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Green foundation urged for recovery

By PRIME SARMIENTO in Hong Kong | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-09-01 09:29
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Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar speaks during the G20 Joint Environment and Climate Ministers' Meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Aug 31, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Efforts to counter climate change must be built into plans for a global economic recovery from the pandemic, Indonesia's environment chief said in urging countries in the G20 to promote "environmental multilateralism".

Indonesia holds the 2022 presidency of the grouping, which brings together the 20 major developed and developing economies.

Indonesian Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, who chaired the Joint Environment and Climate Ministers' Meeting held on Wednesday, said environmental multilateralism "is the only mechanism where all countries, regardless of their size and wealth, stand on equal footing and equal treatment".

The meeting, being held in Bali, was expected to produce a joint agreement later on Wednesday on three priority issues: sustainable recovery, land-based and ocean-based climate action, and resource mobilization. These actions are in line with the G20 countries' commitment to reduce emissions and prevent a 1.5 C rise in global temperatures as stated in the Paris Agreement.

A joint agreement would be welcomed by environmentalists, who say recent natural disasters like the massive flooding in Pakistan and the heat waves that have gripped many regions attest to the urgent need for climate action.

"Climate change is no longer just an environmental issue but a human security issue," said Serina Abdul Rahman, a lecturer in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. She said the pandemic has shown "that the way we lived before is unsustainable in many ways".

Serina called for social justice, with industrialized countries helping developing nations to reduce emissions.

Inequity highlighted

"This is in return for the many centuries of resource extraction (and damage) in the Global South by the northern, first world nations, as well as the inequity in GHG emissions between the developed and the developing worlds," she said, referring to greenhouse gas emissions.

For Renato Redentor Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities in Manila, it is time for the G20 economies to stop measuring progress through the "sole yardstick of GDP and productivity". He said they have to "aggressively reach out" to the most vulnerable countries and move toward global decarbonization.

Helena Varkkey, associate professor at the Department of International and Strategic Studies at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, said most G20 countries are also big carbon emitters. She said the grouping can serve as a platform to devise strategies for an equitable and inclusive low-carbon transition.

"As a grouping defined by economic might, it is especially important for these economies to lead the way in redefining development and progress in terms that go beyond economic consideration," Varkkey said.

She said G20 economies can use their influence in global trade, via their huge markets and robust trade links with almost all other countries, to promote fair trade and green supply chains.

Serina said G20 leaders must acknowledge how climate change has affected local communities. Any climate policy has to include local input and knowledge and must go beyond carbon credit programs and pledges to cut emissions, the Singapore-based academic said.

Serina said climate action is "very urgent" as extreme weather events have been harming fisheries and farming communities.

"The unparalleled drought and floods across the world are clear evidence of the climatic turmoil and change that we are going through," she said. "Steps needed to be taken a century ago-but it is never too late to take action now to minimize (climate change's) impact on the poor."

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