From the US to the Marshall Islands: Global climate action is on the march

COP21's frantic, last-minute climate deal bookmarked a new era for global sustainability, and as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) evolve into tangible action, edie looks at six recent instances where national action is speaking louder than words.

The immediate aftermath of December’s climate conference saw the media spotlight on climate progress wane. The impact of the COP21 was yet to be felt, and despite countries working behind the scenes, criticisms appeared that progress was too slow.

A breakthrough was finally delivered on Earth Day (22 April), where political leaders from more than 170 countries – including the China, the US and the UK – came together at the UN headquarters in New York to officially sign the Paris Agreement.

Since then, political agendas have been filled with footnotes and queries on when and how countries will official ratify the deal. Island nations exposed to the more severe risks of climate change were the first to officially ratify and since then a cluster of developed nations, including Norway, France and most recently the US and China, have all officially ratified the deal.

In total 27 “parties” representing 40% of total global emission have ratified, as the world closes in on the double threshold of 55 countries representing 55% of emissions that needs to be reached in order to bring the agreement into force.

A lot of conversations around the ratification process draw on how countries will reduce emissions in line with their own contributions. But with United Nations heavyweights calling for the deal to be delivered by the end of 2016, countries need to start practicing what they preach.

With this in mind, edie has rounded-up some recent success stories on how countries are moving beyond conversations and signatures to actually deliver on their pledges.

Paris Agreement gets the samba treatment

We start the round-up with the big global news of the week. Latin America’s largest emitter Brazil has officially ratified the Paris Agreement. Thought to emit around 2.5% of the world’s emission, the country has vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43% 2025.

South America – and the Amazon rainforest in particular – is an area overly exposed to the impacts of climate change, and while the ratification process is a good step, the country managed to put the climate agenda into the mainstream during the Rio Olympics. The knock-on effect saw the world take notice of impacts that won’t necessarily effect the majority, but thanks to the Olympic games, climate change is now at the forefront of the human thought process.

However, it’s not all positive news in the country. The dry season in Brazil has expanded to July to November and with forest fires now reaching record numbers of 53,000, the country is beginning to act. As well as constructing a 325-metre high tower that will analyse the Amazon rainforest’s gas emissions, the country is also working with Germany to end deforestation by 2030 – including establishing a new €23m rural land registry.

The nation drowning in renewables

While Brazil is mobilising its climate action, Costa Rica – the small Caribbean nation home to 4.8 million people – is basking in the clean-energy glow of its grid infrastructure. The country has been powering itself on renewables from more than months.

In total, 2016 has seen the nation use 100% renewable energy on more than 150 days, as it closes in on the 300-day benchmark that it set in 2015. What’s even more impressive is that the country isn’t relying on traditional renewables technology such as wind and solar – which has grown by 8GW in Europe’s five largest energy markets – but through geothermal energy.

The country has used four major dams to control bodies of water as a means to generate electricity. Heavy rainfall over the last 18 months has seen the dams run above capacity. In addition, the Reventazon dam – which will be the largest dam in Central America – is expected to go online later this month and could supply an extra 296MW of geothermal energy.

The climate agenda goes on a US tour

During the Paris climate talks, 640 Mayors gathered to announce plans for cities to deliver annual combined emission reductions of 3.7 gigatons by 2030. The US cities of San Francisco and San Diego kick-started this pledge, approving climate action plans to halve emissions over the next 20 years.

Since the turn of the year and additional 15 US cities have agreed to join San Francisco and San Diego in pledging to be powered 100% by renewables by 2030. Last week, Boulder, Colorado was the latest city to join the renewables race.

With President Obama pledging $160m to accelerate the smart city transition, the country’s aim to reduce emissions by 26% below 2005 levels, as established in the Clean Power Plan, is in full swing. California, the world’s sixth largest economy, has agreed to go one step further and introduce one of the biggest reduction plans globally. A new 40% emissions cut looks set to be established by 2030.

COP22 hosts welcome the low-carbon movement

edie has already covered the city of Ouarzazate’s 160MW solar plant. The world’s largest solar plant, which will have seen the country add more capacity in three years (580MW) than in the previous six years, once its live in 2018, is the crown jewel in Morocco’s low-carbon transition.

But with Marrakesh set to host COP22 in November this year, the country is going all-out to ensure that it sets the benchmark for clean nations to aspire to. Alongside an increase in solar capacity, the country is tackling land-clearing, deforestation and agricultural issues that will restore 200,000 hectares of woodlands. The country will also revamp the diets and upbringing of its livestock and switch crop types to limit emissions.

Aiming to reduce emissions by 13% by 2030 – and generate 42% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 – Morocco has also announced that 600 mosques will be fitted with LED lighting, solar thermal water heaters and photovoltaic systems by 2019. The retrofit will see 100 mosques fitted with the technology by the end of 2016.

The price is right for France

As the first G20 nation to officially ratify the Paris Accord, its unsurprising to see France lead the low-carbon agenda for other countries. French native, and COP21 President, Ségolène Royal has been at the forefront of this movement, but while other nations are content with ratifying, France has gone one step further.

The country is operating with a national carbon price; which Royal has urged others to adopt as part of her role as co-chair of the Carbon Price Leadership Coalition (CPLC). France will use a €56 per tonne carbon price – which will grow to €100 per tonne by 2030 – while also creating a floor price for carbon in the electricity sector at €30.

With the global calls for a carbon price gathering pace, eyes will turn to France to scrutinise how effective the system is. Although Royal has already claimed that the floor price compliments the soon-to-be revamped Emission Trading System (ETS) so well that it should be extended across the whole of Europe.

The little islands with a big stake in aviation emissions

This round-up ends on an unlikely cluster of landmass in the Pacific Ocean. The Marshall Islands is a country built-up of 1,156 islands housing more than 53,000 people. Responsible for well-under 0.1% of global emissions, the islanders have described themselves as “among the most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change”.

With World War II aircrafts still littered amongst the corals surrounding the islands, the Marshall Islands – despite its small voice – has been one of the most vocal supports for an international aviation agreement.

With aviation emissions set to skyrocket without an international agreement, the Marshall Islands has been lobbying for years to get developed countries to push for an aviation deal. It would aim to cap the carbon pollution of all international flights in a voluntary agreement between 2021 and 2026, before a mandatory form sets in from 2027 for the world’s largest emitter.

Matt Mace

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