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2022 will be the climate year of truth: ‘We have to show it now’

“The Netherlands did objectively too little for years and dangled at the bottom of the climate lists in Europe,” says climate scientist Maarten van Aalst of the University of Twente. Van Aalst is also director of the Climate Center of the International Red Cross and traveled to Glasgow to participate in the climate summit. He is cautiously positive, but: first see, then believe.

‘We have to show it to China and India’

2022 will be a crucial year, says Van Aalst. Not only because the changing climate is increasingly giving us a twist, but also to really show less prosperous countries that it is serious. For too long and too often, rich Western countries have said they would take action, too often they didn’t.

And so, at the end of the following year, another moment of consultation has been agreed. A kind of interim check whether we turn words into actions. “We have to show poorer countries, including China and India, that it is possible to achieve the climate goals, and that it does not make things worse, but that it actually offers opportunities. Emissions in those countries are still growing significantly.”

Dot on the horizon

Sounds unrealistic? Not too bad, assures Van Aalst. Van Aalst bases this statement on the cash flows. “Shell used to be the most reliable company to buy shares from, now there are large parties such as the ABP pension fund that are withdrawing and looking for other goals. The new coalition agreement also contains very ambitious objectives. That makes me feel positive.”

Curious about what the coalition agreement contains in the field of climate? You can see that in the video below:

Countries such as China and India must therefore be convinced in 2022 that sustainability is the only way to guarantee a bright future for children and grandchildren. Because tackling the climate problem can only be done with all countries at the same time and with many different types of activities. Also in rich countries like the US and in the EU, and also in countries like Indonesia and fast-growing economies in Africa. There is no ‘silver bullet’, as Van Aalst puts it.

There is already some progress in China and India. “Those countries have already taken steps. China’s goal is to be CO2 neutral by 2060. In Glasgow, India has now set that goal for 2070. That was the first time, that dot on the horizon is important.”

Showing ambition is contagious

But it’s not just hosanna. China and India had the text of the ambition in the field of coal-fired power stations adjusted during the stoppage time of the climate summit. Instead of ‘abolishing’ coal, they eventually signed for ‘scaling down’. A bitter pill for many present.

Van Aalst does not find it surprising that these countries are not leading the way in the climate battle. We may be doing more in the EU, but we are also a lot richer, certainly than India. We want to be CO2 neutral by 2050, China in 2060, India in 2070. “It makes sense that you get that order when you look at prosperity. But if we show ambition and show how it should be done and what it yields, it might be a little faster for them too.”

And that will have to be done if we want to achieve the target of -1.5 degrees warming – from the agreement in Paris. To achieve this, the entire world must be CO2-neutral by 2050. Van Aalst: “That is only possible if countries like the Netherlands achieve this much sooner. And that requires a very rapid turnaround in the coming years.”

‘It’s not about a polar bear anymore’

But 2022 will not only be important to convince other countries. We ourselves face major challenges. Just look at the deadly heat waves of recent years, or at the floods in Germany, Belgium and Limburg this summer.

We might have prevented them if we had acted much sooner, but we didn’t. Van Aalst: “The climate problem is no longer about a polar bear and whether it will still have a house in decades. It is about now, about us. Although poorer countries such as Bangladesh still receive the hardest blows, everyone is now being affected by more severe disasters. In Germany and Belgium, more than 200 people died because of all that water.”

So it is no longer just a matter of preventing further global warming, but also dealing with day-to-day affairs. What should we do now? “We are now constantly surprised and confronted with the consequences of climate extremes. We have to think about our water systems, about the way we deal with heat and drought.”

And that’s just the beginning. There is plenty to do, but Van Aalst remains optimistic, especially after reading the coalition agreement. Much greener, much better than it was. “We will really notice something of that next year,” says Van Aalst. For example, taxes will be raised on CO2 emissions and preparations are being made for electric driving. “Steps are being taken on various fronts. So it will also be the year of truth on various fronts.”

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