With several high-level participants and a nearly two-week agenda covering diverse topics, the U.N. climate change conference in the Egyptian Red Sea city of Sharm El-Sheikh has once again sounded the alarm about the acute threat posed by global climate change.
Heated discussions are foreseeable, and a consensus on climate control could be reached at the conference, which will wrap up Friday.
During the past three decades, thanks to the international community’s joint efforts, multiple landmark breakthroughs in climate control have been made. The hard-won achievements include the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
Yet progress hasn’t been up to the expectations because some developed countries are unwilling to do their fair share. As is widely accepted by all parties to the UNFCCC, developed and developing countries should shoulder common but differentiated responsibilities. Some industrialized countries have been attempting to dodge their due responsibilities, despite historically emitting a larger portion of greenhouse gases.
As the world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States refuses to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Though Washington has returned to the Paris Agreement after withdrawing from the deal in 2020, fear remains that it might again imperil global efforts given the fact that climate politics in the United States is increasingly polarized.
A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans think the Federal Government is not doing enough to fight climate change.
In 2009, developed countries pledged to provide US100 billion each year to assist developing countries in addressing climate change, but the target remains out of reach today.
The reluctance of the rich world to walk the talk has severely damaged the mutual trust between the North and the South, a key element for an enhanced global response to the climate challenge.
Some European countries have slid back into using fossil fuels like coal despite commitments to reducing emissions because of the current energy crisis.
While Europe intends to relax climate requirements on itself, it shows no intention of relaxing its carbon emission requirements on other countries and regions, which Sheriff Ghali, a professor of political science at Nigeria’s University of Abuja, calls a double standard.
Natural disasters brought by climate change continue to encroach on people’s habitats. Since the beginning of the year, Europe has witnessed the worst heatwaves in centuries; severe droughts and floods hit large areas of Asia and North America; in the Horn of Africa, people are suffering from famine, and animal species are dying out.
“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
As the largest developing country, China has taken a series of practical measures to tackle climate change. To realize the goals of reaching peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality, China has set up a taskforce with top authority to guide and coordinate efforts in this field. In 2021, its national carbon market, the world’s largest emissions trading system, started online trading. China has actively promoted green Belt and Road collaboration, and carried out South-South cooperation on climate change. It has helped developing countries improve their capacity to cope with the impact of climate change by providing financial support, signing cooperation deals, implementing mitigation and adaptation projects and organizing training courses.
With time running out to deal with the ravages of climate change, all parties, especially developed countries, should honor their words and take action.