Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Poor people in Asia are rejecting the great renewable energy opportunity.
‘The world is losing the war on climate change’
10/08/2018 – by Dr Maarten van Aalst, Director, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre
For those of us working on the humanitarian impacts of climate change, last week provided some very gloomy reading, including a stark headline above an Economist leader that ‘The world is losing the war against climate change’.
The authoritative weekly was not asserting that climate has suddenly become a binary issue of victory or defeat but referring to a direction of travel; it argued that on climate, the direction of travel remains the wrong direction.
‘Three years after countries vowed in Paris to keep global warming “well below” 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels, greenhouse gas emissions are up again. So are investments in oil and gas. In 2017, for the first time in four years, demand for coal [the dirtiest of the fossil fuels] rose.’
The main reason? Soaring demand for energy in the booming economies of Asia, where in the decade to 2016 this rose no less than 40 per cent, met almost entirely by coal, gas and oil.
The coming months will feature some significant milestones for international climate policy. In October the IPCC’s long-awaited report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is due, while negotiations on the rule book for the Paris Agreement are scheduled to be completed at the next COP meeting in Poland in December. But it’s already clear we need action way beyond what’s currently happening, and fast, as many of the extremes we are experiencing now are just a taste of what’s to come.
I continue to see strong media coverage of both current extremes and the risks we are getting locked into as a critical factor, and I’m glad to see The Economist, for one, all but taking words out of our mouths. A shift from carbon may eventually enrich economies, their leader last week concluded, but (my emphasis) ‘[p]oliticians have an essential role to play in making the case for reform and in ensuring the most vulnerable do not bear the brunt of the change.’ The humanitarians’ point exactly!
Clearly the humanitarian solution is for rich countries like the USA to provide financial assistance to China and other developing countries in Asia, to help wean them away from their reliance on fossil fuels for economic growth, without them having to “bear the brunt of the change”.