China’s Pacific agenda leaves Australia dangling
Oz wants credit for half-arsed climate policy

Looks like climate catastrophe is on the cards

Climate
Cartoon by Moir

ISHAAN THAROOR
| Washington Post | Extracts

WASHINGTON, DC - The major COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, is less than a week away.

The roughly 25,000 delegates — including top-level officials from more than 100 countries — expected to attend the United Nations-convened sessions and side events have their work cut out for them.

Big gaps remain around commitments to cut emissions, with many governments still not on track to fulfill past pledges to wean themselves off fossil fuels, let alone face the shifting demands of the present.

Climate activists and scientists warn that the world’s major economies and corporations must take far more radical steps to rein in global warming.

The Biden administration directly spelled out the urgency last Thursday when it issued a number of reports from various agencies on the effect of climate change and the new national security threats it provokes.

A landmark National Intelligence Estimate put forward three “key judgments” on how climate change is expected to affect the calculations of U.S. policymakers over the next two decades.

First, it projected that geopolitical tensions will increase as countries chart their way toward greener economies, jostle over new technologies and compete for resources.

“Debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay — and how quickly — and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies needed for the clean energy transition,” the NIE concluded.

Second, it warned that the number of “cross-border geopolitical flash points” will grow due to climate change and its discontents.

The report highlighted the Arctic as one such likely zone of major international contestation as its ice caps continue to melt, as well as new battles forming over water and waves of climate migrants being forced to leave their homes.

Third, the report determined that the “intensifying physical effects of climate change … will be most acutely felt in developing countries, which we assess are also the least able to adapt to such changes.”

That could in turn likely mean additional commitments of American diplomatic, economic and military resources in the years to come.

None of these conclusions ought to be surprising. But they follow four years of a climate-denying Trump presidency that actively sought to suppress the climate-based assessments of federal agencies.

Now, the Biden administration is trying to signal both at home and abroad how seriously the United States takes the challenges posed by a warming planet.

For all the clarity of these warnings, though, there’s far less certainty about the scope for action. President Biden and his allies are struggling to push through legislation necessary for the United States to meet the administration’s stated commitments to cut emissions.

Ahead of Glasgow, numerous governments have made lofty pledges to achieve ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by the midway point of the century or a few years thereafter; few, however, have shown clear road maps of how they intend to go about it, while also continuing to invest in expanding fossil fuels.

Such has been the case with Australia, which is expected Monday to announce a ‘net zero’ pledge after a lengthy delay.

Idealistic organisers of the UN climate summit had intended it to be an inflection point: a set-piece moment for the phasing out of coal.

But the relatively cheap commodity remains a vital part of the mix in much of the developing world, including major emitters in China and India, which both see coal as a mainstay in producing electricity for their vast populations.

“Although the developed world is responsible for most historic greenhouse gas emissions, the ability to avoid further warming will largely depend on what happens in countries where emissions are still rising,” my colleague Christian Shepherd wrote.

“One projection holds that, in the worst-case scenario, the mostly developing countries along China’s Belt and Road initiative could account for two-thirds of global emissions by 2050, up from about 26% in 2019.”

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