Climate-crisis: Apathy of developed nations nullifying India and China’s efforts

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Published: February 14, 2020 3:30:54 AM

However, the 2019 emissions may prove no peak—the 2017 and 2018 emissions proved that the 2014-2016 period was a mere pause—given many Asian countries seem set to take over from advanced countries on emissions ignominy.

Global emissions had risen in both 2017 and 2018 after having remained constant since 2014. (Representative image)Global emissions had risen in both 2017 and 2018 after having remained constant since 2014. (Representative image)

Finally, there has been some action on the climate-crisis front by developed nations, most of which are the worst emission offenders. Expansion of wind, solar and other sustainable power generation capacity such as nuclear in developed nations, the International Energy Association (IEA) says,has helped energy-related CO2 emissions “flatline” in 2019, at 33 gigatonnes. Global emissions had risen in both 2017 and 2018 after having remained constant since 2014. However, the 2019 emissions may prove no peak—the 2017 and 2018 emissions proved that the 2014-2016 period was a mere pause—given many Asian countries seem set to take over from advanced countries on emissions ignominy. While power sector emissions in advanced countries have fallen to “levels last seen in the 1980s”—the US has recorded the sharpest decline, of 140 million tonnes—this fall was offset by the 400-million-tonne rise in the rest of the world. Asian countries, where coal generation is rising, accounted for nearly 320 million tonnes of this.

The 2019 ‘flatlining’ could seem cause for cheer, but it hardly reflects the wide, and deep, action on climate change that is needed. US president, climate denier Donald Trump, has walked the country—the worst historical and one of the worst current emitters—out of the Paris agreement. While the action that countries have committed to as part of the agreement won’t keep the world safe from a >2oC (rise in global temperatures over pre-industrial levels) pathway, prospects become far worse with the US out and countries like Brazil threatening to follow suit. Also, the full effects of the ‘back to coal’ junking of the Obama-era Clean Air Act by the Trump administration are yet to manifest—the law was a part of American action in keeping with the country’s Paris commitments—which means US emissions could again spike. A recent report by Capgemini shows why technology, including renewables, may not prove a “silver bullet”—it estimates that despite the commitment by 59 countries, states and provinces to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2040, the complete abandonment of fossil fuels by that time is very unlikely. Indeed, 100% renewables-generation will “demand a radical overhaul of infrastucture … including installation of solar PV and wind farms at 4-5 times the per capita rate of China, currently the world leader in renewable capacity”. It estimates a reasonably optimistic scenario for 2040 to be one in which the share of renewables in energy capacity have risen to 38%, from the current 6%. Also, while it is easy to blame the Asian nations if emissions balloon in the future, the fact is that developed nations, having eaten up nearly all of the carbon budget in their pursuit of growth, have shirked responsibility, primarily of financing adoption of climate-friendly technologies in the developing/least developed nations. They have committed only $5.6 billion so far to the Green Climate Fund, against the already modest goal of $100 billion by the end of this year. The UN, last year, warned that the window for meaningful climate action is closing fast. Against such a backdrop, the climate apathy of the US under Trump, or Brazil under Jair Bolsonaro or Australia under Scott Morrisson means that the efforts of an India or a China won’t help.

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