The United Nations’ COP 27 climate change conference, which started in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh on Sunday, provides perhaps the last chance for leaders from around the world to get their act together and find ways to curb global warming.
Yet there have been worries about whether they will actually be able to turn the pledges they made at COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland, last year into actions, given the differences that still exist among them on some key points as well as the multiple challenges the world faces today — ranging from high inflation, food shortages to the energy crisis.
A United Nations report at the end of October said government pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions put the planet on track for a 2.8 C temperature rise this century — after the “woefully inadequate” progress to curb warming. This falls far short of the pledge countries have made to limit global temperatures to 2 C above pre-industrial levels.
Also, despite the wide-ranging climate pact reached in Glasgow last year, additional government commitments since COP 26 will remove only less than 1 percent of estimated global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, according to the UN Environment Programme, making it almost impossible to avert the looming climate cataclysm.
“As COP 27 gets underway, our planet is sending a distress signal,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday when commenting on the latest UN report suggesting that the past eight years were the warmest on record, with an acceleration in sea level rise, glacier melt and heat waves.
All this requires all countries to shoulder their due responsibilities and summon their collective will to deliver on promises because we could well be drinking in the last chance saloon.
Yet so far the developed countries have failed to provide the $100 billion each year to help developing countries address climate change — as they promised in 2009. This has damaged the mutual trust between the global North and South and made the reaching of any new agreements in this regard even more difficult.
The United States, as the world’s largest carbon emitter in history, has dragged its feet on fulfilling its climate obligations. Although the US administration has made tackling the climate crisis a top priority after President Joe Biden reversed the course of his predecessor Donald Trump by rejoining the Paris Agreement, the US Congress has approved a mere $1 billion in international climate finance for 2022 — falling far short of the pledge the US made to provide $11.4 billion by 2024.
This failure by Washington to scale up financing for the world’s poorest and most climate-vulnerable countries has been viewed as a “betrayal”.
The actions needed to curb the global rise in temperature call for a fundamental change in perspective and some tough decisions being made. But the past eight years have run down the clock, and there can be no more delay in biting the bullet.
Editorial, China Daily