Experts: US inaction hurts climate change effort

China Daily

Experts: US inaction hurts climate change effort

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GPT Opinions

Scientific Accuracy 0.8

The article accurately reflects the view of climate experts that the US should take responsibility for historical emissions and not use China as an excuse. However, it does not provide a balanced perspective or present counterarguments.

Aritcle Tone 0.6

The tone of the article is critical of the US government's actions and emphasizes the need for the US to take responsibility. It does not provide a positive outlook or highlight potential solutions.

11 Topics

Us government, China, historical emissions, climate crisis, climate experts, UN climate negotiations, Paris Agreement, climate finance, Green Climate Fund, global climate crisis, development financing.

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The US government should stop using China as an excuse to deny its responsibility for historical emissions, which creates a hostile environment for addressing the global climate crisis, according to climate experts. "We need the US to stop using China as an excuse for our own inaction or to water down international agreements. We should recognize our own historical responsibility, make genuine efforts to cut our own emissions and provide finance to support action in poor countries," said Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid, at a recent webinar. He said there is constantly a voice in the discourse around climate change that blames China for being the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But that notion ignores a larger problem, which is historical emissions, he said at the webinar hosted by Justice Is Global. "It's not just 'emissions now' that matter, but 'emissions over time.' And it's the United States, in fact, that is by far the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases," said Wu. "The US has a far larger share of responsibility for causing the climate crisis than any other country in the world, including China." The US developed into one of the world's wealthiest countries with massive economic, political and military power on the back of fossil fuel-based industrialization, and by any reasonable estimation of what countries' fair shares of climate action should be, the US is at the top, far above even China today, said Wu, citing ActionAid's analysis of data. "Unfortunately, the US tends to deny this historical responsibility for climate change, almost as a matter of foreign policy, and it's consistently used China as an excuse for not doing more in the UN climate negotiations and on climate action in general," he continued. For instance, the US refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the original UN climate treaty, in large part because it would have placed legal obligations on the United States but not on China, Wu said. "And keep in mind, this was the 1990s, when Chinese emissions were significantly lower than they are now," he added. A more recent example is the negotiations around what became the Paris Agreement in 2015, where the US played a key role in "watering down that climate regime into something that is purely voluntary, and debatably effective", said Wu. "The US pushed hard to remove principles of equity and historical responsibility again, so that it wouldn't take on obligations that China did not take. And shamefully, our pledge to the Paris Agreement is significantly weaker than China's, relative to each country's fair share of climate action," he said. According to ActionAid's calculation of a country's fair share of responsibility, the US' pledge is falling far short of its obligations, while China is much closer to its fair share. The US also failed on "a moral and legal obligation" to deliver funding to support climate action in poor countries, said Wu. "The US has failed to meet even the most basic commitments on climate finance, a pledge to the Green Climate Fund that dates back to 2014," he said. "The US pledged $3 billion almost 10 years ago, but it hasn't even met that pledge yet." In the meantime, other countries have met their pledges and made new pledges to replenish the Green Climate Fund the main multilateral funds to support climate action in developing countries but the US is just falling further and further behind, he added. "The rich countries have got rich off fossil fuels and are now denying the poor countries the opportunity to do the same. That's going to create a hostile environment for solving the global climate crisis," said Jake Werner, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. China has huge resources available to invest in the climate transition and development in the Global South, he said. "The World Bank is the largest development financing institution in the world, and for a number of years over the last 15 years, Chinese development financing actually eclipsed that of the World Bank," he added.