NEW YORK (Project Syndicate) âThe philosopher Immanuel Kant has said that “He who wants the end also wants … the indispensable means which are under his control.” Simply put, when we set a goal, we need to take the necessary steps to achieve it. This is an essential maxim for our governments, and it should guide the leaders of the Group of 20 when they meet in Rome at the end of October to tackle the climate crisis.
The world set a goal in the Paris climate agreement: to keep global warming below 1.5 Â° Celsius of pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explained why this is a valid goal. Going above 1.5 Â° C would endanger life on the planet with a potential rise of several meters in sea level, the collapse of critical ecosystems and the release of methane from thawing permafrost, triggering possibly uncontrollable warming. Yet the world’s current trajectory involves a catastrophic 2.7 Â° C rise in global temperature.
Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency showed the technological way to reach the 1.5 Â° C target. We need to decarbonize the global energy system by mid-century. This is possible by switching from fossil fuels to renewables and green fuels in power generation, transport, buildings and industry. Beyond that, we must also stop deforestation and massively restore degraded lands.
“Biden’s grip on power is so weak and congressional corruption so ingrained that the president cannot even face a small state senator from his own party, who should be humiliated and ridiculed for his dedication to Big Oil.“
Governments have so far failed miserably to do their part. To use Greta Thunberg’s inimitable words, they must go beyond “Blah, bla, bla”. They must give themselves the means to decarbonise.
Six things to do
First, governments need to plan the energy system and land use changes until the middle of the century. With only 28 years to go to 2050, and faced with the need for a massive overhaul of energy systems and land use practices, governments must plan the necessary public investments and policies. And they must gain acceptance and support for these plans by subjecting them to public scrutiny, debate and review.
Second, governments need to regulate. As the IEA clearly wrote in its report, there is no need or justification for further investment in fossil fuels. Period. We have sufficient proven reserves of fossil fuels. No country should get a pass to stop new exploration and development of fossil fuels.
Third, governments need to fund zero-carbon infrastructure on a large scale, such as national and regional renewable energy power grids (for example, connecting the European Union, North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East), as well as the electrification of transport and buildings.
Fourth, the governments of rich countries must help finance the efforts of poor countries to make the necessary investments. Rich countries have long promised to do so, but have failed to raise even the rather pitiful $ 100 billion a year – barely 0.1% of global production – that they first promised. in 2009.
Fifth, developed countries should compensate the developing world for the climate damage they have already caused and which will intensify in the future. The United States has emitted 25% of carbon dioxide emissions since 1751, when it represents less than 5% of the world’s population. All over the world, countries are experiencing massive climate disasters as a result of the United States’ energy malfeasance. Yet the United States and other major historic emitters have offered nothing to compensate for the damage they cause.
“What’s remarkable about American corruption is how blatant it is.“
Finally, the world’s rich, responsible for the preponderance of fossil fuel use in their own countries and globally, must pay their fair share of the costs of climate adjustment. Yet, by and large, the richest people escape fair taxation, as the Pandora Papers and a ProPublica report on tax evasion.
There is some good news. Many governments are taking steps in the right direction. The European Union is leading the way, with the European Green Agreement, which pledges the EU to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Japan and South Korea have also pledged to achieve net zero emissions. ‘by 2050, and President Joe Biden is trying to bring the United States online. China, Indonesia and Russia have set a net zero target of 2060, which is encouraging but can and should be accelerated.
Yet major issuers such as Australia, India and Saudi Arabia have made no such commitments, and the United States is showing signs of yet another massive political failure to tackle climate change. , despite Biden’s best efforts. Since the ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the US Senate has blocked all action to implement the treaty and the Paris Agreement on the climate.
“At the G20 meeting in Rome, many member governments will push for more ambitious action to tackle climate change. But these governments must also be ready to denounce climate laggards, starting with the United States.“
This toll of inaction threatening the world now looks set to continue. Over the past few days, the Senate has been busy gutting Biden’s signing budget legislation of his most important climate policies. All 50 Republican Senators and a handful of Democrats led by Joe Manchin of West Virginia oppose Biden’s “clean energy plan” to decarbonize America’s energy sector.
What’s remarkable about American corruption is how blatant it is. The oil and gas industry spent $ 140.7 million on the 2020 election (giving Republicans 84%) and $ 112 million on lobbying last year. An XOM Exxon Mobil,
a lobbyist was registered as being confident that Manchin is the industry’s “kingmaker” in Congress. Biden’s grip on power is so weak and congressional corruption so ingrained that the president cannot even face a small state senator from his own party, who should be humiliated and ridiculed for his dedication to Big Oil.
G20 governments have a moral imperative to embrace the means to achieve the globally agreed goal of climate security. Their countries represent around 80% of global production and CO2 emissions. An agreement between these governments, followed by specific actions, including the fight against corruption in their own country, can change the global trajectory of climate change.
Many G20 governments are ready to act and they should denounce the laggards. The United States should be warned that the failure of the American response is intolerable to the rest of the world. And the same message should go to Australia, India and Saudi Arabia. There can be no tolerance for climate corruption and impunity in a world on fire.
Jeffrey D. Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University, is Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and Chairman of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He has served as an advisor to three UN Secretaries General and is currently an advocate for the SDGs under the leadership of Secretary General AntÃ³nio Guterres. His books include The End of Poverty, Common Wealth, The Age of Sustainable Development, Building the New American Economy, A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism, and most recently The Ages of Globalization.
This comment was posted with permission from Project Syndicate – The G20 and the Means of Climate Security
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