This year may mark a major turning point in the fight against climate change. Two events that occurred this week offer reason for hope and bring the objectives set in the Paris Agreement closer to: preventing the increase in the global average temperature of the planet from exceeding 2ºC compared to pre-industrial levels. On the one hand, the return of the United States to the fight against climate change under the presidency of Biden, with a renewed desire for world leadership; on the other, the agreement adopted by the governments of the 27 countries of the EU and the European Parliament to shield with a law the commitments to reduce emissions and energy transition reached after arduous negotiations. Both developments are very positive.
As the world struggles against the pandemic, the other great crisis, the climate crisis, runs its course and the cost of inaction becomes increasingly onerous. Without the commitment of the United States, the country that has contributed the most to global warming, it would be practically impossible to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement in time to avoid catastrophe. With 13.1% of all emissions, it remains the second largest emitter in the world after China (26.6%). That is why it is so important that President Joe Biden pledged at a summit to cut CO2 emissions in half in ten years from 2005 levels and to make the entire electrical system carbon-free by 2035 .
Taking into account that the credibility of the United States is greatly diminished by its resistance to joining the Kyoto Protocol and by Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement, Biden’s commitment is very important even if it falls below that of the European Union in terms of ambition. The EU, responsible for 9.2% of the gases that are emitted, will sanction with a law its decision to reduce emissions by 55%, but not compared to 2005, like the US, but to 1990, and to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. Biden’s target is actually a 40% reduction if we take 1990 emissions as a reference. Still, the step must be valued. The fossil fuel industry is a very powerful lobby in the United States and Trump has dedicated himself in the four years of his mandate to dismantle the environmental policies implemented by Barack Obama.
The fact that the United States now decisively joins the leadership exercised by the EU may help lead other countries to revise their emission reduction commitments upwards, as Canada, Japan or the United Kingdom have just done. Just a third of the nearly 200 signatory countries to the Paris Agreement have responded to the call to accelerate emission reductions. Especially important is convincing China to do so. Its president, Xi Jinping, reiterated at the summit a commitment that he considers fair given that China’s industrialization was much later: reaching the peak of emissions in 2030 and reducing them thereafter. If the EU and the US join their political efforts from now on, the transition to a new carbon-free economy is feasible and is seen as an indisputable opportunity for progress, not only in environmental terms, but also in economic terms. Making commitments is essential. Now it is time to fulfill them.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.