Countries have a limited amount of time to act if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Here are five reasons why 2021 may be a watershed moment in the fight against global warming. There is little doubt that Covid-19 was the major problem of 2020. But I’m hoping that by the end of 2021, the immunizations will have taken effect and we’ll be talking about climate change rather than coronavirus. 2021 will undoubtedly be a watershed moment in the fight against climate change.The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, informed me that the problem is at a “make or break” point.
1. The crucial climate conference
World leaders will assemble in Glasgow in November 2021 for the follow up to the historic Paris Summit of 2015.
Paris was significant because it was the first time nearly all of the world’s governments agreed that they all needed to work together to address the issue. The difficulty was that the promises countries made to reduce carbon emissions at the time fell well short of the conference’s goal.
In Paris, the globe decided to strive to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century in
order to avert the worst effects of climate change. The goal was to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius if at all feasible. We’ve gotten completely off course. According to current projections, the globe will exceed the 1.5°C limit within 12 years or fewer, and will approach 3°C by the end of the century.
Countries agreed to return every five years to boost their carbon-cutting targets under the framework of the Paris agreement. This was scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November 2020. The epidemic put an end to that, and the conference was pushed back until this year.
As a result, Glasgow 2021 provides a venue for those carbon reductions to be ramped up.
2. Countries are already signing up to deep carbon cuts
And there has already been improvement.
Last year’s most significant climate change news came entirely out of the blue. At the United Nations General Assembly in September, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that China planned to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
The environmentalists were taken aback. Cutting carbon has traditionally been viewed as a costly task, yet here was the most polluting nation on the planet, responsible for around 28 percent of global emissions, making an unqualified promise to do so regardless of whether other countries followed suit.
That was a total 180-degree shift from previous conversations, when everyone was afraid that they would wind up bearing the expense of decarbonizing their own economy while others did nothing but reaped the benefits of climate change.
China is not alone in this regard.
In June 2019, the United Kingdom became the world’s first large economy to declare a legally enforceable net zero pledge. In March 2020, the European Union will follow suit.
Since then, Japan and South Korea have joined what the UN believes is now a total of over 110 nations that have established a net zero aim for mid century. According to the UN, they account for more than 65 percent of global emissions and more than 70 percent of the global economy.
With the election of Joe Biden in the United States, the world’s largest economy has suddenly re-joined the carbon-cutting chorus.
3. Renewables are now the cheapest energy ever
There is a solid reason why so many nations are now declaring their intention to become net zero: the falling cost of renewables is radically altering the decarbonisation calculation.
The International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation, decided in October 2020 that the finest solar power plans currently provide “the cheapest source of electricity in history.” When it comes to building new power plants, renewables are already frequently less expensive than fossil fuel electricity in parts of the world.
And, if the world’s nations increase their expenditures in wind, solar, and batteries over the next few years, prices are anticipated to decrease much lower, to the point where it will make economical sense to close down and replace existing coal and gas power plants.
This is due to the fact that the cost of renewables follows the logic of all production – the more you produce, the cheaper it becomes. It’s like pushing on an open door: the more you construct, the less expensive it becomes, and the less expensive it becomes, the more you create.
Consider what this means: instead of being pushed by green campaigners into doing the right thing, investors will just follow the money. And governments understand that by scaling up renewables in their own economies, they assist to speed the global energy revolution by making renewables even cheaper and more competitive worldwide.
4. Covid changes everything
The coronavirus epidemic has disturbed our feeling of invulnerability and reminded us that our world may be turned upside down in ways we cannot control.
It has also caused the worst economic shock since the Great Depression. Governments are responding by enacting stimulus packages aimed at reviving their economies.
And the good news is that it has seldom, if ever, been cheaper for governments to make these kinds of expenditures. Interest rates are hanging near zero, if not negative, all around the world.
This offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to “build back better,” to use a now common expression.
The European Union and Joe Biden’s incoming government in the United States have both promised billions of dollars in green investments to jump-start their economies and begin the process of decarbonization.
The hope is that this will persuade other carbon-cutting laggards, such as Brazil, Russia, Australia, and Saudi Arabia, to join in.
The bad news is that, according to the UN, wealthy countries spend 50% more on sectors related to fossil fuels than they do on low-carbon energy.
5. Business is going green too
The goal is to make it essential for businesses and investors to demonstrate that their operations and investments are taking the required measures to achieve a net-zero world.
Seventy central banks are already striving to make this a reality, and incorporating these standards into the global financial infrastructure will be a major focus of the Glasgow conference.
The task for Glasgow will be to get the world’s states to agree up to initiatives that will begin decreasing emissions immediately. The UN says it wants coal to be phased out altogether, all fossil fuel subsidies to be phased out, and a worldwide coalition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Even though global attitudes toward combating global warming are beginning to shift, this remains a lofty goal.