COP26: No show for China and Russia

by Ambassador B. Romualdez

“Statue of Liberty Post Global Warming 2100” | Photo by Burnt Pineapple Productions via Flickr/Commons CC0 1.0

Many countries, including the Philippines, were disappointed that China and Russia were “no show” at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. The two major countries are two of the biggest polluters, and most definitely, they can make a big difference in achieving the world’s climate goals. The climate summit, considered very crucial, provides an opportunity for countries to really come together and make a serious commitment to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and reverse the dangerous consequences of global warming.

Former US State Secretary John Kerry, Joe Biden’s Presidential Envoy for Climate, met with us at the Philippine embassy weeks ago. He emphasized the importance of participation by all countries affected by climate change and why they must come together in pursuing climate change goals.

Thai Ambassador to the US Manasvi Srisodapol hosted a dinner with ASEAN ambassadors in Washington, DC, and several US members of Congress to discuss many issues of concern. One of them was COP 26 and the non-participation of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin. President Joe Biden called these two leaders’ absence a “big mistake,” with observers also noting that the presence of Xi and Putin at the summit would have been a major boost, signaling that they take climate change as a very serious global concern.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, accountable for 27 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. According to a report by Bloomberg, some of its giant state-owned companies engaged in steel, cement, and oil refining industries generate carbon dioxide in amounts more significant than the entire nation. The report includes data from the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an environmental research group based in Finland. CREA estimates that China generated over 13 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2019, mainly from the manufacturing and construction industries.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas released by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), forest fires, and land-use changes into the atmosphere. It stays there for a very long time — most likely hundreds of years — which affects the climate by increasing global temperatures.

Like China, Russia – one of the top five emitters of carbon dioxide – did not join the pledge to cut methane emissions to 30 percent by 2030. According to experts, methane can heat the atmosphere to 80 times as fast as carbon dioxide, so cutting methane emissions would be very effective in reducing greenhouse gases and keeping global warming below the dangerous 1.5 degrees Celsius. In January, a report by the International Energy Agency named Russia as the world’s largest emitter of methane, accounting for almost 20 percent of the total methane released into the atmosphere last year.

“Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas released by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), forest fires, and land-use changes into the atmosphere. It stays there for a very long time — most likely hundreds of years — which affects the climate by increasing global temperatures.”

Carbon dioxide emissions dropped by a record 7 percent or about 2.4 billion metrics in 2020. It was due to the lockdowns and other restrictions brought about by two COVID-19 pandemic. A new study by the Global Carbon Project has revealed that carbon dioxide emissions have rapidly risen this year. It is estimated to reach 36.4 billion metric tons – almost as high as the record 36.7 billion metric tons in 2019.

The World Health Organization called climate change “the single biggest health threat facing humanity,” bluntly stating in its report that “the burning of fossil fuels is killing us.” According to the WHO, about 13.7 million people die every year due to environmental risks. Such as air pollution and exposure to chemicals.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us so much pain and misery, think about what will happen when the earth’s temperature starts to scorch and burn the minute we step out into the sun. Climate change is causing heatwaves to be more frequent and intense and, according to London-based think-tank Chatham House, an estimated 400 million people will be “experiencing heat waves to the extent that they’re no longer able to work outside.”

“If the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us so much pain and misery, think about what will happen when the earth’s temperature starts to scorch and burn the minute we step out into the sun.”

Another consequence of climate change is prolonged droughts, affecting agriculture and food production, resulting in widespread poverty and hunger. Global warming is also causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt, resulting in rising sea levels worldwide at an average of 4.4 millimeters per year. However, scientists worry that the rate is increasing. According to a new study by the World Bank, the rise in sea levels threaten Pacific island nations into being submerged, such as the Marshall Islands that could become permanently flooded with entire islands vanishing. Not to be funny about it, but even the artificial islands that China built could be wiped out due to climate change, causing storms and typhoons to become more potent and dangerous.

Even CEOs are experiencing the impact of climate change, with extreme weather events wreaking havoc on their businesses. In the most recent survey from Accenture and the UN Global Compact involving 1,200 CEOs spanning 21 industries in 113 countries, climate change is causing disruptions in crop production because of extreme weather changes such as flooding and drought. Supply-chain interruptions are also being experienced, particularly in the food and beverage industry.

There is absolutely no doubt that climate change is the most crucial issue that leaders must address. Without cooperation among major countries such as China, Russia, and the United States – the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases – reversing the impact of climate change would be impossible. The clock keeps ticking; time is running out.
Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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