Avoiding the carbon tsunami | Philstar.com


Our fight against climate change is described as “the last war” by Kelly Sims Gallagher in her article “The Coming Carbon Tsunami” in the January/February 2022 issue of Foreign Affairs, an American magazine published six times a year by the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. Its first issue dates back to September 1922, a few months before one hundred years today.

As he said then, he “will tolerate wide differences of opinion. Its articles will not represent any consensus of beliefs. What is required of them is that they be knowledgeable and knowledgeable, that they represent honest opinions, taken seriously and expressed convincingly…”.

It is one of my favorite newspapers and today the article on climate change is of particular interest, especially because of the references of the author. Gallagher is Academic Dean and Professor of Energy and Environmental Policy and Director of the Climate Policy Lab at Tuft University’s Fletcher School. She also served as a senior policy adviser in the White House Office of Science and Technology during the Obama administration.

So what is the grim news of the proportion of the tsunami? Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, countries have released one and a half trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the global atmosphere, with the largest coming, in that order, from the United States, European countries, China and Russia. Today, they have all become prosperous enough to be able to afford policies that can put them on a path to net-zero emissions by mid-century. Thus, the most emitting countries would come from the developing world, from countries such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa. These countries face the “Herculean task” of freeing millions of people from poverty and adapting to the often painful realities of climate change.

Note how we have recognized in our own country how geographically vulnerable we are to nature’s wrath and how the very segment of our population that can least build and resume life after such devastation is lamentably, still the most hard hit.

The scenario is not easy to accept. While the efforts of today’s biggest polluters to reduce emissions are notable, they remain in vain if the least developed countries cannot pursue their own low-carbon development strategy. The environment must be preserved, but alongside these efforts must be tackled the problems of poverty of millions of people.

Despite four major climate agreements and dire warnings from scientists, greenhouse gas emissions from all sources have risen 58% between 1990 and 2020. Why global efforts seem unable to meet targets ?

First, in the Paris agreement as in other global environmental agreements, countries do not face serious consequences if they do not meet the targets they have set themselves. There is no enforcement mechanism to compel the 193 countries to honor their nationally determined targets.

Second, emerging economies and industrialized economies have failed to develop a model of economic growth that does not rely on “fossil fuels and energy-intensive industrialization”. It is pointed out that Japan, South Korea and China have adopted the East Asian development model and are now among the top ten emitters. China is trying to reduce its carbon intensity by switching to renewables and nuclear, “but its shift away from coal” has been slow.

Third, public and private capital from developing countries has not been sufficient for green energy projects. The International Energy Agency is said to have estimated that $4 trillion in annual clean energy investment is needed to decarbonize the global energy system. In Paris, there was the commitment made to mobilize 100 billion dollars each year for developing countries by 2020. This commitment has not been kept.

There is an encouraging tone to stop the next wave of emissions, as the article concludes, as both developed and developing countries show leadership in meeting the challenge presented by the crisis. An example is Indonesia, which is about to institute a modest carbon tax on coal-fired power plants, along with Mexico and South Africa which have already implemented carbon taxes. China has finalized a national emissions trading system for power plants and Kazakhstan has its own emissions trading scheme. Ethiopia has an economic strategy that focuses on green development with plans to expand electricity supply from renewables – and a reforestation program to kick off.

We wonder and we fervently hope that the Philippines will develop its own program to fight against climate change.

It bears repeating again that these developing countries cannot do it all on their own – financial and political support is needed, even if the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China, do not have demonstrates climate leadership.

Gallagher calls this “abdication of leadership” a sign that the ball is now in the court of the big developing countries, such as India, Indonesia and South Africa, to pave the way for a new approach. They have shown their ability to innovate, but again they need resource and policy assistance from developed countries to move to low carbon development medals.

This support for rich economies which, after all, got rich by “pushing the lion’s share of carbon into the atmosphere” is the only way forward to confront this carbon tsunami head-on.

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The Young Writers’ Hangout May 28 with Joyce Bernales (“The Secret to Great Stories”), 2-3 p.m. Write Things’ six-day summer workshop “Writefest” (now in its 8th year) began with guest author Edgar Samar and continues through May 27, from 3-4:30 p.m. each session. Our second special guest is the poet Dinah Roma. The workshop facilitators are Roel SR Cruz and Sofi Bernedo. It is high time that our young writers get to know our Filipino authors!

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