Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Green Equilibrium – Rebooting the world order

FOUR YEARS ago, the United States of America (US) chose a businessman to lead it. Donald J. Trump begun his presidency with an “American Carnage” phrase and just recently accomplished it. But, his carnage of the world order, especially to the environment, has left many unprepared.

On Wednesday, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the next US president and he has pledged to return the US to what it was. The big brother role played by few nations actually affects global economic performance and, in Trump’s case, denial of science.

Climate change is a natural occurrence by the environment to adapt itself to the rapid changes of both biotic and abiotic components of the environment due to human activities. The degree of climate change and its impact vary in different parts of the world.

Denouncing climate change as a hoax is stunning, especially coming from the US. What will happen to the energy policies, global collaboration to fight climate change and America’s role in it? What should we look out for in a Biden administration?

Energy policies

Biden has given a composite pledge towards energy use compared to Obama. Thus, it will be interesting to see how he will balance the push towards renewable energy (RE) as well as the thirst to rebound the fossil fuel sector in the US. We also see that the group Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (Opec+) are working towards increasing crude oil price via production cuts. The move by Opec+ will boost the US shale sector. An increase in crude oil prices will eventually cause an increase in natural gas and coal prices globally. In return, the cost of doing business during a pandemic recovery period will be bogged down by energy cost.

Will this give a chance to Biden to boost fossil fuel or mandate RE?

Global climate cooperation

The Paris Accord (an international treaty on climate change that entered into force on Nov 4 2016) has nothing tangible for the world as many nations’ leaders just pledged to do something while the “something” was left in a vague situation.

Will Biden move to further define and set limits on what everyone’s responsibility is? Will developed nations use Paris Accord and future treaties as a trade barrier for developing and under developed nations to force a climate action? What are the sacrifices that will be made by all parties to the agreement?

A real global pact to combat climate change has still a long way to go. Can Biden cement a real deal?

Technology for mitigation and adaptation

Technological solutions are vital in mitigation and adaptation of climate change impacts. Nations with technology will not carry out social service as they want to earn from every business deal.

What is Biden’s model to assist economically challenged nations to use these technologies and not burdening their annual budgets. Profiteering from a global push towards climate solutions is a real threat that will derail climate solutions. Will Biden commit to higher financial commitment to fight climate change to asst poor nations?

Global rubbish bins

A decade ago, Awer carried out research work related to energy efficiency and found a dangerous consequence when many developed nations and rich nations upgrade their products’ environmental standards. For example, when Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS) is imposed in Nation A, products below that standard (environmental performance) cannot be sold in its market. However, other nations that do not have MEPS or have lower MEPS requirement will become the dumping ground of obsolete and non-environmentally friendly products.

Malaysia was under the no MEPS category a decade ago. Awer managed to push the Energy Commission and the government towards preventing this and that is why more electrical products have MEPS and five-star ratings in Malaysia now.

What about other products that we use daily? Will developed nations and rich nations use other nations as their rubbish bin and trump around of being “sustainable” nations?

There are many real issues in a global fight to protect this planet that we live in. Will the US and Biden lead the world for a compromise to protect it or will the business groups pull strings to ensure a good profit from the environment via technology tiered cartel?

“Common sense is not so common.” – Voltaire

This article was contributed by S. Piarapakaran, president of the Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer), a non-government organisation involved in research and development in the fields of water, energy and environment.

A real global pact to combat climate change has still a long way to go.