Climate Summit hosted by Honorable President of United States Mr Joe Biden, has been a success which was attended by global leaders from 40 countries. In his inaugural, he said that the average global temperature is rising rapidly leaving a very little time to control it, thus, there is need to act quickly without any further delay. To combat this problem, Joe Biden has taken an initiative to almost double the carbon emissions reduction targets (26-28 percent) committed by the United States in the Paris Climate Agreement. The United States will now cut carbon emissions by 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Additionally, Biden has said that his government plans to zero carbon emissions from the power sector by 2035 and from the entire economy by 2050. In the United States, $2 trillion has been earmarked for infrastructure transformation, of which $174 billion will be spent on electric car infrastructure. He urges all countries to work together and he requests an increase in the carbon emission cuts as committed in the Paris Climate Agreement
In the face of rising natural disasters, caused by rising temperature, the European countries have planned to reduce their carbon emissions by 55 percent by 2030. These countries have also reduced their carbon emissions by 24 percent between 1990 and 2019. The Great Britain has taken this issue more seriously than any other country in the world and has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 68 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and by 78 percent by 2035. Canada has also agreed to increase its carbon emission reduction from 30 percent to 40-45 percent, based on 2005 levels.
Japan ranks fifth as the producer of carbon emissions in the world. It had set up a target of reducing carbon emissions by only 26 percent by 2030 from 2013 level. However, this target has certain problems. Firstly, the base year is 2013, however, the same is 1990 for the European countries. Secondly, at the 2021 Climate Summit, Japan has promised to increase its carbon emissions cuts to 46 percent but it has set the base year at 2013 again. It has also pledged to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who demanded $1 billion from the United States administration for discontinuing deforestation before the Summit on climate change, has threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement backed by small measures. He has pledged to end illegal deforestation by 2030 and zero carbon emissions by 2050. South Korea said it would stop public financing of new coal-fired power plants, potentially an important step toward persuading China and other coal-reliant nations to curb building and funding of new coal-fired plants as well.
Apart from these countries, China, India, the Russian Federation and Australia, knowing and understanding the critical situation at the time, have not announced concrete commitments in carbon emissions. China, which is the world’s largest carbon emitter, accounting for 28 percent of total carbon emissions since 2006, reiterated its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 after meeting its economic growth target. China has announced that it will ‘strictly limit’ the increase in its consumption of coal during the next five-year economic plan period (2026-2030), which means it will do little for another five years.
India, the second largest coal-fired power producer after China, said that it will not only meet the Paris carbon emissions targets by 2030 but will likely exceed those goals as it ramps up use of renewable energy. The Russian Federation, world’s fourth-biggest emitter of climate-damaging fossil fuel fumes, said it is ready to cooperate internationally to find effective solutions to climate change as well as to all other vital challenges related to it.
Australia has the third highest per capita carbon emissions in the world after Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison claimed that his country is making significant progress in tackling climate change, which will reduce total carbon emissions by 70 percent and per capita carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030. However, he has not given the roadmap for carbon emission cuts.
It is also pertinent to mention here that ‘Investors Group on Climate Change’ has challenged Scott Morrison’s claim made at the Summit on Climate. The group said that Australia would have the highest emissions intensity release the most heat-trapping gas for every 1 Dollar of GDP, among the G20 countries if others delivered on the new commitments to tackle the climate crisis. Besides, Australia’s carbon emission reduction targets by 2030 are only 26-28 percent from the 2005 emission levels. This target is much lower as compared to many other countries and the base year is 2005.
The promises and plans of Great Britain, the European countries, the United States and Canada are commendable. Great Britain and the European countries are expected to deliver their promises as these countries have already cut their carbon emissions by 24 percent during 1990-2019 from 1990 levels.
Only time will tell whether the United States will live up to its promises, as this is the second time in this century when the US returned to the Kyoto Protocol under President Obama and most recently the US has returned to rejoin Paris Climate Agreement under President Biden’s leadership. It is also important to note that the United States has been the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases upto 2006 and although now it is the world’s second largest carbon emitter, however, it has so far made only promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
China, United States, and India are the countries in the world that have been the hardest hit by natural disasters caused by rising temperature. Between 2000 and 2019, there were 577 natural disasters in China that affected 173 crore people and killed 113,000 people, while 321 natural disasters in India affected 108 crore people and killed 80,000 people. Despite the damage, the two countries have not implemented any concrete actions to reduce carbon emissions and have not pledged to implement them in the near future.
India, instead of trying to save the country and its people, is claiming a high rate of economic growth, while every year one or the other region of the country is hit hard by some natural calamity due to unplanned economic growth. The coldest part of the Russian Federation, Siberia has been plagued by heatwaves and wildfires during the past year due to rising temperature. Australia has also been hit by devastating wildfires in 2020, followed by droughts and severe floods earlier this year (2021).
The government of each country should start cutting carbon emissions from local to national levels to save the country and lives of its people from natural disasters. The countries should make every citizen aware of this serious problem so that they do not use high carbon emission products and turn off non-essential lights in their homes, make a switch from a high non-vegetarian diet to a vegetarian rich diet, use public transport instead of using private vehicles to reduce carbon emissions.
The tropical forest area has declined by 12 percent during 2019-2020 which is a matter of concern as the dense forests of these areas absorb more carbon dioxide than the other areas. A simple solution to this problem is planting species of locally found trees and there should be complete restriction on the cutting of old trees. The government of every country should also make the means of public transport more efficient so that people can automatically start using public transport instead of private vehicles. Every country should cooperate and act in the same way as the European countries have done and are doing to reduce carbon emissions.
Although the European countries had historically emitted large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, they are now realizing their responsibility and rapidly reducing it. If the United States succeeds in putting Biden’s planned reduction of carbon emissions into practice now, then perhaps the rest of the world, which is still emitting large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere in the name of economic growth, would begin to reduce carbon emissions. This is a good move initiated by the United States and followed by the other countries to protect the planet and its people from rising temperature and natural disasters, but it requires concerted efforts to make it work.
China and India also need to work together to reduce carbon emissions, while keeping their narrow interests at bay, in order to save the planet and its people from global warming. Realizing the fact that air pollution kills around 7 million people every year, while the COVID-19 pandemic that has frightened countries and its people worldwide resulted in the death of 31,12,314 people by April 25, 2021. Looking at the data, the people and governments of all the countries must put their serious efforts to reduce carbon emissions because currently it poses higher risk than COVID-19.
About the Author
Prof Gurinder Kaur is the Professor, Department of Geography, Punjabi University, Patiala and Visiting Professor, IMPRI