By Palitha Kohona
BEIJING, Jul 4 2023 (IPS)
There is little doubt that human activity is accelerating climate change. Our activities are causing global warming and potentially disastrous climate change.
The vast majority of scientists agree. The IPCC has overwhelmingly endorsed this view. Many among civil society also agree.
Given this substantial consensus, we need to take action to contain climate change.
We need to take urgent action to limit human activity that results in global warming and climate change.
We have agreed on the need to contain global warming to 1.5c.
So, what is the problem?
While there is broad agreement on the need to contain global warming for the sake of humanity, for the sake of future generations, and on what needs to be done, little of what needs to be done is being done.
At this stage it may be prudent to review what has been broadly agreed on what needs to be done and what remains to be done and why some things have not been done.
We may have to get involved in a discussion on why human beings are reluctant to give up what they have achieved from the prosperity resulting from industrialisation.
Industrialisation resulted in unbelievable creature comforts, especially in developed countries. Now we are talking about reducing, perhaps even eliminating, some of those creature comforts.
This observation applies even to the late comers to prosperity. Some of whom are in our part of the world. This is where the problem lies.
Over the last three centuries some countries industrialised by using fossil fuels and by decimating their forests.
But the prosperity that resulted did not begin to seep down to the lowest levels until the last century. But it did seep down. Somewhat late in the day.
I must say that I will not get in to the blame game and pile up blame on certain countries, especially the countries that led the industrial revolution, which led the industrialization race, for being responsible for our ills in the first place.
Even in these countries, the vast majority of the poor began to enjoy the benefits of industrialisation only in the last century or so. They will be the ones who will require the most convincing and who will find it difficult to give up their recently acquired prosperity.
Now we need to talk about what can be done. We need this discussion to be intensified multilaterally and domestically.
First our awareness raising needs to be more comprehensive. It’s not only governments that need convincing. Ordinary people need convincing too. Ordinary people across the globe.
The ones who are dreaming of their first refrigerator. The first air conditioner. They need to accept the need for something to be done.
But they also need an alternative. What do we give them as an alternative to the refrigerator that they are dreaming of. Certainly not softly uttered words of consolation.
We need to provide an alternative that works on a renewable power source. An alternative that does not aggravate the current situation globally.
We have the commitments from Paris and before. We need to invest heavily in alternative and reliable power sources. We know what needs to be done. We know more or less how to do it. Now we need the resources, the funding.
Many countries in the South are endowed with alternative energy sources. Wind, solar, hydro, etc. But lack the resources to exploit them. They will have no alternative but to stay with cheap fossil fuel-based energy.
We need a global multilateral funding agency to allocate funds for renewable power generation. Call it a green Bank if you will. Existing funding agencies may not fully meet the bill.
Such an entity will be funded by a variety of entities. States, charities, legacies, individuals depositing their reserves, etc. But its mandate will be to provide funding for green development.
Such an agency must operate in a transparent reliable manner. But we have the experience. There are other related funding needs. A dedicated and well resources Bank is likely to address our needs.
The transition to electric vehicles is a clear priority. China has recognised the need to transition to EVs as a key to reducing GHG emissions. China today is the leader in EV manufacture. China has also achieved amazing success with desert reclamation.
Ambassador Dr Palitha Kohona is the former Chief of the UN Treaty Section, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN and currently Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.
This article contains excerpts from an address to the World Peace Forum, 2023, Tsinghua University, Beijing
IPS UN Bureau