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

G7 has over half of global COVID-19 cases but two-thirds of global deaths; As the default go-to in times of trouble, they should have had a game plan for this scenario; they did not
None of us are ready for climate change; Failing or no infrastructure lowers our chances of survival; also whatever plans we have are contradictory – adaptations plans for 1.5-2°C but heading to 3-5°C
Asia will feel the pain of climate impacts so step up and take responsibility – continue to put people first and plan ahead; Tycoons - what’s the point of building empires that will kill your grandchildren?

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.

Further Reading

  • Metamorphosis! Hard Truths & Unicorns – With blanket disruption globally, we are forced to rethink our future. The pandemic has presented us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to morph toward business unusual, but can we take advantage? CWR’s Debra Tan ponders
  • 5 Trends For The Year Of The Rat – Will the rat bring more outbreaks or will we get sunk like a drowned rat by water and climate risks? Or can we stay ahead with our wits and cunning to win the rat race? Find out what the lunar new year has in store for us in our 5 trends
  • Fast Fashion’s COVID Death & Virtual Revival? – Fast fashion is dying – from broken supply chains and no demand thanks to WFH. CWR’s Dawn McGregor and Debra Tan reimagine fashion’s future – a virtual real
  • COVID & Climate – Make Money Or Save Lives? – Governments are prioritising lives over money but with pressure to re-open the economy, can we use lessons learnt from COVID-19 to prepare for the climate crisis? CWR’s Ronald Leung explores the future of aviation and low oil prices

More on Latest

  • Capital Threats Remain Post COVID – There is no vaccine for climate & water risks, yet some in the financial sector are still burying their heads. CWR’s Dharisho Mirando reminds us how our capital is at risk & steps we can take to reduce them while going green
  • The Future Of Finance – HKGFA’s Dr. Ma Jun believes in post-COVID times, investors & bankers should expect more emphasis on environmental disclosure by regulators, which will pave the way for higher quality green finance products
  • ESG Doomsday Preppers – Many laughed at Doomsday preppers but who is laughing now as companies integrating ESG outperform during the crisis? ADMCF’s Alison Lee explores why this is & the future direction
  • Top 10 Responsible Investment Trends In China In 2020 – With their finger on the pulse, SynTao Green Finance runs through 10 key trends on responsible investing in China in 2020
  • 8 Risks You Missed During COVID-19 – Been focused on COVID-19? You are not alone but we can’t get distracted from the climate crisis. Catch-up with CWR’s Chien Tat Low who runs through 8 latest climate & water risks
Debra Tan
Author: Debra Tan
Debra heads the CWR team and has steered the CWR brand from idea to a leader in the water risk conversation globally. Reports she has written for and with financial institutions analyzing the impact of water risks on the Power, Mining, Agricultural and Textiles industries have been considered groundbreaking and instrumental in understanding not just China’s but future global water challenges. One of these led the fashion industry to nominate CWR as a finalist for the Global Leadership Awards in Sustainable Apparel; another is helping to build consensus toward water risk valuation. Debra is a prolific speaker on water risk delivering keynotes, participating in panel discussions at water prize seminars, numerous investor & industry conferences as well as G2G and academic forums. Before venturing into “water”, she worked in finance, spending over a decade as a chartered accountant and investment banker specializing in M&A and strategic advisory. Debra left banking to pursue her interest in photography and also ran and organized philanthropic and luxury holidays for a small but global private members travel network She has lived and worked in Beijing, HK, KL, London, New York and Singapore and spends her spare time exploring glaciers in Asia.
Read more from Debra Tan →