The ability of the U.S. and China to effectively turn their economies away from fossil fuels is key to halting global warming, creating a global market for clean technologies, and stimulating the share of other major emitters such as India, Indonesia, Russia, and Brazil.
Inger Andersen, head of the United Nations Environment Program, who published the annual emissions gap report, urged world leaders to invest in their post-Covid recovery funds, saying “a green pandemic recovery could take a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions and help climate change. “
The report proposes, among other things, a reduction in support for fossil fuels, although not its abolition, a halt to the construction of new coal-fired power plants and the restoration of degraded forests.
Andrew Steer, chairman of the World Resources Institute’s research and advocacy group, called the trillions of dollars in the post-pandemic economic recovery “the greatest opportunity in history”.
“If we put this into yesterday’s economy,” he told reporters in a Wednesday call, “frankly, we’re basically committing a deadly sin for our grandchildren. “
But as the latest United Nations report makes clear, we are not all the same, and we do not all have to do the same to protect future generations.
The richest 1 percent of the world’s population emits more than twice as much as the combined proportion of the world’s poorest 50 percent. According to the report, polluting rich should reduce their emissions footprint by 30 times to prevent the worst damage to the warming planet. This can be done, the report adds, by reducing food waste, making buildings more energy efficient and using public transport instead of cars, trains rather than planes, for short distances.
“The rich have the greatest responsibility,” the report said.