“Special relationship”: will they be, right?
(PNAFAN – Gulf Times) It is now up to the UK and US to create the conditions for large-scale green investment in the developing world COP26, the UN climate summit to be held in November at Glasgow, is already taking shape in the United States and the United Kingdom. political circles. For British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit is a major opportunity to demonstrate what a post-Brexit global Britain can do. And for US President Joe Biden, this is a first test of his administration’s ability to deliver on its climate leadership promises, both at home and abroad.
The stakes could not be higher. In 2021 alone, world leaders will meet at least seven times to address global crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, its economic fallout, climate change, food systems and loss of biodiversity. In all of these discussions, the central question is how to reorient our economies and societies to protect each other and protect the planet.
Although the bust of Winston Churchill is no longer on display in the Oval Office, cooperation with the United States remains more important than ever. Joint leadership will be needed to achieve the system reset that the present time demands.
Four years after former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the Biden administration has now brought the country back. But joining the deal was the easiest part. Implementing a plan to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century is a much bigger challenge.
Fortunately, Biden and his climate chief, former Secretary of State John Kerry, recognize that the legitimacy of the United States abroad now depends on its ability to pursue bold action at home. Kerry’s stature, broad remit, and presence on the White House National Security Council indicate the seriousness with which the administration views the climate issue, as does Kerry’s promise to present a new US climate plan by April 22.
In this pivotal year for climate action, much will depend on the updated 2030 emissions reduction target the United States sets for itself. To meet the challenge, the new target will have to be even more ambitious than the 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (compared to 2005 levels) currently proposed in Washington.
As for the United Kingdom, its role as host of COP26 and current president of the G7 means that it will have its hand on the global climate bar. If the summit ends in acrimony or paralysis, there is no doubt that the blame will fall on Johnson and Biden. While China’s commitment in September 2020 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 is sketchy, it has nonetheless isolated Beijing from climate criticism for now. (And India could make a similar announcement again this year.)
With key countries already committing to carbon neutrality, the top priority in Glasgow is not to bring the big polluters on board, but rather to mobilize support for the dozens of small developing countries. Many of these governments are eager to move to a low-carbon economy, but they face growing obstacles such as the unsustainable debt burden. So, as UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out, a global debt relief plan and climate finance program have become essential ahead of COP26. It is now up to the UK and US to create the conditions for large-scale green investment in the developing world.
Without financial support to countries in difficulty, any agreement that emerges from COP26 will be dead upon arrival. Even though many countries are proposing ambitious updates to their national climate plans this year, they will need the resources to meet those commitments. The failure of the world powers to provide a substantial financial package, while insisting that everyone phase out fossil fuel infrastructure, would only fuel further tensions between developed and developing countries.
In many ways, this challenge is more manageable for the United States than for the United Kingdom, which recently slashed its international development budget and thus undermined its own global influence when it was needed most. In addition to paying the $ 2 billion it owes the Green Climate Fund, the United States can also use the Development Finance Corporation to make full use of its resources. Now is the time to activate these mechanisms.
The UK and US must also unite to push back countries and initiatives that undermine global decarbonization efforts. To begin with, the current Brazilian and Australian governments must be isolated in the international climate arena, with support in these countries being redirected to voluntary subnational actors. If we’ve learned one thing from the past four years dealing with climate deniers like Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, it’s the futility of engaging with those who thrive on disruption.
We must aim for net zero emissions through nature-based, science-based solutions with respect for local communities. As the home of indigenous peoples and the lungs of our polluted planet, the world’s forests are precious resources. Nature should not be treated as a bargaining chip for big business and global finance as they seek to offset their carbon footprint. Success will only come through the restoration and regeneration of our natural resources.
Biden and Johnson make strange bedfellows. But they need each other. British politicians love to make lyrical lyrics about “the UK’s special relationship with the US, even though this idea has always been more their dream than reality”. Today, however, both countries find themselves at the same critical moment: they must go green before it is too late. And, for their own good and that of the planet, they must show leadership to get others to set and meet ambitious climate commitments.
• Rachel Kyte, former United Nations climate envoy, is Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Ana Toni is Executive Director of the Instituto Clima e Sociedade (iCS). Bernice Lee is Futures Research Director at Chatham House.
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