IDEAS For Us | July 23, 2015

Major World Powers Amp Up Climate Commitments

AIR-POLLUTIONA major step has been taken by three of the world’s largest carbon-emitters in preparation for the December Conference of the Parties in Paris. China, Brazil, and the United States have officially unveiled initial commitments to increase their carbon-cutting activities, with ambitious benchmarks for carbon mitigation. China has specifically set a goal of 60-65% reduction of CO2 emissions, Brazil plans to restore 12 million hectares of forest, and the United States and Brazil jointly committed to altering countries’ energy profiles to consist of 20% non-hydroelectric renewables, all by the year 2030. China has additionally reaffirmed its commitment to produce 20% of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources, and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. These new commitments come as part of a larger pre-Paris dialogue focused on developing Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) across the entire international community. Over the course of the last several months, countries across the globe have met for monthly intergovernmental negotiations in preparation for the creation of a post-2015 climate framework, and INDCs have been a primary concern in these discussions.

It is no question that these new commitments inspire hope to a community of climate-concerned countries and activists who have struggled with apparent apathy from our planet’s largest polluters for decades, however this hope is accompanied by an air of caution. Does the presence of enhanced commitments alone mean a substantive change to the inclusive countries? At this point, understandably, it is difficult to tell. The aggregate prices of some renewables, primarily solar, have dropped recently which poises nations like the United States to take advantage and stimulate their energy transition; and a recent plan from the Obama Administration to increase solar accessibility to low and middle-income housing may imply that this is, in fact, the plan. While this does imply that a paradigm shift may finally be gaining steam, it remains to be seen how quickly it will be gaining solar, wind, and more on top. Keep an eye on the IDEAS for UN facebook and webpage for more news and updates!