World needs to walk the talk on climate action

Time is running out in the race to stay ahead of catastrophic global climate change

Published : 29 May 2023 08:39 PM | Updated : 29 May 2023 08:39 PM

Last year in Berlin, the great Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the world marathon record, clocking 02:01:09 and beating his previous time by 30 seconds.

His success has made him a legend not only in Kenya but globally. It offers a useful lesson for everyone involved in the fight against climate change. Kipchoge’s winning strategy is rooted in the science of running (as well as 120 miles of hard work every week), and our own approach to the climate crisis must involve the same level of commitment and focus.

As temperatures keep rising and emissions soar, the planet, too, continues to break (dangerous) new records. But with determination and follow-through, we — together with institutional partners and other governments — can start to run faster to get ahead of the climate crisis. Success will depend on following the latest science and mobilising a joint, broad-based effort of governments and citizens.

In March, the world’s top climate experts and governments signed off on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change synthesis report. Once again, the IPCC’s message was stark: Humans have permanently changed the planet, and global warming is already killing people, destroying nature, and making the world poorer.

Though African countries have contributed the least to the problem, they are bearing the brunt of the damage. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Africa accounts for less than 3% of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, and 600 million Africans — an outrageous figure — still do not have access to electricity.

A shared, global problem

Climate change is a shared problem that the global community must solve by working together, especially given the disproportionate burden being placed on those who are least responsible.

We are currently a long way from limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius or even 2°C, as envisaged by the Paris climate agreement. The climate crisis will not solve itself. On the contrary, we must ensure that global greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions peak before 2025 at the latest, and then fall by at least 43% by 2030.

This is the year to drive that transformation. The United Nations Climate Change Conference this November-December (COP28) offers an opportunity to accelerate the energy transition, supercharge the growth of renewables, and commit to phase out all fossil fuels — starting with coal.

We can make significant contributions to decarbonisation and the global transition to a net-zero economy. We must unlock climate finance and investment, so that we can harness our potential for green economic growth. 

But to do that, we will need to fix the current international financial system, which has proven inadequate for dealing fairly with multifaceted global crises, from the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate emergency to debt distress across the Global South.

Ensuring win-win outcomes

Next month’s Summit for a New Global Financial Pact, in Paris, provides an opportunity for Europe to galvanise support for reforming the international financial system. The international community must recognise our potential to help solve global problems and take steps to ensure win-win outcomes. That means providing access to affordable, adequate, and sustainable financing that is delivered in a timely manner.

As we reduce emissions, we also need to prepare our people and our housing, agriculture, and food systems for rising temperatures and extreme weather events. Meeting the 2021 COP26 commitment to double global climate-adaptation financing by 2025 remains crucial for protecting people and nature. The latest IPCC report is clear: climate change and insufficient adaptation and mitigation efforts are reversing development gains and undermining economic stability.

But we also must remember that adaptation has limits, and that climate change is already threatening millions of peoples’ lives today. 

As the IPCC shows, reducing GHG emissions by 43% this decade and stabilising global warming at or below 1.5°C is still our best chance to keep the problem at a manageable scale.

Kenya’s climate summit in September will provide a key opportunity to showcase Africa’s commitment, potential, and opportunities to deal with the climate crisis. We need all governments to step up and agree to phase out unabated fossil-fuel use. We need reforms to make our financial institutions and systems fit for purpose. And we need to take climate action seriously. In the words of Eliud Kipchoge, the key to success is to “walk your talk.”

William Ruto is 

President of Kenya. 

Source: Project Syndicate