As debates continue over how best to tackle the climate change crisis, economists opine that economic growth should not be in conflict with climate mitigation endeavours. Some may challenge this contention but with steady progress in cleaner energy technologies, there is ample opportunity for countries to address climate change without compromising their economic prosperity. New studies have produced evidence to support that economic progress is not necessarily impeded by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. A recent report of BBC reveals that Saudi Arabia is showing interest in lowering crude oil production prompted by lessening demand for the product. Reduction in demand for oil, the fossil fuel that is responsible for a third of global energy use and a similar share of carbon emissions, is due to various reasons. One of them is the growing realisation that for avoiding climate change havoc there is no alternative to curtail the emissions of carbon. Furthermore, lowered demand for fossil fuels is induced by innovation in new energy development. Countries' reliance on polluting fossil fuel consumption has to be curtailed if the planet is to be protected from the devastating effects of climate change. Various scientific studies have provided stern warnings to the international community about the likely danger that becomes unavoidable unless carbon emissions are controlled. The most recent report in this regard has been published by a US- based non- profit organisation called ‘Climate Central’. Referring to this finding, the UN Secretary-General has warned the global community to cut down the carbon emissions level. His warning is primarily addressed to the countries in Asia. There is a growing tendency for producing coal, the cheaper fossil fuel, which pollutes the environment. Climate Central's report predicts that climate change would put millions more people at risk of coastal flooding by 2050 than previously thought. It also adds that 190 million people would be living in areas that are projected to be below high tide lines in the year 2100. These predictions are based on the calculations of rising global temperatures. Apprehending that unprecedented consumption of coal and its likely impact on carbon emissions, which then fuel global warming, the UN chief has rightly drawn the attention of leaders in Asia and has referred to this as ‘Asian addiction to coal’. His appeal to quit this addiction is timely given the fact that he played an instrumental role in galvanising support for climate change efforts internationally by organising a high level meeting in New York on September 23. While exhorting the Asian leaders to reduce dependence on polluting sources of energy, the UN Secretary-General also emphasised that there should be price on carbon so that countries may be morally bound to cut down the level of carbon emissions. No subsidies to fossil fuel may be another effective tool to persuade countries to switch to cleaner energy technologies. Concerted global efforts to tackle climate change are necessary and the initiative of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) through its ministerial conference in Bhutan last month is a worthwhile effort because the meeting was held at a time when the 25th session of Conference of Parties to (COP), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is in the offing. The members of the 47-nation LDC group, of which Bhutan is the current chair, routinely convene ministerial level meetings close to the session of the COP to agree on a common LDC position concerning climate change. Attended by Nepal and other LDCs, the Thimpu meeting has drawn the attention of the developed countries to take measures to reduce carbon emissions so that the global temperatures would not rise above 1.5 degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial level. Scientists have emphasised that to avoid calamities due to rising temperatures, the global temperatures must not rise beyond the above target. A report, The Hindkush Himalaya Assessment Mountain, Climate Change, Sustainability and People, issued by the International Centre on Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has concluded that even with the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise, there might be 36 per cent snow melting. Moreover, the ICIMOD has warned that such snow melting might accelerate up to 64 per cent, provided the current pace of carbon emission persists. Himalayan environmental degradation poses a serious threat to Nepal, including many other South Asian countries, viewed against the possibilities of flooding due to snow melting rise. Therefore, the LDC group in its last ministerial meeting has taken a decision to push for lowered carbon emission, for which the developed nations have to bear the greater responsibility. This stand by the least developed countries is in conformity with the provisions of Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Article 2 of the agreement states that with due consideration of the need to significantly reduce the risk and adverse impact of climate change, global temperature rise should not cross over the limit of 1.5 degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial level. Additionally, the LDCs have laid emphasis on the urgency of clean energy technology transfer by the developed countries as per their commitments. Adoption of such energy technology can help cut down the emission of carbon as countries slowly switch to it for reduced consumption of fossil fuel. While member nations represented in the Paris Agreement prepare to hold the next session of the COP in Chile to take stock of the progress made by the parties with regard to climate change mitigation efforts, the disheartening news has cast a pall on that conference. The US administration has announced its formal decision to start the process of abandoning the Paris Agreement by submitting a letter to the UN citing that adherence to the same has hampered the industrial advancement of the country. This announcement could not have come at a worse time. Notwithstanding this, all 187 parties to the climate change agreement should remain committed to fulfilling their promises to lower the carbon emissions so that climate disaster can be prevented before it occurs.
(Thapa was Foreign Relations Advisor to the Prime Minister from 2008 to 2009. He writes on contemporary national and international issues. He can be reached at email@example.com)