On April 22, 2016, 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement, which set the record for highest number of countries signing an international agreement on its opening day. This includes the US and China, who jointly announced that they would sign on Earth Day, and nations including India and Australia have followed suit. Click here to see an up-to-date list of all the countries that have signed on since April 22.
It’s not only important that these major emitters are signing on, but also that they’ve put their commitments on the table. China, for example, pledged among other things to peak its CO2 emissions around 2030 – and according to some analyses looks like it will achieve that goal much earlier than expected.
The country will also launch a national cap-and-trade program in 2017. Meanwhile, China’s pledge to increase non- fossil fuels to around 20 percent of its primary energy consumption by 2030 commits it to installing 800–1,000 gigawatts (GW) of zero-emission facilities, roughly equal to the size of the entire current US electricity grid.
The US, for its part, pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26—28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. India aims to install 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 – nearly as much as the US has today (~183 GW).
By making these commitments public, China, India, and the US sent a clear message to other nations around the world: the shift to clean energy is on – and it’s time to get on board.
Scientists generally consider (and politicians agree) that we have to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures to keep small, low- lying islands and coastal areas free from the worst effects of climate change.
For small island nations, 1.5 degrees may be the highest temperature rise under which they can continue to exist without being swallowed by rising seas. In fact, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) negotiating group has adopted the phrase “1.5 to stay alive” as its motto.
AOSIS was joined by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, led by the Philippines in Paris, in calling for a 1.5-degree C temperature goal in the Paris Agreement in the Manila-Paris Declaration. Others followed suit.
At the other end, politicians have agreed that 2 degrees C is the upper end of acceptable temperature rise if we’re going to limit the the adverse effects of
climate change. That’s why the Paris Agreement has an objective of holding global temperature increases “well below” 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and
“to pursue efforts” to limit this increase to 1.5 degrees. That’s important because we’re very, very close to those limits already. February 2016 was the warmest month on record, by a lot. According to two US scientific agencies, the Earth’s surface temperature was 1.21 degrees C above the twentieth-century average.
Energy receives nearly no direct mentions in the Paris Agreement, but behind the curtain of policy, the truth is clear: in order to implement the agreement, the world must make a rapid, equitable, and just transition to large-scale deployment of renewable energy.
Studies have shown this is possible, if we act now and act fast. And with the cost of renewables continuing to plummet year after year, the good news is that doing so is increasingly affordable and practical.
Source: The Climate Reality Project