The cost of cutting CO2 is high, but the cost of inaction is infinitely higher.
It seems that world leaders are finally getting the message that avoiding a climate crisis means taking action and cutting emissions today, not tomorrow. Governments across the globe are starting to make genuine pledges towards emissions reductions.
Joe Biden, now president-elect of the Unites States, won the election with climate change front and center of his campaign. He openly stated how the US will re-join the Paris Agreement, pledging to keep the planet under 1.5 degrees of warming, just a month after the Trump administration orchestrated the country's formal withdrawal.
Cooperation from the world's 2nd biggest emitter is vital for any chance of hitting net zero by 2050. Better yet is the pledge from the world's largest emitter, China, to become carbon neutral by 2060, having made the announcement back in September this year. Japan, and shortly after South Korea, followed suit in signing up to net zero targets of their own.
The UK government, ahead of the UN Climate Ambition Summit later this month, announced an even more ambitious target. This announcement comes only a few days after the UN Secretary General issued a stark warning to the world leaders that 'nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury'.
No easy task
A 68% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2030, the better part of 9 years away, is no small task. It will mean dramatic changes to livelihoods, transport, heating, and even diets. Historically, the power sector leads in the UK for emission reductions, but emissions from farming and agriculture has remained constant. This will need to change, accounting for over 15% of total emissions.
The ambition from the UK government is encouraging, but policy is needed to back up the pledges as soon as possible in order to engage the private sector and the general public.
Mr Guterres, UN Secretary General, has clearly outlined the following action plans for governments to take, immediately:
- Put a price on carbon
- Phase out fossil fuel finance and subsidies
- Shift the tax burden from income to polluters
- Integrate carbon neutrality into all economic policy decisions
- Help those around the world adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change
The above doesn't only apply to governments, it applies to the private sector, too.
Again, in 2020 we have seen a host of pledges from the private sector with a record number of science-based reduction targets set by companies across the globe.
More recently, Netsle, the Swiss food giant, has pledged to spend over $3.5bn over the next 5 years to accelerate its transition to net zero by 2050. Nestle are the world's biggest food company producing upwards of 90 million tonnes of CO2e per annum.
Some companies will be doubling their efforts, others will have to reinvent their business models, such as the oil & gas giants. But the simple truth is that by not making genuine change and taking action now, they will be left behind.
So, and this isn't said often in the climate context, there is a reason to be optimistic. When the goal of a 1.5 degree future becomes achievable, rather than exceeding it seeming a foregone conclusion, it becomes a powerful catalyst for change.