Saturday, November 28, 2015

Paris Success Could Hinge on Local Commitments

In this 2009 photo, researchers drive on the Fazenda Gramada government farm in Nova Canaa do Norte, Mato Grosso state, Brazil. Mato Grosso has made critical efforts to combat deforestation. (Credit: AP Photo/Andre Penner) Click to Enlarge.
Thousands of cities, states, regions, provinces, businesses, and non-governmental organizations have already started to move aggressively on climate change. For cities, this means setting transportation, building, and power standards that substantially lower emissions. For companies, this can mean making sustainability a core business practice all the way down the supply chain, recognizing it as a sound policy that will not only help the planet but likely also bolster profits.

“Cities, states, companies, non-governmental organizations, and individuals are all helping to gain a groundswell of support for 100 percent renewable energy for everyone,” said Mark Z. Jacobson, director of the atmosphere/energy program at Stanford University, and the author of a study that provides a roadmap for the United States to convert to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and another that does the same for 139 countries.

“These groups and people are definitely important for getting information out to a larger audience and convincing policy makers to move in the right direction,” Jacobson told ThinkProgress.

Current efforts already underway at the subnational level could deliver greenhouse gas emission reductions of 2.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2e) by 2020 and 5.5 Gt CO2e by 2050, according to a recently released study from the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.  However, the study said that many of these activities already are included within pledges made by individual countries, estimating the overlap at 70 percent.

“This will not be enough to close the emission gap between pledges and the emission level necessary to remain on track to meet the 2 °C climate target,” the study says.  “More action will be necessary in international initiatives and from national governments.”
Calculations thus far suggest that voluntary commitments from nations going into the Paris summit would keep the warming increase to 3.5°C by the end of the century — still too high to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate — and reduce carbon-equivalent emissions by about 6 gtCO2e by 2030, about one-third the amount needed to get to the 2°C limit.

Nigel Topping, the chief executive officer of We Mean Business, a coalition works with private companies to reduce their carbon footprint, estimates the combination of current country pledges and subnational efforts could help stop warming at 2.7°C.  In addition, the national pledges can help foster “concrete policies, which will then spur a low-carbon transition across both the private and public sector,” he told ThinkProgress.  “That’s where the work of non-state actors and the importance of the Paris agreement gets into the picture.”

While it still is difficult to assess the overall impact of subnational efforts on climate goals, many activities suggest they have made a positive start.

Cities, for example, release about 70 percent of the world’s total energy carbon emissions, and 90 percent of cities are located on or near the coast, making them especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  So it is not surprising that world cities have begun to unite against climate change.

Read more at Paris Success Could Hinge on Local Commitments

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