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COP27 meetings in Egypt will start on November 6, but the global conference with its first meeting in 1995 is yet to represent a platform where countries and companies give climate change the immense importance it requires.

With strong roots of the on-going Covid pandemic and its previous limited outbreaks from time to time since the early years of the current century in climate change, and the missing level of public health sector preparedness even in developed countries and the fast-unfolding climate change are the factors that require COP27 to usher in an era of emergency for dealing with climate change crisis.

For instance, given the lacklustre performance of the summit in terms of setting a mission-oriented, purpose-driven agenda, both in terms of net-zero commitments, and arranging the finances and institutional frameworks around it, world renowned climate activist, Greta Thunberg, reportedly declined to attend COP27 meetings.

A recent Guardian published article ‘Greta Thunberg to skip “greenwashing” Cop27 climate summit in Egypt’ pointed out in this regard: ‘Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she will skip next month’s Cop27 talks in Egypt, criticising the global summit as a forum for “greenwashing”.’

When the Kennedy Government wanted to take up the mission to the moon, as noted economist, Mariana Mazzucato pointed out in her book, ‘Mission economy: a moonshot guide to changing capitalism’, a concerted effort was made at a multi-sectoral, risk-taking, and challenging manner, for which the capacity of public sector was enhanced to have a symbiotic relationship between public and private sectors.

She indicated in the book in this regard: ‘The way the government led the Apollo programme could hardly differ more from conventional thinking about the role of government in the economy, which leaves us ill equipped to tackle greatest challenges of our time. …It did so with a sense of urgency, with a clear and ambitious objective to accomplish the truly extraordinary: putting a moon on the moon and bringing him back safely to a firm and very tight deadline.’

The rich, advanced countries represented mainly by the G7 or the G20, and the global South or the developing countries, for instance, represented by the G77 at the United Nations, should need to come together.

The Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and together with other related organizations, and companies, all need to join in.

With climate change crisis, hastened sharply by the neoliberal assault over the last four decades or so, and the consequences of sharp increase in inequality, and diminishing influence of large-scale political voice on public policy, that the ascent of Neoliberalism has perpetuated during this time calls for such mission-oriented approach to tackling climate change crisis.

Hence, just like the important role played by the Bretton Woods meetings after the second World War II to lay out a system for bringing order to global economy and finance, and the significance of the Marshall Plan in providing funds to war-torn countries in Western Europe, a green global institutional arrangement needs to be put in place with an ambition of the Kennedy’s moon reaching mission. This is how little time the world has to avoid surpassing 1.5 degrees centigrade average global temperature, beyond which the impacts of climate change will be irreversible.

Within this whole mission approach to tackle climate change crisis in a holistic, purpose-driven, and timely global manner, the important role of providing needed financial support to developing countries by rich countries is indeed important. An April 2020 report ‘A green Marshall Plan: America’s global climate pact’, for instance, pointed out the need for the US to usher in a green Marshall Plan.

According to this report, ‘The climate crisis presents an unprecedented global challenge. For many countries around the world, embarking on a clean energy transition and improving climate resilience remain, at best, a long-term goal amid a sea of immediate concerns such as poverty, terrorism, and the economy. …Financing barriers and competing concerns stymie action. …The United States can uniquely provide leadership on the climate crisis by taking inspiration from and building on the Marshall Plan, the last time American development assistance reshaped the global economy.’

Another article ‘A Marshall Plan for the Planet’ published by Project Syndicate (PS) in December 2020, highlighted in this regard the following: ‘In a year dominated by COVID-19, it’s perhaps understandable that we’ve neglected the most profound, existential crisis we face: runaway climate change. But we must quickly make up for lost time, before it’s too late. …the European Union is pressing ahead with its ambitious European Green Deal and aims to be climate neutral by 2050. …Energy efficiency and diversification, sustainable infrastructure and housing, renewable power generation, green technologies, carbon capture and storage, and nature-based solutions all provide a clear pathway to a net-zero future. This is the “Marshall Plan for the Planet” we urgently need, and we must now double down on achieving a true green recovery.’

The upcoming COP27 meetings in Egypt should be that platform where a global mission-oriented approach is designed, along with a matching financial plan, and an effective binding mechanism for developed countries, for instance, to deliver on their climate pledges, and for multilateral institutions like the IMF to shift away from neoliberal, and austerity policy mindset, for the World Bank to make much more climate-conscious investment, and for the WTO to show appropriate restraint on its intellectual property rights (IPRs) protections.

Having said that in such a plan there is no space for lingering on with the Washington Consensus, neoliberal, austerity, and one-size-fits-all kind of policy thinking.

A framework of technical, and financial cooperation, through dedicated institutional arrangement at the global, and individual country-level needs to be put in place, with well-defined and appropriately paced steps tasked accordingly for multilateral institutions, countries, and cooperations, in an overall non-neoliberal policy emphasis needs to be put in place.

The current global, and country-level, institutional and financial arrangements can only scratch the surface of the climate change crisis at best. Neoliberal, austerity, and procyclical policy thinking is not working, and in fact making the matters worse.

Market signals dominating corporate and government policy for short-term gains, under the guidance of Neoliberalism thinking that market knows best, has only exacerbated the climate change crisis, diminished the capacity of governments to be more resilient and less vulnerable as the climate- and related pandemic crisis unfolded; not to mention weak supply-chains, and unpredictable energy reliance.

For instance, a recent Guardian published article ‘Two-thirds of US money for fossil fuel pours into Africa despite climate goals’ pointed out in this regard the following: ‘The US government has funnelled more than $9bn (£7.7bn) into oil and gas projects in Africa since it signed up to restrain global heating in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a tally of official data shows, committing just $682m (£587m) to clean energy developments such as wind and solar over the same period.’

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Dr Omer Javed

The writer holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Barcelona. He previously worked at the International Monetary Fund. He tweets @omerjaved7

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