By Arab News
By Ajmal Shams*
The COP 27 event from Nov. 6 to Nov. 20 was another milestone of 2022 in the global efforts to fight climate change. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a well-known advocate in the battle against climate change, has described the human struggle in this regard as a fight for our lives that we must win. In the two-week get-together, the international community renewed their resolve to fight the climate crisis through various policy measures. Despite the truth behind climate change, for many the term “climate change” might sound more like a modern-day fashion buzz word. This is because little concrete evidence exists that the world has done anything with notable impact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change is a reality and the beginning of the end of human race if not taken seriously. Wealth creation and economic growth should not be the sole objective of human development if it comes at the cost of survival. Not doing enough for climate change is suicidal. We owe the fight against climate change to future generations. Our natural environment was entrusted to us just as it was entrusted to our forefathers throughout human history.
Climate change is a reality and not just something in books, journals, and as a hot topic for certain politicians and environmental activists. The worsening situation of the climate crisis was apparent this year with the disastrous floods in Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan. The catastrophic floods are estimated to have caused as much as $40 billion in damages in addition to the human loss and suffering. These floods are an eye-opener for those who are still hesitant about taking practical measures to fight the climate menace. We were also witness last year to record high temperatures globally. The devastation of climate change is just the beginning, and the worst is yet to come as more destructive floods and heat waves will be experienced on a regular basis. Indeed, the clock is ticking on even worse climate disasters.
The COP 27 conference was another great opportunity for world leaders and decision makers. In fact, we are moving from climate change to climate emergency as more and more destruction is brought on by climate change.
The US’ decision in February 2021 to rejoin the landmark Paris climate agreement, a legally binding international climate treaty, is a significant step forward given the country’s large carbon footprint, its financial and technological capabilities and global political influence. Realizing the gravity of the situation, US President Joe Biden now has a special envoy for the environment and climate change. Former foreign secretary John Kerry has been assigned this important task and works with the rest of the world for increased coordination and greater harmony on climate response.
As part of global efforts to switch to cleaner sources of energy, Biden has embarked on an ambitious plan to spur the electric vehicle industry in the US that other industrialized nations can also follow. In September, the White House announced that nearly $85 billion had been invested in electric vehicle manufacturing since the president had taken office. Every time a new electric car is introduced into the market, it gives new hope that we are on our way to transitioning to cleaner energy. It is going to take a while for electric vehicles to become affordable for people to replace regular cars but the progress is encouraging.
World leaders, especially those in the industrialized nations, have a greater responsibility to encourage, promote and facilitate the manufacturing of electric cars. On the economic front, auto industries have a great potential business opportunity as the world transitions to electric vehicles. This is alongside their corporate responsibility to promote a greener and more sustainable future. Every small step is a contribution to the global response to climate change.
Most estimates suggest that world oil reserves, the main culprits for greenhouse gas emission, will be depleted within this century. Humanity has no other option but to transition to cleaner energies for our own survival: Cleaner energy is not so much a matter of choice as it is a necessity. But the real challenge is to adopt clean energy sources well before climate change does its worst, especially the irreversible rise in temperature. If “business as usual” continues, we will be witnessing further devastation in the form of more severe floods, droughts, increased desertification, loss of topsoil necessary for agriculture and food security, and persistent heat waves.
Humanity needs to put aside its differences and join hands to avoid collective destruction at the hands of an impending calamity that has already been knocking at our doors.
• Ajmal Shams is vice president of the Afghanistan Social Democratic Party. He served as a deputy minister in the former government of Afghanistan.