An orange haze surrounds California's Golden Gate Bridge due to climate change, oil slicks and deforestation, say experts
An orange haze surrounds California's Golden Gate Bridge due to climate change, oil slicks and deforestation, say experts AFP

Talks on climate change related issues were pushed aside by the coronavirus pandemic. Now the vaccine is available and the pandemic is expected to be brought under control soon. As a result, discussions on climate change are expected to pick up again in 2021.

The year 2021 is very important for efforts to combat climate change as time is running out to save the world from the hazardous effects of global warming. Chief environmental correspondent of BBC, Justin Rowlatt, has explained the importance of 2021 in this battle in a special article appearing in BBC online. Justin Rowlatt has broadly highlighted five issues.

Unexpectedly, the biggest declaration has come from China, the country which is responsible for 28 percent of global carbon emissions. At the UN General Assembly last September, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country had set a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2020.

1. Glasgow Climate Conference

Following the historic Paris Conference of 2015, world leaders will gather in Glasgow, Scotland in November. For the first time in Paris, virtually all countries in the world agreed on a climate issue. They declared combined efforts in this regard. But the problem is that countries have failed to reduce carbon emissions as declared at the conference. It was decided that at the end of the century, the rise of global warming will be limited to 2 degrees Celsius, just as it was in the pre-industrial period. It was said that if possible, the rise of global warming will be kept at 1.5 degree Celsius. But in reality, the rise of temperature will cross 1.5 degree Celsius within the next 12 years and will rise by 3 degree Celsius at the end of the millennium. Under the Paris Agreement, countries are committed to declare the ambitious target of reducing carbon emissions every five years. According to this, Glasgow conference was supposed to be held in November 2020. It was postponed due to the pandemic. There could be an announcement on strengthening the efforts on reducing carbon emission at the upcoming conference in November.

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2. Rich countries on the right track

The world has seen significant progress in the fight against global warming already. Unexpectedly, the biggest declaration has come from China, the country which is responsible for 28 percent of global carbon emissions. At the UN General Assembly last September, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country had set a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2020. Later, 110 countries including Japan and South Korea followed suit.

However, the United Kingdom, one of the largest economies of the world, was the first country to promise to become a carbon-neutral country in June 2019. European Union declared the same in March 2020. Their aim is to be carbon neutral by the middle of this century. According to the United Nations, these countries are responsible for 65 percent of the global carbon emission and represent 70 per cent of the world economy. Moreover, the largest economy of the world, USA, can play a big part in reducing carbon emission, with Joe Biden being elected president.

3. Cheap rate of renewable fuel

There is a significant reason behind so many countries declaring to be carbon neutral. Renewable energy is now cheaper than ever. This is changing the whole calculation of carbon emissions. Renewable fuel is more cost effective than using fossil fuel for generating electricity in many countries nowadays. In the coming years, investments in the sectors of air, solar energy and battery will increase. Prices will drop so much that everyone will shut down existing coal and gas-fired power plants. The cost of using renewable energy supports the basic logic of manufacturing- the more production, the cheaper. Think about the underlying meaning. Investors will no longer have to endure objections from environmentalists and they can freely pursue their profits. And governments know that increasing the contribution of renewable energy to their own economies will accelerate global energy transformation. As a result, renewable energy will be cheaper.

The biggest challenge of the Glasgow Conference is to get the countries to sign a resolution that will start on reducing carbon emissions on an immediate basis

4. Coronavirus has changed everything

We used to think that our foundation is very strong until the outbreak of coronavirus. It seems the world can come to its demise in a way beyond our control. Beside this, the virus also dealt a huge blow on the economy, the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Governments have taken up various incentive packages to compensate the wounds of the economy. The good news is that the path to investment has become much easier. Global interest rates are hovering around zero, even in the negative. The EU and Biden's new US administration are taking advantage of this. They have pledged trillions of dollars to keep the economy afloat and reduce carbon emissions. These measures will reduce the cost of renewable energy worldwide. They have also announced additional taxes on products from countries that emit too much carbon. As a result, those countries will be forced to act in a positive way.

5. Tendency towards eco-friendly business

There is always a constant pressure on businesses due to climate related issues. Along with this, they are considering the declining price of renewable energy. Many companies are trying to be environment-friendly. There are also many financial aspects behind this. In the coming days, oil and coal-fired power plants will become obsolete. So, there is no reason behind investing in such companies or oil well drilling which will greatly tarnish the image of a company due to environmental issues. Such logic is trending in the market. Tesla's share price has skyrocketed this year. It is now the most expensive car company in the world. On the other hand, the share prices of Exxon Company has hit rock bottom. They were the most expensive company in the world at one time. Exxon has dropped out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ranks 30 largest corporations on the US stock exchange.

Overall, there is good reason to be optimistic about the efforts to tackle climate change. But it is too early to say that we have won the battle. Although many countries have ambitions, few have come up with realistic strategies to achieve their goals. In this situation, the biggest challenge of the Glasgow Conference is to get the countries to sign a resolution that will start on reducing carbon emissions on an immediate basis.

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