US President Joe Biden heralded America’s return to the center stage of global diplomacy as he hosted 40 leaders in a summit on climate change to mark this year’s celebration of Earth Day. He declared the US’ goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030 based on 2005 levels, a target described by World Resources Institute (WRI) as “ambitious, achievable, affordable, necessary, foundational, and inspirational.” Climate resilient infrastructure and leadership of the world’s electric vehicle market are two initiatives that are highlighted in his $2 trillion America Jobs Plan.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) agenda includes: “Increasing electric cars’ share of annual sales to more than 50 percent from three percent currently, raising low-carbon hydrogen production to 40 million metric tons from just 450,000, and increasing investment in clean electricity to $1.6 trillion from $380 billion.”
A proposal by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to impose a carbon tax on activities that bring about the highest levels of GHG emission is aimed at reshaping consumer behavior toward using electric vehicles and more energy-efficient household products. The IMF estimates that “a carbon tax of at least $50 a ton in 2030 for G20 countries, and $25 a ton for emerging economies, would double emissions reductions compared to current commitments.” It also projects a minimum carbon price for the largest emitters that would cover up to 80 percent of global emissions; but “differentiated pricing for countries at different levels of economic development.”
One of the priority items in the agenda of the Conference of Parties (COP) 26 climate summit in Glasgow later this year is a proposal to reduce the debt of poor countries in exchange for green investments. The UN Green Climate Fund is intended to transfer wealth from affluent countries to poor countries that are more heavily affected by global warming that triggers catastrophic natural disasters.
Carbon tax and carbon pricing proposals are meeting strong headwinds from academe based advocates of a “sustainability transition policy.” Writing for the PNAS Journal of the National Academy of Sciences, they deplored the myopic limitations of carbon pricing that they criticize for framing “climate change as a market failure rather than a fundamental system problem.” They emphasize the need for a context-sensitive policy approach that reflects political realities.
Singapore and Indonesia represented the ASEAN countries in the US climate summit. Echoing the pitch for sustainability, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that on account of its size and limited resources, Singapore is opting for innovative and technology-driven strategies. He bared plans to quadruple solar energy production and operate the world’s largest floating solar energy system. Indonesian President Joko Widjojo underlined the development of biofuels, the lithium battery industry and electric vehicles. He vowed that Indonesia’s presidency of the G20 in 2022 will emphasize “strengthened global cooperation on climate change and sustainable development.”
Global cooperation on reining in climate change has significantly gained new momentum.