We have a problem. Earth is getting warmer. 2019 was the second hottest year on record at 1.15 degrees Celsius above the planet’s pre-industrial average. While the temperature change might seem small to most people, it takes one small increase in global temperature to have a great impact on living beings and ecosystems on earth.
Look at the recent wildfires in California. According to the state’s official homepage: “The fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year due to climate change.” Just this year alone, there have been more than 9,000 wildfires in the state which have caused 31 fatalities, damaged and destroyed 10,488 structures, and burned almost 4.2 million acres of land.
Recently, the Philippines was devastated by two consecutive typhoons. Super typhoon Goni was the most powerful storm to hit the world this 2020. It affected more than 68 million people, of whom 2.3 million belong to the most vulnerable sectors. Shortly after, another powerful and deadly storm, Typhoon Vamco, hit the country. This resulted to the worst flooding in history in the northern region of the Philippines. It claimed the lives of 73 people,19 are still missing, and almost four million people were affected.
Wildfires and storms, extreme heat and cold — these are just some of the destructive effects of global warming and climate change. The main culprit for the Earth getting warmer as scientists have been states for decades, is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions getting trapped in the earth’s atmosphere.
Global crisis needs global action
The global climate crisis requires all countries to work together which is why 195 countries and member states of the United Nations pledged to reduce their carbon emissions during the Paris Climate Agreement. The aim is “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
By encouraging each member state to come up with nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to reduce their own emissions, and each member nation does its part, then Earth has a fighting chance to keep its temperature within manageable levels.
The challenge of implementation
However, pledges are not the same as policies, and policies are not the same as legislation. Policies that provide specific guidelines for climate action and the road to zero emissions by 2050 are good but turning them into legislation is even better.
Since the Paris Climate Agreement was ratified, we’ve seen countries and big corporations rise to the challenge to reduce their carbon emissions. These are the countries that have made enshrined their net-zero targets by 2050 into law.
Sweden implemented into law their goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045, five years ahead of the Paris Climate Agreement’s set target. The nation is taking concrete steps in decarbonizing its energy sector, which produces the highest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. To do this, they’ve invested in other power sources such as hydroelectricity and nuclear energy. They have also imposed a carbon tax to encourage their citizens to shift from fossil fuels. Sweden leads the rest of the world in the Climate Change Performance Index as a recognition of their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use of renewable energy, smart use of energy, and what they’re doing to support climate policies.
In June 2019, former UK Prime Minister Theresa May mandated that the country reach zero-emissions by 2050, making UK the first G7 country to act on climate change. The nation plans to do this by reducing emissions from power plants by developing wind and solar power. They’ve also introduced changes in their public transport system and encourage more people to use electric bikes. To date, the UK has decreased its carbon emissions by 29%. They currently rank 4th on the Climate Change Performance Index.
France also has legislation in place to support its target of being carbon-neutral by 2050. It’s also aiming to reduce fossil fuel usage by 30-40% by 2030. They have launched a multi-sectoral approach to help achieve this target. Their energy sector is continuously looking for low-carbon sources. Their housing sector is improving the insulation of 7.2 million houses to ensure efficient power use and low carbon emissions.
Denmark followed suit and in 2019 adopted a new climate law on Friday to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and to reach 70% below its 1990 emissions. They also plan to make their electricity sector free from the use of fossil fuels by 2030. They are now strengthening their decarbonisation program to be able to reduce their emissions by up to 70%. Almost half of the country’s energy is now derived from wind power.
As of now, New Zealand says that 80% of their electricity comes from renewable sources of energy. They will also phase out the use of oil and gas by 2035. The nation of 4.8 million people is working on curbing their methane emissions by 24-47% by 2050.
The country is looking to shut down its last remaining coal power plant by 2025 and will develop their nuclear energy resources. By 2030, they should have cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels. They seem to be on the right track as they’ve managed to reduce their emissions by 35% as of this year. Hungary also takes measures to protect its land with 22.6% of its territory under the government protection program.
South Korea, Japan, and China
These nations have also enacted laws targeting net-zero emissions between 2050 and 2060. This strengthens our fight against global warming and climate change.
To further boost our chances of keeping the rise in global temperature below two degrees Celsius, some companies have also announced their plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Some examples are:
The world’s leading search engine vows to use 100% renewable energy by 2030. For three consecutive years now, the company has purchased enough renewable energy to match its yearly global consumption of electricity. This has also made them the “world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy.”
The world’s biggest social networking site has announced that it will be fully supported by renewable energy by this year. They also hope to achieve carbon neutrality for their entire value chain in the next decade. They’ve also committed to ensuring that all their facilities worldwide are working efficiently and will in invest in the development of carbon removal technologies.
The first US car manufacturer to commit to taking concrete steps to reduce their carbon emissions. They will focus on three areas – vehicle use, supply base, and their company’s facilities which altogether make up 95% of their total carbon emissions.
As published on their website, “IKEA wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from all aspects of our operations and their entire value chain from the extraction of their raw materials to the end-of-life of all their products. They business is working towards 100% renewable energy in all their stores and factories all over the world.
Asian conglomerate and world-leading producer of agri-foods has realised the crucial role they play in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector. They have committed to being carbon neutral by 2030 for all of their operations. They hope to achieve this through “leveraging innovation and working closely with all our partners and stakeholders across our diverse set of businesses in the group around the world.”
This multinational gold producer have laid out their environmental management strategy to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Their President and CEO Michael Holmes says that “OceanaGold has been strongly committed to responsible mining for 30 years, and with current emissions lower than the global industry average, we are already on the journey to reduce our carbon footprint.” They are developing technologies to assist in the decarbonising of electricity supplies, use of mobile equipment, and overall energy consumption.
We’re now witnessing the largest alliance for climate action in response to the UN’s Paris Climate Agreement. It is composed not only of nations and corporations but also cities, universities, businesses and individuals who are all willing to do their part in fighting global warming and climate change.
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Cover image of Googleplex – Google Headquarters at Mountain View, CA by Uladzik Kryhin.