Joint hands urged to cope with alarming climate crisis

Tuesday, 2021-01-26 11:56:50
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US President Joe Biden kicks off his new administration with orders to restore the US to the Paris climate accord. (Photo: Getty)
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NDO – The United Nations (UN) has welcomed new US President Joe Biden’s decision to bring the US back to the Paris Agreement on climate change. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the US leader to join hands with the coalition of governments, cities, states, businesses and citizens to implement the ambitious plan in response to the alarming climate crisis.

The UN Secretary-General’s appeal comes in the context that the climate crisis is getting increasingly serious and time is running out to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius as well as to build societies with better adaptation to climate change. Ahead of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in the UK, the UN expects the US to take the lead in accelerating global efforts towards greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions neutrality, fulfilling commitments and making financial contributions towards ambitious goals by 2030. According to the UN, the new US administration needs to regain the credibility of the international community through setting specific goals on emissions reduction in its roadmap towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

The global fight against climate change is facing numerous challenges as more than half of countries worldwide failed to update their commitments to reduce GHG emissions by the deadline of the end of 2020. This has disturbed the ambitious climate schedule agreed upon under the Paris accord. According to commitments when signing the Paris Agreement, countries will increase emissions reduction and revise this goal every five years. However, by the deadline of December 31, 2020, a number of high-emitting countries said they would reach the goal of emissions neutrality within this century, while many others have yet to announce new commitments. According to the UN, as of January 1, 2021, just over 70 of the 200 nations have introduced new targets, including Vietnam.

The world is witnessing rapid temperature rise. According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the three years of 2016, 2019 and 2020 saw record heat, and 2020 even surpassed 2016 to become the hottest year ever, with the average global temperature at about 14.9 degrees Celsius, or about 1.2 degrees Celsius above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial level. The unusual weather characteristics of 2020 were high heat and constant wildfires, together with the Atlantic hurricane season and the constantly low Arctic sea ice coverage. The WMO has warned that the concentration of emissions in the atmosphere is always at a record high, especially those causing the greenhouse effect. Extreme weather patterns have formed, such as heavy rainfall in Africa, prolonged heat waves and warmer temperatures in tropical seas. These alarming facts are ringing alarm bells about the speed at which climate change is destroying people's lives and livelihoods.

Building a global coalition towards emissions neutrality by the middle of this century is the UN’s ambition in 2021. With the motto of living in harmony with nature being a top priority, the UN estimates that it is necessary to cut global emissions by 7.6% every year for next decade to limit temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this goal, all governments, organisations and people must get involved in and accompany the fight against climate change. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said that half of the world’s financial resources used for climate change response should be mobilised to assist developing countries to adapt to the impacts of global warming. Climate change adaptation measures such as building flood-proof walls and eco-friendly houses and planting drought-tolerant food crops all require adequate financial resources. Currently, 72% of countries around the world have approved at least one national-level adaptation plan, but there remains a wide gap regarding financial support for developing countries.

Multiple difficulties in the fight against climate change, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, are slowing down efforts to update national climate plans. However, the return of the US, the world’s second highest emitting country, to the Paris climate accord, together with many countries introducing ambitious goals on reducing emissions, have allowed the world to expect greater efforts to “greenify” the planet.