November 18, 2021 | 12:00 noon
The COP26 has just ended. This is the United Nations annual climate summit, attended by delegates from nearly 200 countries. During the plenary session, each country was allowed to say a few words.
Some delegations aroused sympathy. These were countries like the Maldives that said it was already too late for them because the sea level was already rising in their country.
The outcome of the conference was a disaster for most countries as the large countries that dominated the drafting of the Final Declaration were able to water down all sorts of groundbreaking agreements. The draft final declaration called on nations “to accelerate the phase-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”.
However, a second draft was released, instead simply calling on countries to move away from “undiminished coal” and “inefficient coal subsidies”.
Finally, on the last day of the conference, China and India wanted that whole phrase on coal to be changed from “phasing out coal” to “phasing out unabated coal”.
The big countries like the United States tried to make it sound like a groundbreaking proposal. It should be clear that China and India are the largest polluting countries in the world. Your energy sector is heavily dependent on the use of coal for power plants. Just a few days ago, Delhi, India, imposed a lockdown on the metropolis. This was not due to the pandemic, but the atmosphere was so polluted that it was no longer safe for people to go public.
The poorer nations have long fought for reparations. Their argument is that the largest countries cause most of the world’s pollution, but the poorer countries of Africa and Asia suffer from the consequences such as rising sea levels, increasing typhoons, floods and forest fires. The rich countries would only agree to a dialogue. Mohamed Adow said in a widely quoted comment: “In Glasgow, the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people were sacrificed on the altar of selfishness of the rich world.”
However, there are some people who keep looking for solutions. One of them is the philanthropist Bill Gates, who recently wrote a book: HOW TO AVOID A CLIMATE DISASTER: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. Anyone interested in climate change should read this book. He has several suggestions in his book.
Put a price on carbon. Gates is proposing a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system where companies can buy and sell the right to carbon emissions. Emission pricing is one of the most effective ways to curb emissions.
There will be opposition from fossil fuel companies, particularly coal-fired power plants and gasoline and other fuel manufacturers. However, this seems more realistic than banning companies that produce high emissions entirely. The aim is to make those who emit emissions pay the price for pollution.
Clean electricity standards. It is proposed here that electricity suppliers obtain a certain proportion of their electricity from renewable sources. However, electricity companies should be allowed to use any clean energy technology, including nuclear energy.
Clean fuel standards. Standards for other sectors such as cars and buildings should also apply.
Clean product standards. Performance standards can accelerate the adoption of low-emission cement, steel, plastic and their carbon-intensive products.
Bill Gates has other practical suggestions that we should study. One is his suggestion that cities need to change the way they grow. As they expand, many of the largest cities build over floodplains, forests, and wetlands that would otherwise absorb rising water during a storm or hold reservoirs of water during a drought.
While all cities will be affected by climate change, coastal cities will be hardest hit. As sea levels rise and storm surges worsen, millions of people may need to seek safer housing. There are natural defenses against climate change that are disappearing. Forests store and regulate water. Wetlands prevent flooding and provide farmers and cities with water. In the coastal communities, fish depend on coral reefs as a source of food. These natural defenses disappear. Almost nine million hectares of primeval forest were destroyed in 2018. According to Gates, most of the world’s coral reefs will die off when the world warms 2 degrees Celsius.
The world must find a way to restore ecosystems. A particularly valuable proposal for the Philippines is the preservation and expansion of mangrove forests. Mangroves are short trees that grow along coastlines and have adapted to life in salt water. They reduce storm surges, prevent coastal flooding and protect fish habitats.
Gates warns, “As lakes and aquifers shrink or become polluted, it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide drinking water to everyone who needs it. Most of the world’s megacities are already facing serious shortages, and if nothing changes, the number of people who don’t get decent water at least once a month will increase by more than a third to over 5 billion by mid-century . “
Gates believes the answer lies in new technologies, such as making salt water potable.
The goal of zero emissions is possible. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacles are businesses that put profits above the world’s survival. Perhaps the solution lies in the hands of young activists who are not afraid to fight corporate greed.
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One last November writing appointment about Zoom: Young Writers’ Hangout: November 20, 2pm – 3pm with poet and Ateneo professor DM Reyes.
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