When a 16-year-old girl who has avowed air travel has to cross the Atlantic in a solar-powered race boat to speak at a conference on climate change while the Amazon rainforests are still burning in evidence to everything she has argued at the highest public forums, it is evident that adults in the room are not doing enough. The “war on nature must end”, Greta Thunberg appealed as she reached the shores of America.
In the face of the world’s biggest crisis, some world leaders seem to be moving in the opposite direction in denial. The myopic economic interests of countries have clearly taken precedence over the global environmental concerns regarding climate change. Nevertheless, the impact of the climate crisis has not been more evident than today through the unpredictable weather conditions and changing trends in climate, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, as well as ocean acidification. Warming temperatures triggered by greenhouse gas emissions have increased the frequency and intensity of floods, droughts and storms across countries and regions. However, the consequent environmental degradation does not have a uniform impact on countries with varying levels of economic development.
A recently published study by researchers from the Stanford University has found that between 1961 and 2010, the poor countries with the lowest carbon emissions suffered bigger losses compared to wealthy countries with the highest emissions. A similar impact has been observed within countries where people who are the least responsible for the climate crisis are the most vulnerable to the risks associated with it. The local communities living in rural parts of developing countries (that are already at a disadvantage) are directly affected due to the consequent impact on agricultural production, water availability, industry and human health. As a result of rising inequality among and within countries, India’s GDP is estimated to be 31% lower than it would have been without climate change. By contrast, the GDP of Canada and EU are 32% and 9.5% higher respectively.
These findings further the ongoing debate on the division of responsibility for causing climate change and its mitigation. Historically, developed countries have had a major contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions which makes it imperative for them to lead the fight against climate change and its adverse effects. The fact that their development which caused climate change muted the growth prospects of the next wave of developing countries puts additional onus on the developed economies to make efforts to address the crisis.
Given that all countries continue with their efforts to promote an ecosystem of sustainable production and consumption, the developed countries should not only take responsibility for their own actions, but also compensate for their negative contribution of the past. In 2015, the Global Climate Fund was created with the objective to support the efforts of developing countries to tackle climate change through investments in the form of grants, loans, equity and guarantees. In addition to financial assistance, transfer of green and clean technologies to the low-income countries could further stimulate their transition to become green economies.
Thus, a comprehensive action plan should be advanced to encourage adoption of sustainable alternatives by providing fiscal incentives, regulatory support for resource-incentive sectors and building of climate-resilient infrastructure in developing countries. Stringent laws regarding green subsidies and carbon taxes levied on traded goods and services could initiate the establishment of carbon-free markets. Green innovation through investment in research and technology could also play a key role to find global solutions to the global issue of climate change.
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