As Australia’s political leaders shift firmly into reverse on climate change, China and the US have jointly reaffirmed their commitment to contribute significantly to global efforts to meet the climate challenge.
“In light of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its worsening impacts, and the related issue of air pollution from burning fossil fuels, the United States and China recognise the urgent need for action to meet these twin challenges,” the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters said in a joint statement.
The statement, issued by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of his Beijing visit on Saturday, committed the two countries to “collaborate through enhanced policy dialogue, including the sharing of information regarding their respective post-2020 plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions,” and to “devote significant effort and resources to secure concrete results,” by the Sixth US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue later this year.
The two sides have also reached agreement on the implementation plans for the five initiatives launched under the CCWG, including vehicle emission reductions, smart grids, carbon capture and storage, emissions data collection, and energy efficiency.
On the bright side, it is perhaps thanks to countries like ours that Kerry – who announced earlier this month he was serving his last term in US politics – has embarked on a climate mission, or “climate blitz” as it has been dubbed, which he kicked off in Jakarta on Sunday with the first speech in a series that will urge the international community and world leaders to fall in line on climate.
And what a speech it was, describing climate change as one of the top global security threats, and pillorying those who deny the science behind it:
“When I think about the array of global climate – of global threats – think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.
“…The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie. It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act. And let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain.
“We need to move on this, and we need to move together now. …We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact. Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits. …We certainly should not allow more time to be wasted by those who want to sit around debating whose responsibility it is to deal with this threat, while we come closer and closer to the point of no return.”
According to reports, Kerry chose Indonesia to start the blitz because the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is particularly at risk from rising sea levels.
“Because of climate change, it’s no secret that today Indonesia is… one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth,” Kerry told the audience a high-tech US-funded cultural centre at a Jakarta mall.
“If we truly want to prevent the worst consequences of climate change from happening, we do not have time to have a debate about whose responsibility this is,” he said.
“The answer is pretty simple: It’s everyone’s responsibility. Now certainly some countries – and I will say this very clearly, some countries, including the United States, contribute more to the problem and therefore we have an obligation to contribute more to the solution. I agree with that. But, ultimately, every nation on Earth has a responsibility to do its part if we have any hope of leaving our future generations the safe and healthy planet that they deserve.”
The US-China climate pact, and Kerry’s strongly worded Indonesia speech, follow a joint US-France statement on climate action, in the form of an op-ed co-authored by Presidents Barack Obama and Francois Hollande.
Published last week in the Washington Post, the piece talked of expanding the two countries’ clean energy partnership, moving toward low-carbon growth, and doing more to help developing countries shift to low-carbon energy.
“As we work toward next year’s climate conference in Paris, we continue to urge all nations to join us in pursuit of an ambitious and inclusive global agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions through concrete actions,” the article said.
“The climate summit organised by the UN secretary general this September will give us the opportunity to reaffirm our ambitions for the climate conference in Paris.”
Paris will host the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 21) in December 2015, which will provide the architecture for post-2020 emission cuts. It is expected to yield decisive results.
Amid all this joint reaffirming of climate ambition, the silence from down under is deafening. As can be seen in the charts below, Australia currently exists in a league of its own, leading the backwards-looking climate laggards among the developed nations.
As HSBC climate analyst Zoe Knight notes, “chart 1 shows that for some countries, emissions are still on the rise and that the rate of carbon intensity improvement is declining. While table 1 shows that the reality is not aligned with countries’ reduction pledges.”
Meanwhile, in Canberra…