2015 Goals and Decisions
In December 2015, leaders from 195 countries in the world met in Paris to form The Paris Agreement. The goal of this agreement was to work together as nations to limit greenhouse gas emissions and bring global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius” compared to above pre-industrial levels, with an underlying goal of limiting the increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It was also agreed that countries should report their progress regularly according to a standardized protocol, and their leaders to meet every 5 years to assess the collective progress.
Which actions have been taken since the goals have been set? How have nations been dealing with the increasing effects of climate change?
Where do we Stand 5 Years Later?
According to many newspaper reports, not enough has happened since 2015. The lack of actions led temperatures to rise by more than 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels in the past 5 years. Consequences of such increase have been felt around the world with intense floods, wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes. In 2018, carbon emissions went up by 2.7% driven by oil consumption, a major setback from the goals of 2015. With such disappointing progress on emissions, many nations such as France, Germany, China, Japan, and others, have vowed to double the efforts and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Has Anything Changed?
- First, there is hope for a positive change on the financial side. Investors are putting more money into clean technology and renewable energies such as solar and wind. According to Fast Company, solar and wind made up 72% of all new electricity capacity added in 2019.
- South Korea has demonstrated a good example of such a shift in investment. Since its economic crisis in 2009, South Korea has been continuously investing in green measures.
- Additionally, the cost of solar energy dropped 90% between 2010 and 2019, according to the World Resource Institute (WRI). This helped drive up investments in renewable energy.
- India intends to cut emissions intensity by 33% below 2005 levels, as well as generating 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuels resources by 2030.
- Joe Biden also intends for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Agreement, and the UK commits to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.
- These commitments are mostly led by big companies reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. For example, Nike is committed to transitioning to 100% renewable energy in order to cut their emissions, as well as over 1,000 other companies!
Cities around the world are also playing a major role in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Many are improving their urban life and moving toward green solutions:
- In Shenzhen, China, the number of electric buses has tripled since 2015, and the city became the first in the world to switch the entirety of its buses to electric.
- The city of Medellín in Colombia installed an aerial tram system to facilitate access to services in the city center, for low-income communities.
- In Paris, the mayor created a “15-minute city” plan in order to reduce residents’ daily time in transportation, and thus pollution. This plan allows residents to meet all their needs within 15 minutes of traveling from home, explains the WRI.
These examples are showing that it is possible for urban areas to reduce emissions and develop green measures. But will these commitments be enough to keep temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius?
If decisions have been taken too slowly since 2015, it seems that more actions are being taken in sight of the Paris Agreement’s 2021 conference. The world needs to accelerate its efforts to come up with more positive outcomes by the next meeting. With the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw that change can happen quickly when a threat is taken seriously. We are more resilient than we think and we are able to compromise when our civilization is at risk. And what bigger risk is our civilization (our entire world, really) facing than Climate Change? There is still hope for nations to achieve their goals, through transformational change and commitment to increase resilience. Change will only happen if all sectors and cities work together and if all nations commit to their goals on time.