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Editorial:Multilateral cooperation on addressing global warming

【明報專訊】Global issues need to be addressed by international cooperation. This is true not only for addressing the pandemic, but also for tackling climate change. Following last week's climate change summit attended by China, France and Germany, the US will convene a virtual climate summit this week. To avoid the irreversible destruction caused by climate change, the international community must reach ''net-zero emissions'' by the middle of this century. Developed countries and developing nations should accelerate emission reduction in accordance with the principle of ''common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR)''.

Scientists have pointed out that human activities have increased the global temperature by about 1°C from pre-industrial levels in the 19th century. Once the temperature exceeds the warning line by 2°C, there will be irreversible disasters to humankind. As agreed in the Paris Agreement, the international community is committed to preventing the increase in the global average temperature from exceeding 2°C. It also strives to limit the temperature rise within 1.5°C. All countries are required to set their emission reduction targets.

According to the United Nations, if the global temperature rise is to be limited to 1.5°C, human-caused carbon emissions will need to fall by about 45% (with 2010 as the baseline year) by 2030, reaching ''net zero emissions'' (i.e., all carbon emissions are offset) by the middle of this century. However, the US, the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases today, has not only failed to commit itself to reducing emissions over the past few years, but has taken a retrograde step. No sooner had Donald Trump taken office as US President than he withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement. He encouraged the extraction of fossil fuels and abolished a series of environment-protection measures adopted in the Obama era. It was not until earlier this year, when Biden took office, that the US returned to the Paris Agreement.

The White House has invited numerous leaders to the virtual summit. In addition to its traditional allies, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have also agreed to attend the meeting and give their speeches. The US's invitation and Xi's and Putin's agreement to give speeches show that the three sides have extended olive branches to each other, which is a positive message for cooperation in the fight against global warming. Nevertheless, if Biden thinks that he can reestablish the US's leadership in global climate governance by holding a video conference with all the pomp and circumstance, he might be too optimistic.

The Industrial Revolution has brought centuries of benefits and prosperity to the West, but it has also created a large amount of greenhouse gases around the world. When it comes to emission reduction, Western countries often point the finger at countries such as China and India. The fact, however, is that developed nations have much higher carbon emissions per capita than developing nations. Developed countries in the West have the historical responsibility to take the lead in emissions reduction and be more active than the developing nations. But the US has repeatedly gone back on its word and ridden roughshod over the international commitment on climate change.

Now Biden has proposed a major green infrastructure initiative and strived to cut US emissions by 50% (with 2010 as the baseline year) by 2030. Despite the ambitious target, the international community is worried that the policies will be put on hold again if the White House changes hands four years later and ''Trump 2.0'' becomes the new President.

One of the main reasons for the rapid development of renewable energy in China and Europe is that both places attempt to reduce their dependence on foreign oil and gas supplies. However, the ''Shale Revolution'' has made the US the world's top oil producer. It is doubtful that the US can make a change of course in just a decade. If the White House refuses to take itself down a peg or two and insists on being the ''leader'' while putting pressures on and blaming other nations for global warming, it will only incur even more resentment from other nations.

明報社評 2021.04.22:多邊合作對抗暖化 美國難再指點江山

全球問題需要國際合作,說的不僅是疫情,還有氣候變化,繼上周中法德氣候峰會,本周又有美國主持的視像國際峰會。為免全球暖化帶來不可逆轉破壞,國際社會必須在本世紀中葉實現溫室氣體「淨零排放」,發達國和發展國應本着「共同但有區別責任」原則,加快減排步伐。

科學家指出,人類活動已使全球溫度較19世紀工業化前水平上升約1℃,一旦超出2℃警戒線,將為人類帶來不可逆轉的災難。根據《巴黎協定》,國際社會同意力阻全球平均氣溫升幅超過2℃,同時力爭將升幅限制於1.5℃之內,各國均要訂下減排目標。

聯合國指出,全球升溫若要限制在1.5℃,人為碳排放必須在2030年前減少約45%(以2010年水平為基準),並於本世紀中葉達至「淨零排放」,即所有碳排放均被中和,然而美國作為現今全球第二大溫室氣體排放國,過去數年不僅沒有致力減排,反而開倒車。特朗普上台即退出《巴黎協定》,鼓勵開採化石能源,廢除奧巴馬時代一系列環保措施,直至今年初拜登就職,美國才重返《巴黎協定》。

華府邀請多國元首出席視像峰會,除了傳統盟友,國家主席習近平、俄羅斯總統普京等亦應邀亮相發言。美方主動邀請、習近平和普京答應發言,互釋善意,帶出合作抗暖化的正面信息,然而如果拜登以為大張旗鼓來一場視像峰會,就可帶領美國重當全球氣候治理「盟主」,未免也想得太美。

工業革命為西方帶來百載好處和繁榮,同時亦給全球製造大量溫室氣體。現在西方常將減排矛頭指向中國和印度等,實際是發達國家的人均排放量,依然遠高於發展中國家。西方發達國有歷史責任帶頭減排,步伐更必須比發展國進取,可是美國卻一再出爾反爾,將之前所作的國際承諾視若草芥。

現在拜登提出大興綠色基建,力爭2030年將美國碳排放減少五成(以2010年水平為基準),目標相當進取,國際社會擔心的是,萬一4年後白宮又易主,換上「特朗普2.0」,會否又再「人去政息」。

中國和歐洲再生能源發展快,一大原因是兩地都想減少依賴外來油氣供應,然而頁岩氣革命已令美國成為全球最大產油國,短短10年能否改弦易轍,實屬疑問。倘若華府仍不放下身段,硬要以「盟主」姿態,就減排問題向其他國家施壓、指摘別人不是,只會招來更多不滿。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

offset /ˈɒfset/ sth :to cancel out sth by having an equal and opposite force or effect

pomp and circumstance:an impressive ceremony

take sb down a peg (or two):to make sb realise that they are not as good, important, etc. as they think they are

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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