The US should feel ashamed of shocking scene at COP28: Global Times editorial

Global Times, December 2, 2023 —

The 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gave the world a surprise on its first day, Thursday.

Delegates from more than 160 countries unanimously agreed to formally establish the Loss and Damage Fund, pledging more than $400 million to support the world’s particularly vulnerable countries in their efforts to cope with the loss and damage caused by climate change. This groundbreaking progress has brought much-needed good news to the world, raising confidence and expectations for the outcomes of this conference.

The issue of funding has been a focal point in recent UN climate conferences, with prolonged and intense debates surrounding the amount of aid and compensation developed countries should offer for their historical emissions, as well as the ways of raising and distributing the funds. However, the urgency of the severe climate change situation has led to significant achievements. Developed countries have committed to mobilizing $100 billion a year to support climate finance. The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund was a decision made at COP27 in Egypt in 2022, but its implementation has not been easy. Nonetheless, this time, several developed countries have made pledges toward the fund.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), host country of COP28, committed $100 million, Germany, $100 million, the UK, 40 million pounds (about $50.6 million) and 20 million pounds for other arrangements, Japan, $10 million, and the US, known for its grandstanding on climate issues, only $17.5 million.

When it comes to paying, some countries revealed their true face. The amount pledged by the US is meager in comparison with its status as the world’s largest economy and the responsibility in addressing climate change it should bear given its highest historical cumulative carbon emissions, leading to criticism from attending delegates and experts who deemed it “disappointing,” “shocking,” and “embarrassing.”

However, amid this disappointment, there were heartening developments. When the US once again let the world down at the critical moment, other countries stepped up.

On the second day of the climate conference, Friday, the UAE announced $30 billion for a new climate finance fund, aiming to mobilize $250 billion by the end of the decade. It also aims to improve the flow of money into projects to reduce emissions, especially in the Global South.

Washington should really feel ashamed of this scene. The New York Times bluntly questioned in a September article: How Long Can America’s Climate Hypocrisy Last? “It’s nothing new for climate ambition and climate hypocrisy to flicker back and forth like the two faces of a lenticular hologram,” said the article. Even the American media itself says so, showing how bad the US’ performance is on climate issues.

Another typical example is the deliberate effort by the US to woo Pacific island nations, establishing new embassies and claiming to help them maintain “maritime security.” However, when it comes to the climate issues that these countries genuinely care about, Washington exhibits conspicuous stinginess and parsimony. The true focus of Washington in its diplomacy is becoming increasingly evident to people.

At any rate, the US cannot be absent when addressing the issue of climate. Even if other countries are proactive, they cannot fill the irresponsible void left by the US. Conversely, if the US fails to set an example on climate issues, it completely loses its qualification to pursue global leadership. In any case, the US must shoulder its due obligations and responsibilities. The Democratic Party shows a more positive attitude toward climate issues than the Republican Party. The Biden administration should take advantage of its time in office to push for substantive progress on climate issues with greater determination and force.

This current climate conference’s crucial agenda is the “Global Stocktake,” where each contracting party will review progress and gaps in implementing key provisions of the Paris Agreement. The focus will also be on “four paradigm shifts”: fast-tracking energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030; transforming climate finance, by delivering on old promises and setting the framework for a new deal on finance; putting nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action; mobilizing for the most inclusive COP ever. These are ambitious goals indeed.

In the realm of climate, every step forward is incredibly challenging. It is precisely because of this difficulty that each achievement is so valuable. Regardless, we observe that human society is moving forward step by step, even though the pace is still too slow and lags behind the rate of environmental degradation.

How to ensure that this collective effort of all humanity involves less short-term selfish calculations and more long-term vision of shared future, and stronger climate actions, is crucial for the future and fate of humanity. No one can escape or evade this duty, especially for countries with significant responsibilities and obligations.

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