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How China, the biggest annual climate polluter, avoids paying for the damage

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In 1992, the United Nations classified China as a developing country. Hundreds of millions of people in China lived in poverty.

A lot has changed since then. China is now the world’s second largest economy and the largest annual emitter of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.The average Chinese today 34 times richer and almost 4 times more pollutionBut this classification has remained the same for the past three decades, allowing developed-world diplomacy to shun the Chinese government from paying its fair share to help poor countries deal with the damage of climate change. It irritates the officials.

The debate over what China owes to the country least responsible for global warming and most affected by its effects has intensified dramatically in the wake of the recent UN climate change conference in Egypt. is doing. At the end of his two-week summit, known as COP27, negotiators from nearly 200 countries agreed to establish a fund Compensate vulnerable countries for the costs of coping with rising sea levels, intensifying storms and other impacts of global warming.

Analysts say China is unlikely to pay for the fund, despite its rapidly increasing contribution to greenhouse gases that heat the planet.

COP27 puts world on dangerous warming path despite historic climate fund

“The facts are clear: China is now the world’s largest emitter,” said Li Shuo, senior policy adviser at Greenpeace East Asia. “It is therefore a very valid question to talk about China’s growing responsibility in the international arena.”

The issue is a politically sensitive issue. Policymakers in Beijing outraged suggestions that China should be considered a developed country, pointing to areas of extreme poverty that persist across the country. It also highlights the obligations of the United States, which has released more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other country in history, even though China has surpassed the United States in annual carbon emissions.

“Developed countries, including the United States, must take more responsibility,” Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said in an email. From the mid-18th century until 1950, developed countries accounted for 95% of the carbon dioxide emitted.”

Liu said developed countries have yet to meet their promise to provide $100 billion annually in 2009 to help developing countries transition to greener economies and adapt to growing climate hazards. I added no. 2020, wealthy countries almost fall $20 billion shortfall of what they promised.

Byford Tsang, a senior policy adviser at the international climate think tank E3G, said, “China is still backing developing countries on this financing issue.” “Wealthier developed countries have failed to deliver on climate finance pledges made more than a decade ago, making it easy for China to take its place.”

Tsang added that he did not expect China to seek funding from a new fund aimed at helping vulnerable countries cope with the irreversible effects of global warming.

“I don’t think Beijing’s policymakers are taking the position that they should be on the receiving end of loss and damage financing.”

Chinese officials have not officially announced whether they will contribute to the fund. When asked about the issue at COP27, China’s Special Envoy for Climate Affairs Xie Zhenhua said: China is also a developing country, and climate disasters have also brought great losses to China this year. We sympathize with the suffering of developing countries and fully support their demands. ”

“It’s not our fault,” Xie said, but China will provide 2 billion yuan ($280 million) to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to global warming. I added that I did. South-South Climate Cooperation Fund.

Analysts say Beijing officials are sending climate change aid through UN channels, It appears unlikely that he will commit to more aggressive pledges, he said. “Zero Covid” Policy and a downturn in the real estate market. In response to last year’s energy shortages, China approved a major increase in coal production capacity.

Lauri Mirivata, a researcher at the Helsinki-based Center for Energy and Clean Air Research, said the fund’s disbursement would set an unwelcome precedent for China’s policy makers and demand more accountability within the UN system. said it may be forced to

“It’s tantamount to accepting the responsibility of developed countries, which has always been a line for China,” he said.

U.S. diplomats have agreed to establish a loss and damage fund, overturning years of U.S. resistance to the idea, but there is no guarantee that Congress will use the money. Last year, President Biden asked the International Climate Change Fund for his $2.5 billion, but was only able to secure $1 billion, and that’s when Democrats took control of both houses of Congress.

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This year, Biden record $11.4 billionBut Republicans, who generally oppose climate action, are poised to take control of the House in January, further dampening funding prospects.

Senator Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) said in an interview: “If anything, we can bill them for everything we’ve done on their behalf over the decades.”

Kramer called U.S. Climate Envoy John F. Kelley To ensure that Beijing will fund this effort. “If John F. Kelley had any patriotism in this nonsense bargaining, I would think he would demand payment from China,” he said.

When asked for comment, Kelly spokeswoman Whitney Smith pointed to a previously released statement, saying the US “will continue to put pressure on major emitters like China to significantly increase their climate ambition.” ‘ but did not specifically say whether it would seek China to pay for climate damages.

During the COP27 negotiations, the European Union agreed to pay to the Fund for the Most Vulnerable Countries as long as large emitters like Beijing were included as potential donors and excluded as potential recipients. It tried to divide China from the rest of the developing world by proposing.

“We call it 1992 World vs. 2022,” said one European negotiator.

In the final hours of negotiations, negotiators compromised and agreed to prioritize the most vulnerable countries, allowing China to contribute, but only if it wanted to.

At past UN climate summits, China has allied with a group of over 100 developing countries that have asked the prosperous world for more financial support. At COP27, this push was led by Pakistan, one of China’s closest diplomatic partners, which relies heavily on Chinese investment for its energy transition. Pakistan, which has historically accounted for less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, this summer devastating flood It killed nearly 1,500 people and caused over $40 billion in damage. Scientists say the floods were accelerated by climate change.

The United Nations defines developing countries as countries with relatively low standards of living, small industrial bases and low indicators such as life expectancy, education and per capita income.

Flood-hit Pakistan leads push to pay polluting nations at COP27

Developing countries negotiate as large groups at the UN climate conference, often with very different interests. Saudi Arabia, despite its wealth from oil reserves, is still considered a developing country and is scrapping language in the UN climate agreement that calls for phasing out fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the tiny island nation of Vanuatu, which could be swallowed up by rising sea levels, is struggling to include language calling for rapid emissions reductions.

In some countries, the mismatch is sustainable as long as China is willing to use its weight to defend the interests of the more vulnerable.

“China has always supported the interests of developing countries,” said Malik Amin Aslam, Pakistan’s climate change minister until earlier this year. “Different from developed countries”

From his perspective, it is more important for China to advocate for help from richer countries than to donate its own cash.”I don’t see China as the biggest villain here.” ” he said.

Other policy makers feel differently.

A former climate diplomat from a coastal developing country, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals from the Chinese government, said: “They have always tried to protect themselves, reduce their responsibility to developing I’m looking for words that won’t burden me,” he said. “Firewall between development and development [has] protected them. ”

Ultimately, any upcoming move by the United Nations to reclassify China as a developed country will require the unanimous consent of some 200 countries. An objection from one country can derail the whole effort.

“This is a political issue,” Greenpeace’s Lee said. “We can never reclassify.”

Joselow and Birnbaum reported from Washington. Kuo reported from Taipei.

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