With Paris COP21 looming in just four months’ time, it’s no surprise that global governments are stirring themselves and acting on the requests of climate groups for specific and significant emissions targets. Whilst a promising step in the right direction, the jury is out on whether these be sufficient to slow climate change. Critics point to targets set at unambitious levels to suggest that governments are making these promises to pacify the public, and that this could be a case of ‘too little, too late’.
Here are five nations who have been in the news this month alone for making official pledges with regards to climate change.
As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, a pledge from China counts for a lot in terms of global impact, particularly considering that the country’s stubborn attitude towards the topic was blamed for almost causing the Copenhagen 2009 climate change conference to break down. Following dreadful pollution crises in recent years, China has seen the light and is taking to low-carbon development with gusto now. As an industrial powerhouse, China’s efforts focus on this sector, pledging to develop nuclear and renewable energies and to keep a check on industrial growth. In an ambitious move, China has developed a plan to hit reduction targets well before their stated deadline of 2030 and promises to “work hard” to reduce carbon emissions.
Despite a fractious political climate and amidst competing interests, the US is finally taking a lead with regards to climate targets, and last week they made pledges further to the 28% emissions cut already committed to for 2025. The havoc caused by extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy (2012) on the east coast and the ongoing Californian drought have focused American minds on the issue of emissions. By working more closely with Brazil in their approach to climate issues, the US plan to drastically increase the amount of renewable energy like wind and solar power in the United States by 2030.
The Emerald Isle has finally taken firm steps towards climate action, following criticism that the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015 did not set specific targets for reducing emissions. The amendments now commit Ireland to reducing emissions by 80 % from 1990 levels, by 2050. However, some concerns have already been raised that Ireland’s refusal to commit to a climate action plan before 2017 might mean that targets will have already been missed.
In a landmark case in June, the Hague District Court ruled that the Dutch government must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in comparison to 1990 levels before 2017. This ruling was called for by the Urgenda Foundation as a response to the Netherlands’ current policy, which would achieve a reduction of 17% at most in 2020, falling woefully short of the 25% to 40% target deemed necessary for developed countries according to some climate science analysis.
One of the world’s most technologicall advanced economies, South Korea have just announced plans for a steep reduction in emissions through a combination of cleaner energy and carbon offsetting. With a target of 37% reduction by 2030, 25.7% will be achieved by domestic reductions, including a shift away from coal power with two additional nuclear reactors due to be opened by 2029. The remaining 11.3% will be cut through purchasing global carbon credits, following the example of Switzerland, which is relying on carbon credits to account for 30% of its target reduction.
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