Photo: Andrew F. Kazmierski/Shutterstock

75 Countries Commit to ‘Net-Zero’ Carbon Emissions at UN Climate Meeting

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Dec 18, 2020

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Last Saturday marked the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris agreement. To honor the accord, the United Nations hosted its 26th annual climate conference in which countries around the world and the European Union met virtually to boast about forthcoming sustainability initiatives. This year’s event was quite different from the typical global summit since its virtual format made roundtable discussion among world leaders all but impossible. Instead, each submitted a short video outlining their plans.

But not every country was able to take the stage. Leaders had to be willing to make a commitment bold enough to pass the increasingly tough muster of the EU in order to participate. More than 70 countries did, among the most anticipated being China and India, the world’s first and fourth most polluting countries, respectively.

The biggest takeaway from the event, according to the UN’s officially released summary, is that countries representing “65 percent of global CO2 emissions, and around 70 percent of the world’s economy, will have committed to reaching net zero emissions or carbon neutrality by early next year.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will reach 1,200 gigawatts of installed solar and wind energy capacity within the next decade while simultaneously increasing renewable energy consumption to 25 percent of the country’s total. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country plans to hit 450 gigawatts of renewable power by 2030, according to a report from Deutsche Welle.

In Europe, the UK, France, and Sweden announced that each would stop financing new fossil fuel drilling and extraction projects. “The EU is a leader in this global fight, with our new target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 — which is a fundamental milestone on the way to carbon neutrality,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, according to the release.

Globally, Argentina, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Iceland, and Peru were all commended for shifting from “incremental” to “major” commitments to reduce their individual carbon footprints, with plans to be enacted near immediately. Overall, the summit appears to have been a positive affair, and while outlining a plan is a far cry from actually achieving it, the fact that 75 countries, representing six continents, came together with one similar goal and a plan to meet it is a major piece of encouraging news at the end of a long and stressful year. It also followed recent reports that the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement remain possible.

“The Summit has now sent strong signals that more countries and more businesses are ready to take the bold climate action on which our future security and prosperity depend,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in the release. “Today was an important step forward, but it’s not yet enough. Let’s not forget that we are still on track to an increase of temperature of three degrees at least in the end of the century, which would be catastrophic.”

More climate wins

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its annual report on the state of the Arctic. Yes, it’s warming — but there’s also good news. Bowhead whale populations are on the rise, marking what has been a successful conservation effort since the population of the Arctic’s only year-round baleen resident had been nearly wiped out by commercial whaling operations in the 1800s.

President-elect Joe Biden named former EPA Administrator and current President of the Natural Resources Defense Council Gina McCarthy to be his White House Climate Advisor, the New York Times reported. McCarthy developed the Clean Power Plan during the Obama administration and was the driving force behind most of the administration’s most forward-thinking climate policies.

Your next car just might be electric. The production cost of the batteries used to power electric vehicles is dropping significantly. Between 2010 and 2019, costs dropped nearly 90 percent to $156 per kWh, according to Green Car Reports, and a further examination by Utility Dive published this week found that this price will be nearly cut in half by 2030. As a result, EV car production will be at a price pair with internal gas combustion engines by 2025, and the number of EV models available in the United States could triple from 40 to 127 in the next three years.

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