Developing world accuses rich nations of shirking on climate issues

The EU Emissions Trading System puts a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide allowed to be emitted by large factories and other companies
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled

A bloc of 134 developing countries, including China and India, warned at United Nations (UN) negotiations in Bonn that the failure of wealthy nations to deliver on short-term climate commitments could hinder the rollout of a landmark treaty. The diplomatic spat has underscored the difficulty of reaching a consensus at the 196 nation talks. China’s senior negotiator Chen Zhihua,, referring to long-standing pledges by rich nations to enhance financial support and “revisit” targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions before 2020 said that “If we do not respect decisions that we have made, then how can we build trust among the parties?”. He added at a press conference, flanked by diplomats from India, Iran, Nicaragua and Ecuador, that “And how can we lay a good foundation for the implementation of the Paris Agreement?”.

The treaty, inked in 2015 outside the French capital, calls on the world to cap global warming at “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and even 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible. With one degree Celsius of warming so far, the planet has already seen an increase in drought, deadly heatwaves and superstorms. The pact rests on voluntary carbon-cutting pledges from virtually every country in the world.
Nicaragua’s chief negotiator at the talks Paul Oquist said that “The science is clear: if we don’t get our act together before 2020, you can forget about the 2 degrees Celsius and 1.5 degrees Celsius targets. There has been a failure to comply with existing commitments”.

Under the terms of the UN’s core climate convention, the burden for action before 2020 falls mainly on wealthy countries historically responsible for the rapid rise of greenhouse gases. China is the world’s top carbon polluter, followed by the United States (US), the European Union, India and Russia. Developing countries including Bangladesh sought to have a “pre-2020 agenda” formally added to the negotiating process. But the move was shelved at the start of the 12-day talks. Efforts to resolve the issue have been fruitless.

However, the European Union (EU) agrees to reform world’s largest carbon market. The EU struck a deal to overhaul Europe’s emissions trading scheme after 2021, hailing it as a key step toward meeting its commitments under the Paris climate agreement. But environmentalists complained it will be years before the effects make themselves felt from the overhaul of the world’s biggest carbon market, which was tentatively agreed by the European Parliament and the member states. The EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in a statement that “Today’s landmark deal demonstrates that the European Union is turning its Paris commitment and ambition into concrete action”. The deal must still be formally endorsed by the European Parliament and the member states.

The EU Emissions Trading System puts a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide allowed to be emitted by large factories and other companies. The firms can trade in quotas of these emissions – the idea being to provide a carrot to improve energy efficiency or switch to cleaner sources so that they keep within the ceiling. However, critics said the carbon market, which covers about 40 percent of Europe’s industrial emissions, has proven ineffective. Carbon allowances were too generous, resulting in a carbon price too low to encourage savings. Members of the European Parliament had pushed for more ambitious changes than those proposed by the commission – the executive arm of the 28 nation EU.

In order to speed up emissions reductions and strengthen the Market Stability Reserve (MSR), the commission said that it accepted “significant changes” to the system. The MSR is designed to help ensure that carbon dioxide prices spur innovation in the field of energy efficiency. The moves aim to reduce the oversupply of allowances on the carbon market. The commission also agreed to new safeguards for European industry if needed to reduce the risk of carbon leakage. To help the industry and power sectors make the innovations and investments needed to transition to a low-carbon economy it also backed ways. The European Parliament said two funds will be set up to spur innovation, including one to modernise energy systems in poorer member states. The Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEPs) pushed to ensure the latter fund is not used for coal-fired projects. This is except for district heating in the two poorest member states, provided that they offset the emissions by “using an equivalent amount of free allowances”.

The tentative deal makes the EU’s pledges to the Paris climate pact “look meaningless” by paying heavy industry to continue polluting said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) activist group. The WWF’s Sam Van Den Plas said that it was “a relief” for the EU to lower the supply of Educational Testing Service (ETS) allowances but regretted it will take “at least five more years” to take effect. The director of Climate Action Europe Wendel Trio echoed those concerns. Trio said that a few member states were able to push through substantial improvements to the original proposal from the European Commission, but these will bring positive impacts only in the long term.

Markus Beyrer, who heads the industry group Business Europe, said the deal was a step in the right direction. However, Beyrer added that unfortunately, the deal does not deliver on securing sufficient free allowances for industries exposed to investment leakage. He then called on EU negotiators at climate talks in Bonn, Germany to step up “efforts to bring to their industry a global level playing field”. Under the Paris climate deal, the EU plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared against 1990 levels and make renewable energy account for 27 percent of energy use.

As far as Bangladesh is concerned, though it is highly vulnerable to climate change it has no obligation for taking mitigation measures while dealing with climate change issues. Bangladesh is just producing only 0.4 metric tons (mt) of carbon per annum while a developed country is producing 20 mt per annum. Their responsibility is just 40 times more than that of Bangladesh. Bangladesh, however, can do something in the adaptation part of the climate change issue. Bangladesh’s power and energy sector’s main objective is not dealing with the climate change. Rather, the solution of power and energy problem has been the main target. Bangladesh feels consumers’ sufferings have to be taken as the first priority. It is expressing its disagreement on setting a target to generate 35 percent of electricity from coal, maintains the power sector should rethink about such target because of the hazard in coal handling. The power sector should give more priority to power generation by LNG as the whole contemporary world is taking such move.

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre


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