of keeping global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Some 34 countries have also committed to ending government funding of fossil fuels abroad. Countries agreed to end deforestation by 2030, a goal that may be more achievable after the result of last week’s Brazilian presidential election.

However, agreeing and realizing all of this are completely separate things. To get close to the 1.5°C target, greenhouse gas emissions will need to be halved by the end of this decade. The truth is that this goal will not be achieved. Are we even ready for what this will mean?

Glasgow was on the cusp of the last time – perhaps for a long time to come – when most of the international community came together in earnest to tackle a major planetary issue. It was the end of an era now wrecked in the ruins of Ukraine. Within weeks of COP26’s conclusion, Russian troops were massing on the Ukrainian border. Russia is becoming increasingly isolated, but for climate change, the biggest challenge is the deteriorating relations between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies and largest emitters.

So, as hundreds of private jets make their way to Egypt, optimism is low. Joe Biden’s plane won’t land until later this week, when US mid-air is out of the way. Three vital leaders will be absent altogether: Xi Jinping of China, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Narendra Modi of India.

Meanwhile, with energy shortages and nervousness about supplies, many countries are abandoning their pledges on climate change. The United Kingdom, for example, has issued new licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

The Ukrainian crisis has also made some countries less willing to rely on oil and gas. Germany reconsidered nuclear power. With energy prices rising, renewables like wind and solar are looking much more attractive. Electric cars are also supported. Renewable energy sources also respond to concerns about energy security.

It has been a great year for the oil and gas companies. The high prices have led to amazing profit levels. So far in 2022, the Big Five have made an impressive $170 billion in profit. This may tempt some governments to levy windfall taxes on such companies, but will any of the proceeds go toward climate-related issues?

Many argue for increased exploitation of oil and gas to counter energy insecurity. Some argue that this will be a temporary move. It looks like Germany may spoil its pledge in Glasgow not to invest in oil and gas offshore, as it debates whether to invest in offshore gas fields in Senegal.

But has the world really accepted the sacrifices required? The science is pretty clear – the world is warming. Skeptics have little space. People’s experiences lead to this scientific analysis as well.

Skeptics, deniers, and fraudsters are still in force. Doubt is good, it keeps people obsessed. We must always question assumptions, including those about climate change. But doubts must be accompanied by logical discussion, which deniers are not willing to engage in. Scammers are dangerous in every sense of the word.

Just look at the last 12 months. What about the worst Pakistani August floods in the country’s history? Remember the cyclones in Bangladesh, the heat waves in Europe that led to the worst drought in 500 years, the wildfires in North America, and the drought in Africa. At present, 146 million people in Africa face extreme hunger as a result of the worst drought in 40 years. The UK saw temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius for the first time in recorded history this summer. European rivers such as the Po and Loire have dried up to the point where people can walk across them in some places. The American West experienced what scientists describe as a “mega-drought,” the most extreme in 1,200 years.

In general, how much does this cost? One of the leading insurance companies, to date, has been estimated at $229 billion. It might be more.

Time is running out. Take sea levels. The World Meteorological Organization has found that sea levels are now rising by 5 millimeters per year. In the 1990s, the annual rate was 2.1 mm. For low-lying areas, this would be devastating.

Are rich countries ready to help poor countries? This seems less likely now given the economic climate, but it is required. In Glasgow, wealthier nations promised to increase adaptation aid to $40 billion by 2025, up from $29 billion in 2020. Many criticize the World Bank’s performance in climate fundraising. World Bank President David Malpass, appointed by President Donald Trump, avoids questions about his position on climate change. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called on the multilateral development banks to “accelerate and deliver”.

For this reason, at COP27, rebuilding funds – known as “losses and damages” – will be a hot topic. Poor countries need investment to defend their lands and people from floods, storms and droughts.

COP27 is also held on the continent of Africa. This is the continent that has contributed the least to man-made climate change, with only 3 percent of all emissions historically. However, it can be said that she suffered the most. According to the African Development Bank, it loses between 5 percent and 15 percent of GDP each year due to the effects of climate change.

Poor countries need investment to defend their lands and people from floods, storms and droughts.

Chris Doyle

Far-right leaders, in particular, need to reevaluate their positions. They should think about how climate change will affect mass migration, which they hate so badly. More and more migrants will move across the world to richer and safer countries. It does not justify racist and hostile attitudes, but rather should give them material for thought. Perhaps they might be interested in looking at the words of one of the symbols of the Right, Margaret Thatcher, in 1990: “The danger of global warming is not yet visible, but it is real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.”

It’s hard not to view the past 12 months as a major setback in the quest to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Driving is required. Differences must be set aside for this issue. All tensions of political opinion need to be joined. We don’t do nearly enough.

  • Chris Doyle is director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding in London. Twitter: @Doylech

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ views

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