Asia, Why On Earth Would We Leave Our Future To The G7?
By Debra Tan 15 May, 2020
With G7’s absent leadership & inability to plan for pandemics, CWR's Tan calls for Asia to step-up and lead the global fight against our climate crises
It has just occurred to me when looking at my favourite coronavirus statistics website on 12th May that the G7 accounts for 53% of the total cases globally. These seven out of the 212 countries and territories affected account for over 2.2 million cases. No wonder there is no global strike against COVID-19; they are too busy fighting their own battles with the virus.
The G7 should have had a plan …
This Group of Seven is the default go-to body that the world turns to in times of trouble. I know this is beginning to sound like a Beatles song, but I can’t just let it be. These seven are the largest IMF-advanced economies in the world – they are the ones that should have been prepared to deal with pandemics like this (plus all other bad things that happen to us globally).
I am sure I am not the only one who expected them to have a game plan for this scenario; they did not. They had gamed out scenarios which showed gaps in their preparedness years earlier but somehow did not follow recommendations to fix them. How on earth did the G7 fall so far behind? Or had they already been sleeping behind the wheel but we just didn’t notice?
The most “advanced economics” have the most dead …
Too harsh? Well let’s see … at the time of writing, the G7 accounted for almost two-thirds of the total global deaths from COVID-19 – this is an even bigger slice of the global pie than total cases. Do these so-called “advanced economies” deserve their “advanced” label? At a staggeringly horrific death count of over 184,000, their “top” health care systems are certainly questionable. Deaths in China are 4,633 but wait, we don’t believe their numbers … but South Korea’s 258, Singapore’s 21 and Hong Kong’s 4 deaths definitely put the G7’s response to shame.
OK, perhaps it is unfair to lump all the G7 countries together – after all, Germany, Canada and Japan together do only account for 11% of the G7’s total cases and a mere 7% of the group’s deaths. And of course, there are issues with the statistics, how new cases and deaths are counted, number of tests and so on. But ask yourself this – would you visit these countries now that they have relaxed their lockdown?
…If the G7 can’t cope now, how can it deal with more diseases to come thanks to climate change?
Another bad thing that is going to happen to the whole world is climate change. This pandemic is but a scratch of the climate crises ahead. If the G7 can’t cope with this, how can it deal with more diseases to come thanks to climate change?
Also, if this virus continues into hurricane season, the US will not only be dealing with a national health emergency but FEMA will likely also have to implement disaster relief. Better watch out – new research shows that the North Atlantic will be hit with a stronger hurricane season this year – 140% more active than the average season.
Failing/ no infrastructure lowers our chances of survival …
Brave and brilliant doctors and nurses can only do so much when both hard and soft infrastructure around them has not been upgraded or is simply not designed to tackle crises of this magnitude. Globally, we have not invested enough in infrastructure to adapt to climate change and weather crises ahead, from droughts, floods, heatwaves, never-ending fires to running out of water. The truth is none of us are prepared for climate change; it’s not just the G7.
Climate strategies are contradictory – planning for 1.5-2°C while heading to 3-5°C
In fact many climate strategies are contradictory. Achieving various targets under the Paris Agreement will bring us to 3-3.5°C, yet most countries have only planned adaptation for 1.5-2°C. Half a degree makes a devastating difference so such nonsensical plans are simply destined to fail.
The G7 has clearly shown that it is not good at planning ahead. Sure, they may have heard of the worst case climate scenarios and some may even have gamed out impacts from various scenarios, but they are far from dealing with it effectively. Many are banking on mitigation strategies to curb emissions to stay within 2°C; hoping that where we are actually heading – 3-5°C – will never happen.
It’s not just the G7, none of us are prepared for climate change… but will we wake up?
BTW, 3-5°C puts us squarely in the worst case climate scenario – the WEF’s Global Risks Report has ominously warned that we are “most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe.”
So will we now wake up?
Does the G7 have the stomach for tough action on climate?
Proper planning and preparations may need tough action and one that could see governments lose elections. Look what happened in France last year when Macron tried to implement a fuel tax to help curb carbon emissions. Violent protests erupted and the “yellow vest” movement was born.
Worse still, stellar efforts around the world could be wiped out as one of the world’s top emitters, the US has simply decided not to participate. I suppose we should not be surprised – shirking responsibility to actively curb emissions by pulling out of the Paris Agreement is strikingly similar to what’s happening now – no contact tracing to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Asia will bear the brunt of climate impacts … most of our capitals are by the sea – so why are we leaving it to the G7?
The chances that the G7 will beat a path out of the imminent climate crisis are low. So why are we in Asia leaving our future to the G7? Especially when we will bear the brunt of impacts through increasing water scarcity and sea level rise despite lower per capita emissions. Most of Asia’s capitals Tokyo, Seoul, Jakarta, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh to name a few are all by the sea.
Asia, it’s time to step up and lead …
Surely, we should take charge and decide what to do to save ourselves and the planet? After all, we do seem to be better at planning ahead. Already, a recent survey showed that while 71% of participants around the world agreed that climate change is as serious as COVID-19; China came out tops with 87%.
But it’s not about East vs. West. It is also not about capitalism/democracy vs. socialism/communism – there are plenty of democratic countries that have managed to fight the virus with more success. It’s about putting people first. The countries that are doing this need to step up – they need to lead the global fight against our climate crises. Yet none of these are doing a good job at the moment; they have left it to the G7.
Stop blaming the West, tycoons take responsibility …
We have to stop pinning our hopes on the G7 to lead us out of the climate crisis. Asians also need to stop blaming the West for the climate change – while the US and EU accounted for 30% of global GHG emissions between 1998-2015; China and India accounted for almost quarter. Sure, China and India have roughly 37% of global population compared to US and EU’s share of less than 10%, but Asian cities are catching up.
By 2016, per capita emissions in Hong Kong and Tokyo are 21% and 8.5% higher than that of London’s, but around 18% and 31% less than that of New York’s respectively. Shockingly, Singapore’s per capita emissions are 42% more than that of New York.
Tycoons – what’s the point of building empires that will kill your grandchildren?
Find out if your assets are at risk
We, in Asia, need to step up – not just our governments but bankers and business leaders too. Tycoons, think about it – what’s the point of building empires and amassing wealth to pass to your children and your children’s children when that process itself could be killing their future. It’s time to find out if your capital is at risk; start searching for green unicorns; and ESG prep to avoid doomsday.
It’s not about creating a new world order; it’s about getting sh!t done – actually putting realistic place plans into place to save all of us; not just talking about it. We only have one planet, let’s not kill it.
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