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








■/ 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


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