World Leaders Race To Act on Climate Amid Pandemic

World leaders participated this week in the first Climate Adaptation Summit organized online to try to find solutions to a climate emergency that could be much more devastating than any pandemic. 

The summit was hosted by the Netherlands last Monday and Tuesday with the virtual presence of nearly 100 leaders, 50 scientists and more than 15,000 attendees from around the world, including a reporter from the MBRSC Post.

One of the highlights of the summit was the return of the United States in the fight against the climate crisis with President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry. “Climate change is accelerating fast, and we have a limited time to get it under control,” he said.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump had withdrawn in 2017 his country from the Paris agreement, a decision cancelled this week by his successor Joe Biden. The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change aims to limit the global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius.

The General Secretary of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said that there have been “more than 11,000 disasters due to climate and water hazards over the past 50 years at a cost of more than 3.6 trillion dollars.” Natural disasters, he added, “have killed more than 410,000 people in the past decades, mostly from low and middle-income countries.” 

Online interview with the President of the World Bank, David Malpass, and the General Secretary of the United Nations Antonio Guterres. January 25, 2021. Photo: Maisa Eid

Guterres called on donors, banks, and rich countries to help more developing countries who “stand on the frontline of the climate crisis.”

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that if by 2030 governments do not take serious actions regarding climate change resilience, the annual bill for adaptation in developing countries alone, will be equivalent to 300 billion U.S. dollars. 

To fight against this crisis, the UK launched a new adaptation coalition with Bangladesh, Egypt, Malawi, the Netherlands, Saint Lucia, and the United Nations. This coalition will draw on the expertise of businesses, scientists, and the civil society “not only to adapt, but to fight back the effect of climate change that are already being felt,” explained Johnson. 

 “We see the climate change as a fundamental risk to the economic and financial stability and we see climate action as an opportunity to reinvigorate growth,” said the director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva. The IMF’s main goal is to generate new green jobs with less carbon emissions. She said that the IMF has already launched a climate change dashboard in order to track the economic impact of climate risks. 

The President of the World Bank Group, David Malpass, said that, currently, the core of the group’s actions targeted climate adaptation. He said that climate finance increased from 40% to 50% in 2020 and “it will keep increasing in the next 5 years.” 

Regarding the Paris agreement, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, promised that his country will seek to exceed set targets. Modi has announced plans which aim to provide clean cooking fuel to 80 million rural households, connecting 64 million households to pipe water supply, and thus, having a resilient infrastructure

“If we don’t adapt, the consequences will be disastrous,” warned the Prime Minister of Netherlands, Mark Rutte, referring to the rise of water and increasing storms that will force people, who live on the coastal lines, to move. Climate change, he said, could push more than 100 million people from the developing countries below the poverty line by the year 2030.

Maisa Eid

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