The Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015 was a landmark achievement with all countries agreeing to act to save the planet from the impending disaster of global warming. But within a year, Donald Trump became the President of the USA and took America out of the Paris accord. The total commitments made under the agreement were too little to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, whereas scientists agree that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is imperative. The actual achievements till COVID-19 hit the world were meagre. The prognosis for mankind appeared to be getting bleaker by the day.
But recent developments give cause for optimism for the first time. President Joe Biden campaigned for the Presidency with climate change as a major priority; one of his top four. As President, he has brought the US back into the Paris Agreement and is providing leadership for a net carbon-neutral global economy. Within the US he is positioning this transition as one which creates jobs and would aid faster economic recovery from the severe downturn caused by the pandemic. It is a key pillar of the massive infrastructure programme which he is trying to get through Congress. He has asked his Department of Energy to work out the implementation of his campaign pledge of having a fossil fuel-free electricity system in the US by 2035.
This big change in the US comes in the wake of public opinion reaching a critical mass in the developed countries of the West. The UK and France enacted national laws in the summer of 2019 setting the goal of becoming net carbon-neutral by 2050. California enacted a law in 2018 of having a zero-carbon electricity system by 2045 and this was followed by an Executive Order of having a carbon-neutral economy by 2045. The UK decided that from 2030 sale of fossil fuel cars would not be permitted. The development of artificial islands to harness wind power in the North Sea area is becoming commercially viable. An island off the coast of Denmark is at an advanced stage of planning.
One of the first things, President Biden did internationally was to hold a summit on Climate Change with all major countries participating including China and Russia. The major developed economies announced enhanced carbon reductions goals in the short term; the US announced that it would by 2030 reduce emissions by 50 per cent over its 2005 levels and the UK by 78 per cent by 2035 over 1990 levels and Germany by 65 per cent over 1990 levels. The Group of Seven (G-7) countries have now agreed not to fund any new coal-based power plants. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said net carbon zero by 2050 requires that no new investments in fossil fuels should be undertaken. This is heartening. Reductions are not being back ended. This would make it easier for others to enhance goals. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees may just be possible.
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