Addressing the climate conundrum
ON 22-23 APRIL 2021, President Joseph Biden of the United States (US) convened a virtual climate summit of 40 world leaders; among them the Honourable (Hon.) Gaston Brown of Antigua and Barbuda, and Hon. Andrew Holness of Jamaica.
This summit heralded the US’ return to global leadership on the climate crisis after its retreat under the Trump administration.
President Biden told the summit that we are in a “decisive decade” for tackling climate change. Scientists also agree with Biden’s assessment, having argued that “we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”
Climate change is an existential threat to all countries, more so Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Notwithstanding the fact that the contribution of SIDS to the climate problem is negligible, they stand to be impacted the most, and some are even at risk of disappearing from the face of the earth. For example, because of rising sea levels, a phenomenon linked to global warming, several islands throughout the world could be completely gone before the 21st century ends. One such island is The Maldives which the World Bank says that, based on current projections of sea level rise, the entire country could be underwater by the year 2100.
According to a report from Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest providers of insurance to other insurance companies, if nations fail to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the world economy will suffer $23 trillion in losses by mid-century from natural disasters and the spread of disease.
The good news is that the world has an opportunity to alter its collision course with the pending climate catastrophe. However, this will call for global leadership from states and corporations. As President Biden said at the climate summit, this is “a moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities.”
One of the areas in which world leaders expressed an interest in collaborating to address the climate crisis was on advanced carbon dioxide removal technology. Furthermore, Bill Gates, the wealthy and well-known Microsoft founder, now philanthropist, announced that he was working with partners on a program called Breakthrough Energy Catalyst that would raise money from governments, philanthropists and companies to make capital investments to bring down the cost of clean technology.
It is extremely important that SIDS are not left behind as the world tries to respond to the climate crisis. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) notes that not all countries have the capacity to address climate change in a sustainable way. Certainly, many SIDS are among the countries with limited capacity to offer a robust response to the crisis.
Some of the pathways available to countries to build climate friendly industries with the potential to halt and reverse climate change include factoring renewable energy sources into development strategies, and aligning industrial development strategies with climate change mitigation. Essentially, development as we have come to understand it should not be divorced from the sustainable agenda and vice versa.
In advancing climate friendly industries, particularly in SIDS, there are a number of options that can be considered.
First, there would need to be a massive global effort to facilitate technology transfer to SIDS from countries with the requisite knowledge and capabilities.
Second, SIDS would need to create robust ecosystems to foster local innovation and entrepreneurship.
Third, investment policies and strategies would need to be realigned to prioritize investments in climate smart and climate friendly industries.
Fourth, governments and industry must collaborate to deploy climate friendly technologies such as solar and wind power and electric vehicles.
Fifth, SIDS must also place the climate challenge at the centre of their foreign policy.
Finally, there has certainly been no lack of global discussions on climate change. Nonetheless, the status quo remains virtually unchanged. Now is the time for action.