Sun, Jun 16, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Island states should become global leaders in climate innovation

Large developed countries need to stop financing new fossil-fuel projects on small islands that are disproportionately affected by increasing temperatures

By Mike Eman

Richer countries should focus on climate-smart investments aimed at reducing the future burden of global warming.

According to one estimate, the average cost of adapting to climate change for nine of the world’s most vulnerable countries could reach US$15 billion per year between 2015 and 2030.

China provides a good example of the inconsistency regarding clean energy. At home, the country is showing how a rapidly industrializing economy can shutter coal plants and increase access to energy with clean renewables.

Yet under the Belt and Road Initiative — China’s massive transnational infrastructure investment program — most of the energy projects in developing countries are focused on oil, gas and coal.

It does not have to be this way. China could easily export its clean-energy and climate-smart technology when borrowers request it.

For example, in Argentina the Export-Import Bank of China is lending nearly US$400 million to finance the construction of South America’s largest solar farm.

Other countries, such as Japan, are also ramping up investment in island states and throughout the developing world.

Countries receiving these funds must think about how such projects will serve their citizens and local communities in the long term, and how new brown-coal-fired power plants will add to their already heavy climate-change burden.

Meanwhile, donor countries must consider how their foreign investments align with their pledges under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The only possible way to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures — a truly existential threshold for many small island states — is to immediately stop new construction of fossil-fuel plants.

If an energy project is not compatible with this 1.5°C limit, can a self-proclaimed “climate leader” such as China or Japan justify funding it?

The Paris agreement ushered in a new era of international cooperation, as world leaders agreed to work together to combat the threat of global warming. Vulnerable islands such as Aruba welcome foreign investment in their energy future, provided that projects are clean and carbon-free, and help their citizens achieve true energy security.

Small island states are disproportionately affected by climate change, but with help from lenders, they can also punch above their weight in helping to mitigate its worst effects.

Mike Eman was prime minister of Aruba from 2009 to 2017.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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