Economic Watch: Boao forum stresses urgency of global response to climate crisis

BOAO, Hainan, (Xinhua) – Since human society’s recognition of the climate change issue in the early 1990s, marked by the coming into force of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994, nations around the world have now arrived at a crucial moment that demands concrete action on the climate before it is too late.

It is this sense of urgency that international climate change negotiators, enterprises, bankers and scientists have stressed during the ongoing Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2024 in Boao, southern China’s Hainan Province. During a panel discussion that drew a house full of delegates and journalists at the Boao Conference Center on Wednesday, China’s Special Envoy for Climate Change Liu Zhenmin said that now is the time for every country and every individual around the globe to take action to realize the goals of carbon neutrality and energy transition.

Speakers attending the panel discussion, themed “Accelerating Climate Action,” however, pointed out that financing remains one of the major challenges in the response to global warming. Liu said that developing countries are under great pressure to obtain the funds needed to cope with climate change, and he urged developed nations to take further steps to help meet the financing needs of developing nations because climate change response is not practiced by just a few countries, but by all nations. “In addition to funding, the bigger challenge is how to invent better technologies through innovation. Humanity’s response to climate change depends on the development of technology,” Liu said, adding that the current technology is inadequate to ensure the world achieves carbon neutrality by the middle of this century. For example, many countries are engaged in hydrogen energy, but this energy technology is immature and the cost remains high.

Meanwhile, the safety issues have not yet been resolved, Liu argued. “Perhaps new technologies need to be developed. Therefore, we encourage governments, entrepreneurs and scientists from all over the world to increase the development and improvement of new energy technologies,” he said. “From a global perspective, it will be easier for humans to deal with climate change only when both the technical and financial issues are solved.” Wednesday’s climate-focused discussion drew enterprises from various fields, including the pharmaceutical industry, highlighting the heightened common concerns of all parties on climate change. Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, said that it is a misconception that climate change will only make an impact on people’s lives in 30 to 40 years’ time.

In fact, the impact is already quite obvious, because an estimated 12 million people die each year due to environment-related risks, he said. While the company’s market value has grown exponentially over the past six years, its global carbon emissions have decreased by 60 percent and its China operations saw a reduction of 80 percent in carbon emissions, the executive said. “Climate change is affecting all of us, all around the world, and we must transition to a green energy future,” said Dino Otranto, chief executive officer of Fortescue Metals Group. He revealed during the discussion that the company has set the ambitious goal of shifting operations to net-zero emissions by 2030, while expressing the firm’s interest in working with Chinese partners on going low-carbon.

According to the Chinese government work report delivered earlier this month, China’s installed renewable energy capacity surpassed its thermal power capacity for the first time in history in 2023, and the country accounted for over half of the newly installed renewable energy capacity worldwide.

Meanwhile, as one of the government’s major work tasks for 2024, the country will continue to enhance ecological conservation and promote green and low-carbon development. Commenting on a rising trend of “decoupling” that threatens global cooperation and progress on fighting against climate change, Liu Zhenmin said that, while technology and funding are important, what is even more important is effective cooperation between nations, because it is the foundation for dealing with global climate challenge. “If Western nations ‘decouple’ from China’s clean energy products, the cost of renewable energy around the world may surge 20 percent,” Liu said. “So, funding, technology and cooperation among nations are what I believe to be the three basic elements in realizing carbon neutrality and dealing with climate change.”

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