Western countries that claim themselves to be the vanguard in tackling climate change are not only going back to coal in the face of an energy crisis, but are also trying to wriggle out of their promise of giving financial aid to African countries, as European leaders try to avoid African leaders planning to come to Europe to seek delivery of promised cash to help them cope with climate change.
Climate experts slammed the Western countries' move as being not only morally irresponsible - as African countries are paying the price for rich countries' lion's share of emissions - and added that such selfishness will also hamper global cooperation on climate change, and possibly overshadow the upcoming COP27.
The UN's Africa Climate Week, which runs from Monday to Friday in Libreville, Gabon and has attracted more than 1,000 participants, is expected to tackle the climate emergency as it intensifies throughout the continent.
After that, seven presidents from Senegal, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia will travel to the Netherlands next month to attend the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA).
"As some African heads of state travel to Rotterdam for the Africa Adaptation Summit, we hope their presence will be met with financial commitments to the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program by their European counterparts," US media quoted Patrick Verkooijen, the CEO of the GCA, as saying. "What really counts is for the developed world to deliver on the Glasgow Commitment [to] double adaptation finance."
But to those African leaders' dismay, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country is hosting the GCA, is the only European leader planning to attend in person. Leaders of other European countries, such as Finland, Norway, Denmark and France, all declined to attend citing schedule conflicts.
The European countries and the US shoulder a great moral obligation to fulfill their financial commitment to developing countries, especially those in Africa, which bear the greatest brunt of the rapidly deteriorating climate problem, Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Monday. He said that Africa, faced with deadly drought, historic floods and extreme weather events, is actually paying the price for Western countries making up the lion's share of emissions ever since the Industrial Revolution.
Africa accounts for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions at just 3.8 percent, according to a report from Brookings Institute, a US-based think tank, yet the 10 nations most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa, according to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation's 2022 Forum Report.
Developed countries projected that they won't meet to mobilize US$100 billion a year to help poorer countries deal with climate change until 2023 - three years late and still woefully short of the real need, according to a report from the Conversation, a non-profit organization.
A boy carries buckets of water in Kidemu sub-location in Kilifi County, Kenya, March 23, 2022. The Horn of Africa drought has thrust at least 18.4 million people, including more than 7.1 million acutely malnourished children, into severe food insecurity, UN humanitarians said on Monday. Most drought victims are in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Photo: Xinhua/Dong Jianghui.
Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, also told the Global Times that European leaders' absence from the meeting reflected their embarrassment in helping developing countries tackle climate change, especially when their own hands are tied with domestic energy crises.
"European countries can barely keep their own blustery promises on climate change, not to mention give money to Africa. Many of those countries are having a headache about how to get through this winter because of energy shortages. People are worrying about rising inflation… giving money to African countries now will see European politicians grilled by their people's anger," said Lin.
Several European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands have already returned or are planning to return to coal to generate electricity, after feeling the pinch from the energy crisis resulting from the Russia-Ukraine crisis, on top of Europe seeing its worst drought in 500 years.
Lin believed that Western countries' return to coal, in addition to rich countries' reluctance to take real actions to help poorer countries, will cast a large shadow on the upcoming 2022 COP27 UN climate summit held in Egypt, November this year. "Western countries' selfishness will deepen the fissure between countries' willingness on climate cooperation, which will make it harder for COP27 to reach a global consensus," said Lin.
Experts said that with Europe wrong-footed in pursuit of its carbon neutral goals and struggling to get a handle on the current energy crisis, the US, one of the world's biggest emitters, is now using this as an advantage to shore up its leadership in climate change.
In the latest move, Senate Democrats delivered a victory for US President Joe Biden's plan on tackling climate change in early August, passing a bill that will devote hundreds of billions of dollars to clean energy sources and speed up the US transition away from fossil fuels.
"Europe used to challenge the US on the climate change issue. Now, countries on this continent are going backwards, which makes the US look less bad," Li Zhiqing, a professor of environmental economics and Chinese economy at Fudan University, told the Global Times, noting that no matter what the US does with regard to climate change, the real purpose is to enhance its competitiveness.
The expert explained that one of the bill's benefits is the creation of millions of jobs in the clean energy sector. "Such measures to stimulate the economy won't be rejected by any politician… yet traditional energy is still the main pillar for fuelling US development, thus the country won't have the incentive to phase out that energy… Moreover, the US government only pays attention to climate change when it suits it. When it doesn't, the US would rather trample on the welfare of the globe. That's why Washington's climate policies are always flip-flopping," said Li.
Experts said one way for the US to demonstrate sincerity on climate change is to fulfill its pledge and give developing countries the financial support they need to deal with the issue.
The US Congress has approved a mere $1 billion in international climate finance for 2022 - falling far short of Joe Biden's pledge to provide $11.4 billion a year by 2024. Tontie Binado, technical lead on climate justice for ActionAid in Ghana, told Climate Home that the $1 billion approved by Congress was "a betrayal" of Biden's promise to scale up financing for the world's poorest and most climate vulnerable.
In contrast, China is steadily promoting green development under the Belt and Road Initiative. The National Development and Reform Commission issued guidance in March this year, vowing to steadily advance cooperation on green infrastructure, energy, transportation and finance by 2025. By 2030, environmental risk prevention and control systems for overseas projects should be improved, according to the guidance.
Main photo: A dried sunflower field is seen as a severe drought hits France, in Puiseux-Pontoise, about 30 km northwest of Paris, France, Aug. 18, 2022. © Xinhua.
Source: Global Times.