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Climate Change: Ratification of the Paris Agreement by China and the US

Finally, some good news on the fight against climate change. The world’s two biggest economies and also the two biggest polluters, China and the US have applied to ratify the Paris Agreement. This means that they have now agreed to pursue emissions cutting measures by 2030.


Malaysia has pledged to cut our emissions level by 35% + 10% but has yet to ratify the Paris Agreement. In view of the move by China and US, I now urge the Malaysian government to ratify the same immediately.


This journey has been so long in the making. You think that the human race would have acted faster on the issue of our own survival on earth. Nope, we have neo-liberal corporate greed to thank for the 24 years of delay, as the Earth lurched surely into global warming and climate change.


The issue of climate change started when I was a university student in the late 1980s. I did a course on international law at Warwick University and back then the legal framework for climate issues were just being developed. There was also a surge of green movement then, with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth inspiring my generation to act. It also started a green and recycling fad. I bought recycled paper, ate organic and went on to work weekends at organic farms.


The green movement led to the 1992 Rio Summit; there was a lot of hope then that we were going to “save the world”. But it took another 5 years to get the developed countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Kyoto imposed legally binding emission targets for developed countries and greenhouse gas reduction started in earnest. However, the problem was to get the Americans (who were then and for the longest time the world’s biggest polluter) to sign on. Bill Clinton, George Bush and Obama (until yesterday) refused to commit to any legally binding targets. As a super power, the US can do as it likes.


In the 24 years since the Rio Summit, China went through an incredible economic transformation and emerged as the “factory of the world” hence biggest polluter in recent years. At the moment, China is responsible for 20% of the global greenhouse gas emission compared to America’s 18%. Yesterday, China applied to ratify the Paris Agreement, this move was followed hours later by the US.


This matter is now a sort of super power race to met the Paris Agreement’s legally binding targets. China is poised to roll out a new generation of electric cars and force it upon their consumers. They are also starting to invest in green technology for their factories. The question is will the Americans do the same for their factories or will they continue to export jobs out of America? Will the Americans abandon their gas guzzling muscle cars?


While these super powers ponder these issues, 2015 was officially confirmed as the hottest year ever since records were kept in 1850 (yup, hottest in at least 166 years). Now there is talk that 2016 may smash that 2015 record.