The Climate Ambition Summit 2020 provided me with an enhanced enthusiastic moral suasion to create a more green planet and make carbon neutrality my goal for this decade starting this year.
In this course, we explored various international agreements such as the Montreal Protocol, a success story in restoring the depleting ozone layer, the Kyoto Protocol, the original international agreement signed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the Paris Accords signed by 196 countries on December 12th, 2015, which set an international framework to regulate global warming to under 2 degrees celsius with an aim of 1.5 degrees. In order to limit a temperature rise to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, we will need to be carbon neutral by 2050 (“Climate,” 2020). The Secretary-General for the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has declared creating a global coalition for carbon neutrality the UN’s central ambition for 2021 (“Climate,” 2020). As Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway explains, “the Paris Agreement sets out our shared path. Reduce emissions together, build resilient and robust societies, and mobilize finance and support”(“Climate,” 2020). This illustrates the three facets of the agreement, mitigation, adaptation, and distribution of wealth. Rt Hon Alok Sharma, COP26 President, has expressed four main goals: “Firstly, a step-change in mitigation. Secondly, a strengthening of adaptation. Thirdly, getting finance flowing. And fourthly, enhancing international collaboration” (“Climate,” 2020).
Thinking about what to write for this blog post, through listening to various podcasts around environmental economics, Harvard’s Environmental Insights, the Economist’s The Intelligence, or CBC’s Front Burner, I came across the Climate Ambition Summit, celebrating the five-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement and also calling urgency to the issue. A call of global moral suasion to governments, organizations, and individuals to act now, because this is the deciding decade. As Johan Rockstom, professor at Stockholm University, so eloquently explains at the Summit, “what we do between 2020 and 2030, from the evidence we have today, my conclusion is that it will be the decisive decade for humanity’s future on Earth” (“Climate,” 2020).
As Dr. Angela Merkel states in her address, “the international community setting itself ambitious goals is one thing, achieving them is another” (“Climate,” 2020) So, where are we at now and where do we still need to go?
After five hours of many world leaders, Presidents and Prime Ministers of countries worldwide, governors, mayors, and business leaders, pledging and showcasing their efforts, I was left with two thoughts: firstly, let’s do this and secondly, we need to act faster and stronger.
Strong commitments worldwide:
- The UK has set a commitment to cut its emissions by 68% by 2030 in comparison to 1990 levels (“Climate,” 2020).
- The EU by 55% (“Climate,” 2020).
- Canada by 32–40% below 2005 levels (“Climate,” 2020).
- Finland aims to be the world’s first climate-neutral welfare society by 2035 (“Climate,” 2020).
- China surprised the world in September with the pledge to become carbon neutral before 2060 (Harvey, 2020b).
- Commitments from countries representing 97% of worldwide emitters (Harvey, 2020a).
Recent new frameworks and initiatives:
- Europe has created a European Green Deal (“A European,” 2020).
- Canada has updated its Pan-Canadian Framework, with a plan to raise its price on pollution by $15/ton to $170/ton by 2030 (“Climate,” 2020) among other initiatives such as Permanent Transit Fund (with a green spin), as transport emissions in Canada account for 26% of all emissions (“A Conversation,” 2020).
- Shenzhen’s busses are now all electric (“Climate,” 2020).
- This year, 90% of all new energy generation created around the world has been renewable energy (Harvey, 2020a).
- Solar power has become the cheapest electricity in the world. The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex in Morocco can supply 2 million people with electricity, saving 900,000 tonnes of carbon emissions (“Climate,” 2020).
- Wind energy in the UK is cheaper than coal and can power all homes by 2030 (“Climate,” 2020).
- Denmark has committed to stop extracting fossil fuels by 2050 (“A Conversation,” 2020).
With this being said, fossil fuel production is still much higher than the levels needed to fulfill the Paris Agreement (see chart below) (Carrington, 2020). In COVID-19 related funding, G20 governments have spent $230 billion on fossil fuels as opposed to the $150 billion spent on renewable energy (Carrington, 2020). “Governments are injecting trillions of dollars into their economies — this is money borrowed from future generations. If we keep on investing into fossil fuels, we’re going to give our children not only a planet in its worst state, but also wasted money” (Niklas Hagelberg as cited in Carrington, 2020). The 2020 Production Gap report though does have an undertone of optimism, that with the dip sparked with the pandemic, a green recovery can put the world on a pathway towards the Paris Agreement goal of under 2 degrees celsius (“2020 Report,” 2020).
Furthermore, forest and biodiversity, the most effective way of storing carbon, is being lost at the size of the UK each year (see below) (Harvey, 2019).
An important lesson that I learned in the course is that global issues like climate change need global solutions, but that each country and region may have its own unique path. Has the global pandemic shown that global collective action is possible? Furthermore, with much of the world in economic disarray, is this the opportunity that the world has been waiting for to build back a better and greener economy or will this angst only cause governments to look more short-term?
The EU has been leading the new revolution and the developing world has been making strides of its own; however, capital is still needed in many of these regions to be successful. Green finance has approximately $30.7 trillion in investments as of 2019, an increase of 34% since 2016 (Landberg, Massa & Pogkas, 2019). Many countries have as part of the Paris Agreement committed financing to assist the developing world in the transition because as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau states, “to effectively fight climate change at home, we must fight it everywhere” (“Climate,” 2020). Germany is pledging 500 million euros for international funding (“Climate,” 2020). Canada has committed $150 million to the G7 African Renewable Energy Initiative (“Canada,” 2015). With the help of OECD countries, the developing world has an opportunity to bypass unsustainable production into greener methods of production for the sustainability of the planet. Kenya is close to becoming 100% renewable energy-dependent (Kuhudzai, 2020). As seen with the global fight against COVID-19, we must work together and instead of just thinking nationally, we must think globally. We have shown that it is possible to work together. We developed a vaccine in a year when usually it would take ten.
Stine’s law expresses, “if something can not go on forever, it will stop” (“Moving,” 2020). The world and our economy want to be sustainable for the long run. Many businesses, organizations, and pensions globally are making their own commitments, for example, this summer while I worked for BCI, I researched CDPQ’s clearly articulated commitments towards becoming carbon neutral by 2050, the aim of their co-founded initiative, the Net Zero Alliance (“Annual,” 2020). Apple has committed to its entire supply chain becoming neutral by 2030 (“Climate,” 2020). Is there a business case for saving our planet? There has been a shift in mindset, it’s no longer either-or, it’s both. As Hiro Mizumo, CIO of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund, the largest pension in the world, passionately articulates, “for the capital markets to be sustainable, the environment must be sustainable.” Furthermore, this ‘new green industrial revolution,’ could create 65 million new jobs (“Climate,” 2020).
Personally, I believe that we can. It will take lots of effort, dedication, financing, and time, but I believe that if we collectively put our mind to it and think of the future, we can do it. We must act now though. Personally, I have always been relatively passionate about the environment and doing my part, but I guess, the moral suasion of watching the summit, the leaders globally speak and the WWF documentaries of the beautiful place we call Earth, has recemented the urgency and belief that this is the year, the decade to act. On an individual level, I am creating a plan on how I can vote with my wallet and of daily actions to do my part. Career-wise and socially, I am championing the importance of looking after the planet and will look to champion this in the future companies I work for. Through watching the summit, I also saw how a successful aspect of the Paris Accords is the flexibility for each country to get to their goals their own way, and that most countries mix different approaches, standards and incentive-based strategies, to achieve the desired result.
Thank you for a wonderful semester, Professor Baylis. This course has really helped me be able to understand the unique benefits and costs of each of the methods of environmental regulation, which I hope to utilize as I hopefully assist with the decarbonization of our home, planet Earth. Happy holidays!
2020 Report. (2020). Retrieved from https://productiongap.org/2020report/
A European Green Deal. (2020). Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en
A Conversation with Canada’s Environment Minister [Interview]. (2020, December 16). In Front Burner. CBC.
Annual reports. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.cdpq.com/en/performance/annual-reports
Carrington, D. (2020, December 02). World is ‘doubling down’ on fossil fuels despite climate crisis — UN report. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/02/world-is-doubling-down-on-fossil-fuels-despite-climate-crisis-un-report
Climate Ambition Summit 2020. (2020, December 12). Retrieved from https://www.climateambitionsummit2020.org/
Harvey, F. (2019, September 12). World losing area of forest the size of the UK each year, report finds. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/12/deforestation-world-losing-area-forest-size-of-uk-each-year-report-finds
Harvey, F. (2020a, December 08). The Paris agreement five years on: Is it strong enough to avert climate catastrophe? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/08/the-paris-agreement-five-years-on-is-it-strong-enough-to-avert-climate-catastrophe
Harvey, F. (2020b, September 22). China pledges to become carbon neutral before 2060. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/22/china-pledges-to-reach-carbon-neutrality-before-2060
Kuhudzai, R. J. (2020, January 15). Kenya Meets Renewable Energy Generation Target, Should Now Shift Focus To Accelerating EV Adoption To Soak Up Excess Electricity. Retrieved from https://cleantechnica.com/2020/01/15/kenya-meets-renewable-energy-generation-target-should-now-shift-focus-to-accelerating-ev-adoption-to-soak-up-excess-electricity/
Landberg, R., Massa, A., & Pogkas, D. (2019, June 6). Green Finance Is Now $31 Trillion and Growing. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-green-finance/
Moving Toward an “Energy Transition”: A Conversation with Spencer Dale [Interview]. (2020, December 8). In Environmental Insights. Harvard Environmental Economics Program.