Pascal Lamy: Chinese Leadership Needed to Protect Antarctica’s Southern Ocean
Source: Caixin .
Author: Pascal Lamy.
A year has passed since I published a piece in Caixin highlighting the opportunity for China to take leadership in 2020 on climate and biodiversity protection in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. Since then, the year did not unfold quite as planned (to put it lightly). Many of us are still in the grips of this global pandemic that has caused so much suffering all over the world and has cruelly reminded us of how at odds we may be with the natural world. Progress has been stalled on many things, including urgent environmental action, with many key meetings related to climate and nature protection either postponed or moved to a more limited online format. It has meant we have lost a year of action, when science tells us we have no time to lose regarding tackling the climate and biodiversity loss crises.
In the backdrop of all this uncertainty and upheaval, it was positive to hear that China agreed in September to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. This is a noteworthy commitment by the world’s second-largest economy and largest population, and a significant one during such economic and financial turmoil. We cannot underestimate the impact climate change and biodiversity loss are having on our planet and human well-being, as well as economically. We are maxing out our planet- with recent estimates suggesting we need 1.6 Earths to maintain our current way of life. That is why China’s commitment as a key economic power to ecological civilization, cutting their greenhouse gas emissions, as well as hosting an incredibly important biodiversity conference later this year in Kunming, South China’s Yunnan province, are major milestones in a planetary rescue plan. But this plan must also include the ocean.
Bold climate action must slash greenhouse gas emissions drastically and put in place technologies that reduce our fossil fuel addiction and ensure a more sustainable and circular economy. Action is also needed to help us adapt to and mitigate adverse climate impacts, and to recognize the key role the natural world plays to help us achieve these goals. Up until now little political attention has been given to the important role the ocean plays in regulating our weather and the climate. As a gigantic natural carbon sink, the ocean has already absorbed about a third of the additional carbon dioxide we have put into the air and 90% of the excess heat caused by increased carbon emissions. But all of this comes at a significant cost to ocean health and planetary resilience, and we must take action to safeguard our blue planet so it can continue to safeguard us.
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