Climate change: How US-China Glasgow deal may help fight global warming – India Today
At the Paris summit on climate change in 2015, world leaders agreed to contain global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, and strive to bring Earth’s average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius, below the pre-industrial levels. But how to do it has been a bone of contention. Now, at the Glasgow summit, a deal between the United States and China offers fresh hope.
The US and China are the world’s two largest carbon emitters. A day before the Glasgow summit concludes, the two countries signed a deal on Thursday to increase cooperation on tackling climate change.
They did not declare new carbon emission targets but announced a commitment to work together to speed up emissions reductions required to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement. The US-China agreement raised hopes for the COP26 global summit to conclude positively on Friday night.
China’s absence in the climate change plan of action could potentially threaten the Paris Agreement. The US-China deal is significant not only on the carbon emissions count but for reducing the methane levels.
China has agreed to devise a national roadmap to bring down methane emissions. Like carbon dioxide, methane is also a greenhouse gas but has generally passed under the radar of climate activists and planners. Methane has an advantage over carbon dioxide and may serve as a cleaner alternative.
Methane-emitting natural gas is the preferred substitute for carbon dioxide-emitting coal. Though methane is about 20 times stronger as a greenhouse gas, it disappears in 20 years while carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for around 100 years.
The US-China deal now also paves the way for resolving contentious issues of climate financing, carbon tax and net-zero commitments, which have proved nagging during the COP26 meet in Glasgow.
Climate financing has been a sticking issue for more than 10 years. In 2009, an agreement had been reached that the rich nations, the early massive polluters, would contribute $100 billion by 2020 towards climate financing. The objective of this agreement was to generate funds for cleaner energy by the historic polluters. But the rich countries have already failed to meet the 2020-deadline.
Countries have to levy carbon tax, putting a price on carbon emissions and any goods and services resulting from them. Simply put, high carbon emission products – rich countries consume them the most – will become costlier in developed countries.
Another touchy issue has been net-zero commitment. It has remained below expectations. At Glasgow, COP26 pushed for a common deadline of 2050. China was a dissenter, setting 2060 as the deadline year. India pushed it further to 2070.
The use of coal and oil is another issue of intense debate. Experts want phasing out of fossil fuels, but commitments have been underwhelming. The biggest coal user, China has recently revived coal blocks and coal-based power generation plants following a massive power crisis. India, on the other hand, is yet to develop a plan to phase out coal. One of the biggest oil producers and exporters, Saudi Arabia is lobbying hard for the continuation of oil as long as possible.
However, the US-China deal opens a new window for negotiators when they meet next for a climate change summit to finalise the Paris Agreement rulebook.