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2024 is the year of the election, with the majority of the globe’s democracies casting their vote for how they see the future of their respective countries.

That means that once again, everything is up for grabs when it comes to national agendas. Of course, as always the driving force behind people’s decisions will be dominated by domestic issues such as the economy and its equity, housing or healthcare. But we must not lose sight of the impact of another issue that has become part of the daily discourse – the impact of climate change on the domestic issues previously mentioned. What must be considered is that the pathway to net zero – which is an issue for no one nation alone, but rather an important global objective will undoubtedly affect every single individual on the planet in one way or another.

Achieving global net zero emissions by mid-century is an urgent and monumental task, demanding unprecedented levels of international cooperation and national commitment. The stakes could not be higher, as the future of our planet depends on our collective ability to mitigate climate change effectively.

The pathway to net zero, however, is fraught with challenges, from geopolitical tensions to varying national priorities. Yet, the necessity of global collaboration remains paramount.

The Imperative for Collective Action

Climate change is a quintessentially global issue; greenhouse gases emitted anywhere affect the climate everywhere. No single nation, regardless of its power or wealth, can address the climate crisis alone.

International cooperation ensures the sharing of technology, knowledge, and resources, enabling all countries to contribute effectively to emission reductions. It facilitates the creation of unified standards and frameworks, such as those established under the Paris Agreement, which aim to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees.

Everyone Benefits

When nations work together on climate issues, everyone wins.

Wealthier nations possess advanced technologies and greater financial resources that can significantly aid poorer nations in their transition to low-carbon economies. International partnerships can facilitate the transfer of renewable energy technologies and support capacity-building initiatives.

Global cooperation can lead to joint investments into creating green jobs and sustainable industries, driving clean economic growth. Harmonised policies across nations can also crucially prevent “carbon leakage”, where emissions-intensive industries relocate to countries with less stringent regulations.

In May, it was pleasing to see the US and China agreeing to “intensify” their cooperation on replacing coal with clean energy solutions. Yet only a week later, we saw new US tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, which strengthened national labor agendas, but most likely negatively impacted the potential for rapid decarbonization of the transportation sector.

The episode encapsulated some of the barriers to cooperation we’re seeing across the planet.

Obstacles to Global Cooperation

The US-China relationship exemplifies how geopolitical rivalries can hinder climate action. As the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, their cooperation is crucial. However, political disputes like this one, as well as trade wars, can stall joint efforts, leading to fragmented approaches rather than unified strategies.

This is not to say some of these issues are not without cause. Cooperation on green issues is only a part of the global give and take involved in foreign trade and diplomacy, but it needs to remain a forethought in our actions.

Equally, we’re still yet to square away the issue of inequitable burden sharing. Developing nations argue that they should not bear the same burden as developed nations, given the latter’s historical responsibility for the majority of emissions. Some also argue that their economies are reliant on fossil fuels as unlike fully industrialised nations, they do not have access to the technological and financial resources to invest into renewable energy sources.

We need to work together to find fair solutions to bring these nations along with Western economies, particularly as global economic growth is driven more from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America in the years to come.

Moving Forward

To overcome these challenges, nations must reaffirm their commitments to multilateralism and strengthen international institutions designed to tackle climate change. Diplomatic efforts should focus on building trust and finding common ground, even amid broader geopolitical disputes. Innovations in climate finance and technology sharing should be prioritised to ensure no country is left behind.

COP29 will be hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan this year and has the potential to drive forward significant change. This COP has already been dubbed the ‘financial COP’ due the need for new funding agreements to help deliver the goal of limiting the planet warming by 1.5C, as well as new financial pledges on adaptation, loss and damage of the planet’s ecosystem.

Ultimately, the path to global net zero is a shared journey. Success hinges on our ability to act collectively, transcending borders and politics, united by the common goal of safeguarding our planet for future generations. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that we rise above our differences and work together with unprecedented determination and solidarity.