As international media reports suggest, the Climate Ambition Summit held virtually last Saturday illustrated the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global movement towards mitigating the impact of climate change.
The Summit was organized on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement calling on world leaders to pronounce and commit to more ambitious emission reduction pledges, national actions, and longer-term strategies towards net zero emissions which would, ideally, take the world towards a state of adapting to climate change and supporting those countries deemed more vulnerable.
The commitment aims for a 1.5 degree Celsius warming but the outcome suggests that we could be on a track of 3-4 degrees even if the 2015 Agreement promises are kept.
Despite positive signs of relief in terms of environmental pressure, wildlife rehabilitation and population, appreciation of public spaces and forestry and a possible global rethink of our accommodation of issues in relation to our planet during the COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines; the state of the economy, industrial and manufacturing sectors, and financing reforms and strategies seem increasingly onerous.
The small gains in 2020 may soon dissipate with the reopening of business activities, travel, recreation and other human action impacting on nature and climate. As the global economy slowed, countries have been navigating their national experience and priorities differently.
Among the countries called upon to show genuine progress from existing policies and Paris targets was China, currently the world’s largest emitter.
President Xi Jinping offered three bold proposals to strengthen China’s contribution to the global effort. He proposed improved climate governance through multilateralism, unity and cooperation. Following the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, he suggested that all countries need to maximize actions in light of their respective national circumstances and capabilities. At the same time, developed countries need to scale up support for developing countries in financing, technology and capacity building. He also proposed that green, low-carbon ways of life and production be encouraged, and seek development opportunities and impetus from green development.
Overall, China aims to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 by cutting its emissions by 65 per cent, expand forestry and utilization of wind and solar power.
President Xi Jinping’s commitments for 2030: China will lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by over 65 per cent from the 2005 level, increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25 per cent, increase the forest stock volume by 6 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level, and bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kilowatts.
Although the United States was absent when 75 countries met for the Climate Ambition Summit, the US will hold a climate summit of the world’s major economies early next year. Within 100 days of Joe Biden taking office, they will seek to rejoin the Paris Agreement on the first day of his Presidency, in a boost to international climate action which is currently falling behind.
Trinidad and Tobago has made fair progress in terms of our climate governance although local issues relating to the environment, management of the national fishery (livelihood protection, exploited species, warming oceans and habitat destruction), the environmental impact of agriculture and climate change adaptation and mitigation mechanisms needed for agriculture’s sustainability, the Gulf of Paria and other aquatic environments directly impacted by industrial and commercial operations, and climate change impacts on domestic tourism opportunities continue to pose a challenge.
In 2018 Trinidad and Tobago ratified the Paris Agreement which confirmed its intended Nationally Determined Contribution (iNDC) and therefore the iNDC has officially become the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and the formal commitment of this nation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement. This commitment means that we will have to reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent from industry, power generation and the transport sector by 2030 from a business as usual baseline.
In 2019 Trinidad and Tobago was appointed by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (advisory bodies to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to Co-Chair in UN climate change negotiations at the COP25.
On that occasion, Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said that Trinidad and Tobago also has the key role of negotiating on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and, as a small island developing state, we must continue to ensure that its interests are well represented and elucidated at this fora along with other like-minded parties such as AOSIS and the Group of 77 and China.
Much of the technical, legal and administrative work is consistent with Government’s current environmental policy through Theme V of the National Development Strategy: Vision 2030 which commits to “Placing the environment at the centre of social and economic development”.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago took another step to facilitate the preservation and sustainability of the nation’s environmental resources by establishing the first National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) in September 2020. The establishment of the Council was described as one of the critical success factors of Trinidad and Tobago’s National Environmental Policy.
Given the strong political and economic relations between Trinidad and Tobago and China, there seems to be opportunities to engage President Xi’s proposals through shared responsibility, learning by doing, technical and capacity building as well as technology and knowledge transfers in several related sectors.
In our context, it requires consultation, collaboration and coordination of multi-stakeholder interests, national interest and finite resources.
In October, the Government through Energy Minister Franklin Khan announced that it will uphold the Paris Agreement with the development of a solar park that will produce 120 megawatts of electricity. Although not much detail was given, he said when developed, this would be the largest solar farm in the entire Caribbean.
According to the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (iNDC) under The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “The Government has defined the policy framework for a low carbon development plan through the National Climate Change Policy, and developed a Carbon Reduction Strategy for the power generation, transportation and industrial sectors which form the basis of Trinidad and Tobago’s iNDC. Trinidad and Tobago already produces all of its electricity from natural gas and is working towards achieving greater efficiency through combined cycle generation at all its power plants. This sector would therefore be at the edge of low carbon emissions with renewable energy being the next stage for reducing emissions even further. The objective therefore is to achieve the optimal energy mix with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve sustainable development, including the decoupling of emissions and economic growth.”
Given my experience in China by investigating their development policy and planning in agriculture which included traversing major city centres which promote greener economic and social development, transportation hubs and modes, solar and wind energy harvesting and utilization in rural region agriculture and other significant utilization of technology in development, there remains opportunity for both nations to work together on a new development philosophy.
Linked to China’s development prowess was employment, income generation, social and rural development.
Policymakers noted that more than 68.5 million rural people have been lifted out of poverty in China in recent years, resulting in the reduction of extreme poverty rate from 10.2% to less than 3.1% in 2018, based on the international poverty line of purchasing power parity (PPP), US$ 1.90 per day. The success has also provided further impetus not only to China’s own human rights endeavours, but also to the efforts of the international community.
Even wider, China’s methodologies to reduce poverty could help developing nations as 600 million Chinese people were lifted out of a life of hardship in the past 30 years. China’s initiative to extend and share its experiences of poverty reduction measures with other developing countries will help to enhance its international image, boost its soft power and build win-win cooperation for a shared future. This will benefit not only China but also the other developing countries keen to achieve similar success in poverty elimination.
I expressed an interest to return to investigate China’s commitment and remarkable progress in poverty reduction and eradication in 2020 with strategies of people first, strong role of government, and targeted approaches eliminating waste and corruption but with food and agriculture earning its respectful place on the national development agenda. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic this remains secondary research but the lessons and partnerships remain relevant to this day.
The stock of New Energy Vehicles in China is the world’s largest, with cumulative sales of almost 4.2 million units through 2019. These figures include passenger cars and heavy-duty commercial vehicles such as buses and sanitation trucks, and only accounts for vehicles manufactured in the country. The Chinese government uses the term new energy vehicles (NEVs) to designate plug-in electric vehicles eligible for public subsidies, and includes only battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV).
As of December 2019, China had the largest stock of highway legal plug-in passenger cars with 3.4 million units, 47% of the global plug-in car fleet in use. China also dominates the plug-in light commercial vehicle and electric bus deployment, with its stock reaching over 500,000 buses in 2019, 98% of the global stock, and 247,500 electric light commercial vehicles, 65% of the global fleet. In addition, the country also leads sales of medium- and heavy duty electric trucks, with over 12,000 trucks sold, and nearly all battery electric.
China has been the world’s best-selling plug-in electric passenger car market for five years running, from 2015 to 2019, with annual sales rising from more than 207,000 plug-in passenger cars in 2015, to 579,000 in 2017, and just over 1 million units both in 2018 and 2019. A particular feature of the Chinese passenger plug-in market is the dominance of small entry level vehicles, in 2015 representing 87% of total pure electric car sales, while 96% of total plug-in hybrid car sales were in the compact segment.
(Quoted from New Energy Vehicles in China – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_energy_vehicles_in_China)
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OMARDATH MAHARAJ B.Sc., M.Sc.
+ 1.868.683.1173 (CELL)