Special Editorial: The world is on fire and we can no longer afford to wait to act

Climate change is a global problem that requires the cooperation of all nations. That is why today more than 30 newspapers and media organizations in more than 20 countries have expressed a common view on what needs to be done. Time is running out. Instead of switching from fossil fuels to clean energy, many wealthy nations are reinvesting in oil and gas, not reducing emissions fast enough, and haggling over the aid they are willing to send to poor countries. All this as the planet races towards the point of no return – where climate chaos becomes irreversible.

Since the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow 12 months ago, countries have pledged to do just one-fiftieth of what it takes to stay on track and keep temperatures within 1.5C of pre-industrial levels. No continent has avoided extreme weather disasters this year – from floods in Pakistan to heat waves in Europe and from wildfires in Australia to hurricanes in the US. Given that these were caused by increased temperatures of around 1.1C, the world can expect far worse.

As many nations seek to reduce their dependence on Russia, the world is experiencing a “gold rush” for new fossil fuel projects. These are seen as temporary supply measures, but they risk locking the planet into irreversible damage. All of this underscores the need for humanity to end its dependence on fossil fuels. If renewable energy were the norm, there would be no climate emergency.

The world’s poorest people will bear the brunt of the destruction wrought by drought, melting ice sheets and crop failures. Money is needed to protect these groups from loss of life and livelihoods. Developing countries need $2 trillion annually to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and deal with climate breakdown, according to an influential report.

Rich countries make up just one in eight people on the planet today, but are responsible for half of greenhouse gases. These nations have a clear moral responsibility to help. Developing countries should be given enough money to address the dangerous conditions they have done little to create – especially with a looming global recession.

Rich nations should deliver on the promise of previously pledged funds — like the $100 billion a year from 2020 — to signal their seriousness. As a bare minimum, a windfall tax on the combined profits of the largest oil and gas companies – estimated at nearly $100 billion for the first three months of the year – must be enacted. The United Nations has rightly demanded that the money be used to help those most vulnerable. But such a levy would only be the beginning. Poor nations also carry debts that make it impossible to recover from climate-related disasters or protect against future disasters. Creditors should be generous in writing off loans to those on the front lines of the climate crisis.

These actions need not wait for coordinated international action. Countries could implement them at regional or national level. A nation’s cumulative emissions must form the basis of its accountability. While private finance can help, the onus lies on the big historical issuers to raise the money. The solution to the crisis is the moonshot of our time. It was possible to get to the moon within a decade because huge resources were expended on it. A similar commitment is now required.

But an economic crisis has reduced the willingness of rich countries to spend, and the planet is in danger of being trapped by a big corporate pullback on fossil fuels. But during the pandemic, central banks around the world have been bribing government spending by buying up their own governments’ bonds. The trillions of dollars needed to address the ecological emergency call for such radical thinking.

This is no time for apathy or complacency; the urgency of the moment is upon us. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change must be about the power of the argument, not the argument of power. The key to maintaining consensus in Egypt is not letting disputes over trade and war in Ukraine deadlock global climate diplomacy. The UN process may not be perfect. But it has given nations a goal of saving the planet that must be pursued at COP27 to avert an existential risk to humanity.

https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/special-editorial-the-world-is-burning-and-we-can-no-longer-afford-to-wait-to-act-42144540.html Special Editorial: The world is on fire and we can no longer afford to wait to act

Fry Electronics Team

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