Temperature records have been broken, swathes of forests have burned in Siberia, Greece and Australia, the oceans have never been warmer, and a glacier the size of Britain is on the verge of collapse. However, 2021 was not just a disaster in terms of climate.
Many countries seem unable to meet the Paris climate targets set in 2015. Of the 197 countries that signed the agreement, only Morocco and Gambia are on their way to warming the Earth by a maximum of 1.5 degrees. Other countries are (far) away from that, so we’re heading towards 3 to 4 degrees of warming by the end of this century.
Other climate policy
worrying? Sure, but not hopeless according to Louise van Schaik. Van Schaik is a climate policy expert at the Clingendael Institute and this year has seen clear change among world leaders on climate.
“Everyone is now in the same direction. Everyone agrees that something has to be done, even a climate skeptical country like Australia. So much forest has been burned there that there’s no point in denying it,” says Van Schaik.
Deforestation and Trump
Even Brazilian President Bolsonaro has promised to end large-scale deforestation in the Amazon by 2021. After signing this agreement at the climate conference in Glasgow, it turned out that he withheld figures on deforestation in his country, but still: “Last year he did not He didn’t want to do anything at all.”
But the most important change: Trump is gone. “He withdrew the United States, one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide, from the Paris climate agreement,” Van Shayk explains. Biden reversed that and appointed a climate envoy: John Kerry.
However, Biden is also not making progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The $1,800 billion Rebuild Better Plan for Social Services and Climate Action has been voted on, so there is still a long way to go for climate policy reforms in the United States.
“The United States is not really a climate leader, but in recent years it has not only been in a stalemate, but in a decline,” says Louise Van Schaik. “There is an important mission for Biden: he has to catch up to achieve the goals.”
Besides the United States, China, India and Russia are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide. “Important things have also changed there this year,” Van Shayk says. “China has promised not to build coal-fired power plants abroad. India has an ambition to reduce emissions to zero by 2070. Even Russians want to be climate neutral by 2060.”
2060, 2070…isn’t it too late? “It might be far away, but they had nothing before. We often see an acceleration with these kinds of ambitions. Once the climate ball rolls, it starts to roll faster and faster. Because of these kinds of agreements and promises, it starts to look more and more like that. “A world without fossils is achievable.”
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