Will The ‘Biden Climate Plan’ Rekindle African Leaders’ Hope?

By Hassan Ibrahim Conteh 

The commitment in global climate change has remarkably been intensified as world leaders set to embrace the United States of America after it has previously pulled out from the Paris Climate deal, with Africans hoping for a bigger share on the Global Climate Fund.

President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement after the Obama administration had signed up to it in 2016. But the world would soon welcome the United States of America as its ‘prodigal son,’ come January next year when President-elect, Joe Biden, officially takes up the mantle of leadership in the world’s highest political office.

The Democrat leader, Joe Biden, promised to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement during US elections polls, announcing a firm commitment to supporting former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which Republican Donald Trump had earlier kicked out. Obama’s Clean Power Plan was geared toward limiting carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired plants.

Mr. Biden, unlike Donald Trump, has promised a swift shift of plans to tackling climate’s worst conditions in the United States and the world at large. His driving vision is to see US electricity carbon-free by 2035 and to ensure that the world super power achieves net zero emissions by the middle of the century.

The president-elect intends to spend USD 2 trillion for a period of four years, with four million buildings upgraded for more energy efficiency. Global warming rapidly destroys the earth’s surface due to greenhouses gases caused by burning fossil fuels and has threatened human existence over the years.

This has seen striking effects on climate change as a number of countries experience repeated floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides and so on. Environmental experts have also linked human activities to have caused epidemics, such as the current corona virus around the world, which has brought world economies to their knees, killing many people with the United States currently recording over 250,000 thousand deaths.

It is against this backdrop that The Paris Agreement, within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), came into existence in 2016 in Le Bourget, near Paris, France. The pact is part of the effort taken by global nations to prevent dangerous warming of the earth.

Scientists have defined climate change to include both ‘global warming’ caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Under the Agreement, global temperatures should be brought ‘well below’ 2.0 degrees Celsius (which is the point at which climate change worst impacts can be minimized or prevented).

However, sadly enough, President Donald Trump was widely criticized by environmental experts who thought the outgoing president hadn’t much knowledge about climate change based on frequent tweets on the issue, which he often treats ridiculously. Many experts believe that the incumbent president often conflates climate with environmentalism more generally.

“He doesn’t really understand what climate change is about,” says Professor Michael Gerrard, an environmental law professor at the University of Colombia in the United States. He had also blamed China, informing that global warming was created by them with the aim of slowing down US manufacturing companies in global trading competition.

In 2009, before the Republican controversial leader assumed the presidency, he and other business tycoons had once admitted that climate change posed serious threat to human existence, which needed global attention. His suggestion was that legislation must be enforced in order to combat global climate change.

Immediately, after he was sworn-in in the highest office in the world, US White House, he reneges on the promise to get a speedy legislation on climate change in the United States of America.

In one of his tweets, Donald Trump described the Paris deal as badly ‘flawed’ with his tactical approach to avoid spending huge sum of money at the expense of US citizens. This is attributed to his widely nationalistic maxim of ‘AMERICA FIRST.’

“The badly flawed Paris Climate Agreement protects the polluters, hurts Americans, and cost a fortune. NOT ON MY WATCH,” his tweet comment suggests.

But his own flaw was badly exposed by the Americans, who have tired of his blame game on China, through the elections polls in which he was badly defeated by Joe Bidden. He also directly blamed China for having caused corona virus in the world.

Many political analysts observe that the Democrats always enjoy hearing Donald Trump making pugnacious comments on climate change matters in order for them to have a clean sail through the elections.

Despite the World Meteorological Organization reporting that 20 warmest years had been on record for the past 22 years, Donald Trump, who hasn’t a faint idea on climate issues, equivocally refuted such claims as untrue, believing that the ‘cold weather’ had proved otherwise.

Although there are about 196 countries who have signed up to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, in a bid to keeping rising temperatures below 2C, there was seemingly lack of global commitment among countries to honouring the deal, thereby setting up progressive strategies in their states and other under mentioned contributing factors.

Some of the top industrialized countries, like Iran and Turkey, failed to sign up to the pact in spite of huge carbon-emissions generated from their factories and industries. Arguably, African leaders thought the fund, which Green Climate Fund (GCF), committed to assist developing countries in Africa, to accomplish the Paris climate deal, was not enough. The GCF was formed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The world’s most developed economic countries pledged to each donate USD 4.5 billion.  At that time, Japan and the U.S. earlier only disbursed 15 million United States dollars. But the African leaders said they needed between USD 20 billion and USD 30 billion per year to be part of the process to fight off the impact of climate change.

They also argued that African experts, such as scientists and scholars, were not fully involved in climate change discussions in global conferences held so far, something they had recommended to be considered in future.

African states caused little impacts in global carbon emissions rate as compared to other industrial nations like Asia, Europe and America.  For instance, Sierra Leone, which is a signatory to the Paris Climate Compact, has a record of very low annual carbon-emissions.

In the absence of a reliable projection, on carbon emissions, Sierra Leone is said to have contributed only 0.1 percent of its greenhouse emissions in the past years, according to the country’s Environment Protection Agency. As part of its commitment, to mitigating effects of climate change, ex-President Koroma’s administration developed several strategies, in a document titled Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).

Under the President Bio’s administration, a National Tree Planting Project was launched, which aims to see 5 million trees planted within a four-year period. President Bio’s tree planting initiative dovetails with Donald Trump’s expression of his support for US initiative to plant one trillion trees, despite the latter has strongly refuted claims of global warming, which, he said, is exacerbated by environmentalists whom he referred to, during his previous tweeter feed, as PROPHETS OF DOOM.

However, due to the economic success that the industrialized nations bring about with commanding sense of geo-political ideologies, coupled with chaotic global leadership style of varied interest and hegemony, global commitment in the fight against climate change has been on low ebb since the Paris Agreement was inked.

India is widely known to have higher carbon emissions due to its increasing consumption of fossil fuels. For instance, under the Paris Climate Agreement, India set a target to reducing the emissions intensity of its economy by over 30%, as compared with 2005 levels, by 2030. But experts predict that the country may not meet such target as the vast majority of the energy that India consumes emanates from ‘fossil’ fuels.

However, the United States has made some success to curb greenhouse gas emissions as citizens’ awareness on global climate change heightens. Rhodium Group, an economic analyst firm, reveals that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell about 2% after a sharp decrease in emissions from the power sector, one of the biggest declines ever recorded in decades.

With Biden’s promising progressive measures, on climate change and environment, the US is expected to sharply decrease its domestic greenhouse emissions rate and global commitment from other countries would see a ‘world clean green’ atmosphere safe for human beings and other species whose sufferings are mainly caused by carbon-emissions plants.

The Biden Climate Plan, which focuses on clean energy, evolution and environmental justice, would affect huge spending on public transport and to effectively invest in electric vehicle manufacturing thereby providing financial incentives to consumers to trade up to cleaner cars.

Admittedly, as it stands, the Republican party still controls the US Senate and have shown little interest in the campaign against effects of carbon-emissions because majority of them own manufacturing plants. But US political commentators have predicted that the Democrats would have full control of the Senate if January run-off election in Georgia gives them a victory.

As United States promises to take up climate threats seriously, under Joe Biden’s stewardship, global partnership moves to limit carbon emissions would be rekindled as climate ambassadors and African leaders hope for more projects influenced by a fat package of global climate budget.

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