Last year, eyes fell on Paris and the COP21 climate conference. Over the 12-day meeting, leaders from more than 190 countries reached an agreement to keep global warming below 2°C. That’s the threshold scientists believe we must not cross if we’re to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
Past climate conferences hadn't lived up to the high expectations. In 2009, 45,000 world leaders and delegates left Copenhagen with very little to show for their work: “This progress is not enough,” US President Barack Obama said six years ago.
We look back to the time before COP21, when states were asked to outline the climate actions they planned to take.
The pledges were impressive – so much so that even Greenpeace activists called them “a good start”. As Michael Jacobs, a climate change expert, pointed out, what these commitments mean is that even before an agreement was signed, almost every country agreed in principle to take action on climate change.
China, for example, said it would peak its emissions by 2030, by which point it plans to be generating 20% of its energy from non-fossil sources. The US committed to cutting emissions from 2005 levels by between 26% and 28% by 2025. And the EU will cut its levels by 40% from 1990 levels over the next 15 years.
But as remarkable as these commitments are, some fear it still won’t be enough to stop temperatures from rising more than 2°C. Those were the findings of a recent OECD report: “Policies to combat climate change are still not working fast enough.”