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Source: Socialist Republic of Vietnam

In the face of climate change “accelerating its pace”, environmental activists, artists, celebrities and politicians called for the world’s unity in preventing the climate crisis during a recent virtual Countdown symposium.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) found that over the course of 12 months from September 2019 to September 2020, the Earth’s temperature was nearly 1.3 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels. This is an alarming sign as such a level is close to the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which has been warned could cause serious impacts to the climate. The temperature was “exceptionally high” in northern Siberia as this region and much of the Arctic Circle recorded abnormally hot weather several months before. The Middle East sweltered, too, with record temperatures set in Turkey, Israel and Jordan. In Los Angeles County, daytime values reached a record peak of 49 degrees Celsius, and intense heat caused the US state of California to witness five of the six biggest wildfires in its history. Meanwhile, the tropical Pacific has suffered from the cooling effect from the La Niña. Climate change has disrupted weather patterns, which is reflected through the greater amount of sunshine on the Greenland ice sheet causing ice melting and adding water to oceans at a faster level than at any time in the past 12,000 years. The Arctic sea ice lost four million square kilometres last month (the second largest decline in history).

The 2015 Paris Agreement on fighting climate change requires countries to jointly limit the global temperature rise at two degrees Celsius lower than pre-industrial levels. However, since the pact was signed, emissions have continued to increase and many analyses have warned that the global economy needs to be restructured with priority given to green growth. With the Earth’s temperature having risen by just one degree Celsius, the planet has been exposed to more frequent and intense wildfires, droughts and super typhoons. Meanwhile, the world is facing challenges, namely climate change and inequality in carbon emissions. A worrisome fact is carbon emissions by 1% of the richest people in the world are almost double that of half the poorest population globally, about 3.1 billion people. In addition, rich countries have accounted for one third of the “carbon budget” – an acceptable threshold of emissions to avoid dangerous climate change. This not only leads to extreme economic inequality that divides society, but also holds back efforts to eradicate poverty around the world, not to mention the cost of depleting the “carbon budget”. Some analysts say that climate change cannot be addressed without prioritising economic equality.

As one of the leading regions in the fight against climate change, EU member states have been promoting the process of “green transition” over the past years. The European Parliament (EP) has recently adopted the goal of reducing at least 60% of greenhouse gas emissions within the EU by 2030. This goal is more ambitious than the 55% reduction proposed by the European Commission, requiring some members to work harder than others to achieve such target. Currently, the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions are only 25% lower than the levels recorded in 1990. The new goal may be economically feasible, but it will need more drastic policies in many areas to be achieved, such as tightening vehicle emissions standards and increasing carbon costs in the industry and aviation, as well as requiring huge investments.

Since the late 1970s, global temperatures have increased by 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade. The world has witnessed record temperature levels in 19 of the past 20 years, since data began to be accurately statisticized at the end of the nineteenth century. In the face of urgent requirements on fighting climate change, organisers of the Countdown event aimed to call on governments and citizens to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half over the next decade and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Ambitious as they are, the targets set by many countries and regions have shown that the world no longer has time for hesitation, because the clock is also “counting down” to the time when the “green planet” cannot withstand any longer without more drastic actions taken in this battle.

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News