Environmental protection is a global problem, which affects all of humanity, but ecology as a value divides the world even more and deepens stratification. It is not enough to adopt a declaration; behind the green perestroika there are colossal financial investments, which most countries throughout the world couldn’t even consider, writes Valdai Club expert Elena Maslova.
2021 is set to be a year of climate ambitions - in November there will be a climate conference in Glasgow, which had been postponed for a year due to the pandemic, which, among other things, will summarise the first five-year period of the Paris Agreement. Shortly beforehand, within the framework of the Italian co-chairmanship in COP26, in Milan, the capital of Lombardy in Italy, a pre-summit will be held with representatives of 35-40 countries, who will exchange views informally. In addition, this year the UN Food Systems Summit will be held; it will also be preceded by a meeting in Italy, which will be held in Rome in July 2021, sponsored by the Italian government, the UN and FAO. In the European Union, food security has already become part of the green agenda and is gaining importance. One of the sections of the Green Deal, the “Farm to Fork” strategy, addresses this issue directly.
Despite the severe economic and social consequences of the pandemic and the reluctance of some countries to adopt a green agenda, the European Union does not intend to either refuse or postpone the implementation of the Green Deal. It’s choice of a green path can be considered a fait accompli - yes, the EU may not be able to achieve its ambitious goals in time (this has happened more than once), but the development paradigm itself has been chosen. We can say that the Green Deal is coming to replace the pan-European strategy “Europe 2020” as a new strategy for EU growth. The EU has long stepped onto the tracks of sustainable development, but also decarbonisation; In what form this will be carried out and what tools will be chosen - this is the subject of discussion, but there is no doubt about the confidence and firmness of the desire to follow the green imperative.
The Biden administration has initiated the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. The new US president is not only returning the country to the Paris Agreement, involvement in the climate race is being built into its overall agenda. At the same time, the rhetoric of the new administration on the issue of ecology can be called alarmist (and the reaction is reactive, like the whole “Building Back Better” strategy in general). In its official discourse, the United States uses the phrase “climate crisis”. “The United States seeks to engage all countries to explore areas for cooperation on addressing the climate crisis” - says the official report, where the word crisis is repeated. Such crisis rhetoric is more resonant with environmental organisations and eco-activists; The European Union is behaving with more emotional restraint in promoting the concept of “climate action” and “adaptation to climate change”. It can be said that in 2019 “climate emergency” was a popular buzz phrase, and the European Parliament even approved a resolution declaring a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and the world. However, in official EU documents it adheres to a more restrained rhetoric ( but no less ambitious goals).
EU and member states' leaders have generally responded positively to the US Summit initiative, saying that both Atlantic coasts will now be united, among other things, by the shared goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Europe hopes that the United States will announce a comparable target emissions indicator for the period up to 2030 as its new national contribution under the Paris Agreement.
However, the US and EU will face different challenges in moving towards the goal of neutrality in terms of emissions. While the European Union must import a significant share (about half) of its energy resources, the United States has begun to export more energy resources than it imports. The theme uniting the Atlantic will not be just decarbonisation and sustainability, but job creation and social justice. This systemic transformation will be accompanied by a change in patterns - how and what is produced and consumed. The environmental imperative will also form the basis of trade policy with other countries.
The US administration announced that 40 leaders will be invited to participate in the Summit, and the event itself is aimed at accelerating action to overcome the climate crisis, including emissions reduction, financing, innovation and job creation, as well as resilience and adaptation. Leaders of the largest economies, responsible for 80% of global emissions, as well as countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change or demonstrate strong climate leadership, have been invited, the White House said. However, to be fair, not all “ardent polluters” are invited to participate - there are no Iranian and Brazilian leaders among the invitees (hardly due to environmental considerations).
In his invitation, Joe Biden urged leaders to use the Summit as an opportunity to outline how their countries will contribute to strengthening climate ambitions. There are few other official details, in particular, it is not clear whether a common document (declaration) is to be adopted following the meeting. At the same time, Washington positions the Leaders' Summit as an important milestone in the fight against climate change.
At the very least, the United States intends to present its green strategy. In this, the Leaders’ Climate Summit can be seen as a global presentation of the climate ambitions of the United States itself. This is not a preliminary meeting of the Conference of the Parties - as already stated, the “real” COP26 pre-summit will take place in Milan in autumn.
Washington itself needs such an event most of all, not the UN, which oversees the climate conference. All this suggests that the United States has entered the climate race. On the one hand, with the arrival of the new American administration, the transatlantic bond is strengthening, on the other, we see how the United States is forming a parallel (its own) agenda - the climate crisis - trying, in fact, to seize the initiative. It is possible that in the near future the world will face not only a greater politicisation of ecology (this has already happened), but also a competition between agendas, specifically European and American ones.
Environmental protection and adherence to the ecological paradigm of development is becoming one of the values that already form the basis of the conditionality principle in relations with third countries. Environmental policy is becoming part of foreign policy. Before our eyes, the so-called Climate Coalition is being formed - these are countries that have officially declared their pursuit of climate neutrality by the middle or second half of the 21st century. Some countries preferred to consolidate their intentions legally, and others - at the level of political declarations or statements, where some presented a green transition plan. Russia has so far refrained from such ambitious goals. At the same time, this Climate Coalition includes both developed and developing countries (for example, the Maldives). The latter adhere to the coalition and say: "yes, we want carbon neutrality, but we can only achieve it with the help of the West." For developing countries, the green transformation offers a good opportunity to receive additional financing and investment.
Environmental protection is a global problem, which affects all of humanity, but ecology as a value divides the world even more and deepens stratification. It is not enough to adopt a declaration; behind the green perestroika there are colossal financial investments, which most countries throughout the world couldn’t even consider. On the one hand, the West postulates the thesis that ecology has no national borders, on the other hand, in the medium term, this will mean the transfer of dirty industries to third countries that have not joined the so-called Climate Coalition.