World at a cli­mate-ac­tion cross­roads

China Daily European Weekly - - Comment - The au­thor is ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the World Re­sources In­sti­tute. The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

Time is run­ning out to seize op­por­tu­ni­ties or face po­ten­tially dis­as­trous con­se­quences

pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments in Canada, On­tario and Que­bec to create the world’s sec­ond-largest car­bon mar­ket.

New re­search con­ducted by Amer­ica’s Pledge shows that poli­cies al­ready adopted by US states, ci­ties and busi­nesses will re­duce US emis­sions by 17 per­cent by 2025 com­pared with 2005 lev­els. With ad­di­tional ac­tion by these pro­vin­cial play­ers, the US could get to within strik­ing dis­tance of its Paris Agree­ment com­mit­ment of re­duc­ing emis­sions by 26 per­cent to 28 per­cent by 2025.

Ma­jor global ci­ties are mov­ing for­ward with am­bi­tious ac­tion as well. Un­der the Global Covenant of May­ors, more than 1,600 ci­ties have com­mit­ted to cli­mate ac­tion. To­gether, these ci­ties could re­duce emis­sions equiv­a­lent to 1.4 gi­ga­tons of car­bon in 2030 and 2.8 gi­ga­tons in 2050 (com­pared with busi­ness as usu- al). Paris, for ex­am­ple, aims to be car­bon neu­tral and pow­ered com­pletely by re­new­able en­ergy by 2050. And Copen­hagen has a plan to be­come the first car­bon neu­tral cap­i­tal by 2025.

Busi­nesses, re­gions and ci­ties are act­ing be­cause the eco­nomic case for low-car­bon eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is strong and be­com­ing stronger. It can ben­e­fit peo­ple’s health, im­prove ef­fi­ciency and drive in­no­va­tion. Ac­cord­ing to re­search con­ducted by the New Cli­mate Econ­omy, bold cli­mate ac­tion could yield $26 tril­lion in global eco­nomic ben­e­fits between now and 2030, com­pared with busi­ness as usual.

But de­spite these shin­ing points of light, the world is still on a tra­jec­tory for global tem­per­a­ture rise that could be cat­a­strophic. Na­tional gov­ern­ments need to step up with am­bi­tious pol­icy and in­vest­ment de­ci­sions to ac­cel­er­ate the low-car­bon tran­si­tion.

In re­cent years, China has been an im­por­tant player on the global cli­mate stage, es­pe­cially in help­ing draft the Paris Agree­ment. The coun­try set a na­tional tar­get to peak its emis­sions by 2030, though many ex­perts sug­gest it could hap­pen ear­lier. Also, it has in­vested heav­ily in re­new­able en­ergy and elec­tric ve­hi­cles and ac­counts for more than one-third of all elec­tric ve­hi­cles in the world, with EV sales ex­pected to sur­pass 1 mil­lion ve­hi­cles this year.

But China’s car­bon emis­sions con­tinue to rise and its coal con­sump­tion in­creased in 2017. Also, it should as­sess its in­vest­ments in other coun­tries to en­sure they are cli­mate-smart and fi­nan­cially sound. By push­ing for­ward its low­car­bon de­vel­op­ment strat­egy, China can ben­e­fit its own cit­i­zens while en­cour­ag­ing other coun­tries to raise their am­bi­tion.

With signs of mount­ing cli­mate im­pacts — from wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia to record-break­ing ty­phoons in the Pa­cific — the world must recom­mit to bold cli­mate ac­tion. The eco­nomics are clear, and in­cre­men­tal steps will not be suf­fi­cient. It’s time for a de­ci­sive shift to an in­no­va­tive and pro­duc­tive low-car­bon econ­omy.


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