Opinion| Is carbon pricing the best answer to the climate change crisis?

Marwa El- Shinawy
6 Min Read

A few days ago, the United Nations Climate Change Summit began in Glasgow, with the participation of 190 countries, including Egypt. The conference is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The importance of this year’s summit is because it is the first summit to review the extent of the progress we have made, or the extent of the failure, in achieving the required goals since the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

This agreement, also known as the Paris Agreement, is essentially a plan for the future to avert a climate catastrophe that threatens humanity. It acknowledges that if the Earth’s temperature rose by 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial temperature, many of the changes that occurred to the planet would become permanent and irreversible. And this agreement, like any plan, must be adhered to for it to succeed, which is why this year’s conference was so important.

Marwa El-Shinawy
Dr Marwa El-Shinawy

It is worth noting that at the Paris gathering the main goals were set for everyone to avoid catastrophic climate change, and all signatories pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase renewable energy production, and keep the global temperature rising to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) with He set a goal of 1.5°C (2.7°F), and injected billions of dollars into helping poor countries suffering from the impact of climate change. Thereafter, it was agreed that a review of progress would be conducted every five years. The first review of the COP was scheduled for 2020, but due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, it has been postponed to 2021.

In this context, the Glasgow Climate Summit aims to establish an agreed international path to controlling climate change. The potential impacts of the expected climate change are food shortages, hot weather waves, storms, and rising water levels. For this reason, this summit is considered the most important in terms of obligating countries with different orientations and positions around the world to take measures to limit global warming, as there is an expectation that temperatures around the world may rise by three degrees, and the burning of fossil fuels will be a major source of these emissions. These dire predictions call for an end to coal use and a switch to electric vehicles while investing in renewable energy.

So far, many proposals have been put forward to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, the most important proposal of all was the pricing of carbon emissions as a way to begin solving the challenge of climate change. This is because imposing a global carbon tax would be a strong signal to the private sector to increase its investment in solutions that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for a global carbon tax that would cover at least 65% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. He explained that only 20% of greenhouse gases in the world are currently subject to a carbon tax, stressing that he calls on all world leaders to triple pollution prices and ensure that 60% of greenhouse gas emissions are targeted with a carbon pricing system.

Similarly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized that carbon pricing is an effective way to protect the climate during the conference. Merkel saw carbon pricing as a pivotal way to obtain private capital for climate protection and said: “Once carbon dioxide has a price, private investors will be able to know where to invest technically.” Merkel added that it was important not only to use tax money to fight global warming but also to use “means that make economic sense and that for me is carbon pricing.”

In fact, many countries strongly encourage global carbon pricing as an effective way to tackle climate change. However, many environmentalists fear that rich countries will get used to paying only for a “pollution permit” rather than making real change, especially since the proposed prices are too low. Many fear that carbon pricing will only increase the cost of goods and services, especially steel and cement, and not serve the intended purpose of combating climate change.

Despite the seriousness of the matter and the difficulty of the task entrusted to this conference, this summit certainly represented an opportunity for Egypt to present issues of interest to developing countries in general and African countries in particular, especially concerning strengthening efforts to advance international climate action, as well as to emphasize the aspiration of Egypt to host the next session of the Climate Change Summit next year 2022.

Dr Marwa El-Shinawy is an Assistant Professor at International American University for Specialized Studies (IAUS).

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