By Imane Rachidi
The Hague, Jan 25 (efe-epa).- With the return of the United States to the world fight against climate change, several world leaders committed themselves on Monday to work to adapt their economies to a changing climate and emphasized the need to include and help less developed countries who are the “hardest hit” by the effects of global warming.
The commitments were made within the first few hours of the virtual Climate Adaptation Summit, being organized on Monday by The Netherlands over the next 24 hours to galvanize the world to take more “urgent” action and provide more funding to adapt economies and vulnerable communities to the effects of climate change.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized that the Covid-19 pandemic “reminds us that we cannot allow ourselves to ignore known risks and climate disruption is a threat of which we are well aware, because the scientists never have been more clear: We’re facing a climate emergency and we’re already witnesses” to its consequences.
John Kerry, the US envoy to summit, said: “We’re proud to be back (in the Paris climate accord). We come back, I want you to know, with humility, for the absence of the last four years, and we’ll do everything in our power to make up for it,” adding that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the world’s “moral obligation” to future generations and to the planet itself.
“We’ve reached the point where it is an absolute fact that it’s cheaper to invest in preventing damage, or minimizing it at least, than cleaning up,” Kerry said.
He apologized for the US absence from the fight against climate change over the past four years, after former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Paris climate accord, and said that the US is spending significant sums each year just cleaning up damage from storms resulting from warmer temperatures.
Kerry said that the US now has a president who governs and tells the truth, and who is affected by the problem of global climate change. President Joe Biden, he said, is aware that an unprecedented mobilization must be undertaken to deal with this rapidly accelerating challenge, knowing that the world has only a limited time within which to get the issue under control.
The former US senator, presidential candidate and secretary of state said that the US intends to make “significant” investments in climate activities, both on the national level and as part of the efforts to rebuild after the Covid-19 crisis as well as on the international level to fulfill its commitment to finance dealing with the problem.
Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that adapting to climate change is “a question of survival” for his country, where a large part of the national territory lies below sea level and has been reclaimed from the ocean, adding that continuing along the current course is “not an option,” and investing in practical solutions is the “correct and intelligent” course to follow.
He said that it makes sense to place adapting to changing conditions at the center of any response to the Covid-19 crisis, since the economic recovery will be more robust and effective if climate adaptation is incorporated into the policies implemented during and after the pandemic.
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera called for “climate change skeptics” to believe in the “scientific evidence, which is overwhelming,” and warned that the problem “is not a question of opinion, ideology or faith, but rather a question of facts and science” and constitutes a global threat.
Meanwhile, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez demanded “a greater commitment” from rich countries to dealing with the problem and its consequences, and he asked them to put at the disposal of less developed countries more “technical and financial resources” for adapting to global warming.
The director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, hailed the US return to the Paris accord, calling it a “critical” step toward success and asking for more “green” efforts to be undertaken and carbon prices to rise since that has already shown itself to “reduce the emission” of greenhouse gases.
The conference also featured an address by Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, who warned that with all the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, climate change will be much worse if the world does not work to reduce emissions before 2050, something that will only be possible, he said, if climate risks are integrated fully into post-pandemic climate and economic recovery plans.