The climate agreement reached in Paris is provoking a flurry of caveats, criticisms and cautions. Many of those criticisms are warranted and there’s a lot of work ahead to make sure countries live up to their promises. But we should not miss a chance to celebrate a historic turning point.
World leaders finally made commitments to clean, renewable energy that will help to ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us all. The agreement signals that the age of fossil fuels is coming to a close, and the age of renewable energy is dawning.
In many ways, the Paris deal is the mother of all market signals. To deliver on the promises world leaders made, we will need to leave coal and oil in the ground and move toward a complete reliance on clean energy. Let’s not miss the writing on the wall: fossil fuels are a losing bet, while renewables offer economic opportunity.
This is true for all segments of society – from energy investors to individual households that can save money on their energy bills by switching to rooftop solar power.
The Paris pact ratifies an ongoing renewable energy revolution spreading across the globe. Each year since 2013, the world has added more power-generating capacity fueled by renewable sources than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310bn last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And major companies are pledging to go 100% renewable, too.
Much of that growth in clean, renewable energy has come from the subnational movement, in which cities, states and regions are banding together and leading even if their national governments are lagging. This bottom-up approach – one that so many people around the world are already part of – is what was most alive about Paris.
It is what drove so many people to COP 21 this year, and is the driving force that makes so many hopeful. In my home state of New York, for example, we have a robust movement to ban fracking, courageously embraced by governor Andrew Cuomo, and we support his leadership on renewable energy. We have found a new way of approaching this problem. Whole towns, communities and cities are racing to a full reliance on renewable energy, despite the gridlock in Washington, DC. This is where so many sense real hope coming out of Paris.
Meanwhile, cities from London to Los Angeles, from Jakarta to Rotterdam, are pioneering innovative approaches to cutting their own carbon footprints. Momentum is growing, too: following the meeting, Republicans and Democrats in San Diego, America’s eighth largest city, unanimously agreed to transition to 100% clean energy.
What cities are doing, countries can do, too. As my co-founder at The Solutions Project, Stanford professor, Mark Jacobson, told the US Congress last month, transitioning to 100% clean energy is not only good for the environment, human health and the economy, it is doable. His team has developed roadmaps showing exactly how 139 countries can each completely transition to renewable energy by 2050 using technology we have right now.
The Paris climate agreement brings that vision – of a world where all people have access to 100% clean energy – closer to reality. Much more has to go right if nations are to fulfill their promises over the coming years. But finally, the wind is at our backs.
The voices of people gathered in Paris – from big-city mayors intent on making urban life better, to indigenous people and small island countries fighting for their right to live in some of Earth’s most unspoiled places – echoed hundreds of millions of voices, all around the world, demanding action.
In response to those demands, world leaders have finally agreed to steer us away from a climate disaster. This is a moment of real hope. It is a recognition, at long last, that we’re all in this together.
And as negotiators in Paris acknowledged, some countries will need financial help to move to renewable energy. But the payoff for investing in them – through mechanisms such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund – will be tremendous. Just as poorer nations skipped landline phones for mobile telephones, they can skip generations of coal-fired power plants for clean, renewable power.
In wealthy nations we benefit from the switch to renewables, too. The United States has tripled wind and solar capacity since 2008, and last year, we installed as much solar-generating capacity every three weeks as we did in all of 2008. That translates into job growth – the solar industry already employs more people than the coal industry, by some measures – as well as cleaner and healthier air.
Critics of the Paris deal are right to point out that it cannot “solve” climate change on its own. Countries will have to work hard to fulfill the promises they made last week, and set even more ambitious targets in the future. And the people of the world must stay engaged, doing their part to tackle climate change while holding political and economic leaders accountable.
There is much to be done. But after years of walking in circles, Paris was a giant step in the right direction. Now the renewable energy race is on, and we need to run – not walk – to the finish line.
Representatives of 195 nations came to Paris to attend the UN COP 21 summit to ‘tackle’ the climate change crisis faced by the citizens of the world due to a suicidal model of development and unsustainable industrialization.
The nations attending were represented by Heads of State, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Vice-presidents, Ministers and thousands of diplomats. There was also a vast rainbow of NGOs and activists scrutinizing their every move. The UN was represented by Ban Ki Moon, its Secretary General, and by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and by hundreds of its diplomats. Despite this very high level of representation and even if many of the world’s top journalists covered the COP 21 event, there was no serious mention or detailed coverage of what the world needs to do with its more than 1 billion cars, trucks and buses and with its public transport, even though transportation is a major cause of toxic, climate changing gases.
It is well known by all of us that combustion engines are used to commit suicide by desperate people who lock themselves in a garage with the engine of their car running until its toxic emissions kill them. With more than a billion cars in circulation and more than 66 million new cars produced every year, it is time to realize that the atmosphere is our collective garage and to declare that: combustion engines belong in a museum as a sign of how humanity almost committed mass suicide, killing millions of people each year with poisonous gases from cars, trucks, buses and other combustion engines throughout the world.
Government officials have to face up to their lack of responsibility in protecting citizens. Mainstream politicians have been the principle defenders of the combustion engine and the car industry, and the silent but avid opponents of increased investments in mass transport. Appalling examples of these suicidal transport policies can be seen in Europe and Japan and especially in the United States and Canada. Many others such as Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey, Australia, South Africa, Russia are not much different.
G20 nations are not the exception in this suicidal defense of the combustion engine and there continues to be a marketing push to own big and heavy weight cars as a status symbol. Both are not only unnecessary but should be illegal. It is high time that the use of the combustion engine as the main form of personal and cargo transport be outlawed.
The COP 21 deadlines do not have a real sense of urgency. If COP 21 was to be considered a meaningful summit, then a major decision on public transport should have been adopted. Developed nations must introduce EMERGENCY MEASURES like reducing the use and circulation of combustion engine vehicles by 20 percent by the end of 2016, then by 40 percent by the end of 2018 until they are all out of circulation in 5 years, by the end of 2020.
These goals are achievable with an aggressive and well thought-out public transport policy and new legislation on combustion engines, size and weight of all vehicles. There are countries in Europe like the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain (all car producing nations) where the cost of travel by train is artificially high and where night trains are almost illegal, measures designed to help auto manufacturers sell vehicles, buses and trucks that can pollute and kill us 24 hours a day.
Which political leaders are willing to fight until all of us can breath fresh air again and millions stop dying due to air pollution? I am sorry to say, I can’t name a single one among the leaders of the G20 nations.
If we want fresh air, we must accept it’s TIME FOR CHANGE! High time to create a real TASK FORCE with a sense of mission that has as its goal to stop all deaths caused by air pollution and to take a giant step towards stopping climate change.
Most of those who travelled to COP 21 created a lot of air pollution but did not tackle the real issues, they only tickled the auto industry.
What do you think? Should we relegate the combustion engine to its rightful place: museums?