The year 2021 is going to be key in efforts to tackle climate change, building up to the Cop26 conference in Glasgow in November.
Leaders from around the world have already pledged improvements, most notably at a recent conference hosted by the US.
The climate change leaders’ conference, organised by President Joe Biden, represented a return to the table for the US, which dropped climate change as a priority under previous president Donald Trump.
Nation after nation stepped up to make promises. Some offered new moves while others repeated old measures but the meeting appeared to put tackling climate change on the front foot.
But what was promised and what are the concerns?
To halve its 2005 carbon emissions levels by 2030. By 2024, the US would double its annual assistance to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change.
“The science is undeniable and the cost of inaction keeps mounting,” Mr Biden said. “This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative. A moment of peril but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities … I believe we can do this,”
Abby Maxman, chief executive of Oxfam America, described Mr Biden’s announcement as a “step in the right direction” but said more action was needed.
“The richest 1 per cent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity,” she said.
The Suweida makeshift camp for internally displaced people in Yemen’s Marib province in September. The effects of climate change have exacerbated the displacement of local populations over the course of the country’s ongoing war. AFP
To cut its emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, with new legislation affecting shipping and aviation.
“It’s vital for all of us to show that this is not all about some expensive, politically correct, green act of bunny hugging. What I’m driving at is this is about growth and jobs,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Greta Thunberg changed her Twitter bio to read “bunny hugger”. Greenpeace UK said Britain does not have a plan to decarbonise homes and has earmarked billions of pounds for oil drillings and road building.
“This government is still entertaining the idea of multiple airport expansions, more oil and gas drilling and new coalmines. It still doesn’t have a credible plan to decarbonise our homes and has earmarked tens of billions of pounds for new road building,” Greenpeace UK’s head of climate Kate Blagojevic said.
Launched a plan with Britain, the US and others, to develop technology that helps farmers in developing nations cope with the effects of climate change.
“Climate change is not a temporary concern,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai said.
Greenpeace Mena director Julien Jreissati described the Middle East as “one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change” because of water scarcity.
China wants to hit peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030, limit coal-fired power and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
“China has committed to move from peak carbon to carbon neutrality in a much shorter timespan than many development countries might take, and that requires extraordinary hard efforts from China,” President Xi Jinping said.
The International Energy Agency named China as the only major economy to see rising coal consumption in 2020 and forecasts set its consumption to rise by 4 per cent in 2021.
Environmentalists at Chatham House and E3G said Mr Xi’s commitment was positive but did not mark a breakthrough, and still allows for the construction of hundreds of coal-fired power stations over the next five years.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz vowed that renewables would produce half of Saudi Arabia’s energy needs by 2030 during his opening remarks at the climate summit.
“In accordance with the Saudi vision 2030, we have launched packages of strategies and regulations, such as the national environmental strategy, with the aim of producing 50 per cent of the kingdom’s energy needs by 2030 using clean renewable sources,” said the king.
There was no mention of leaving oil in the ground. Chatham House energy analyst Glada Lahn said that Saudi Arabia, along with the US and Qatar, are not politically ready to talk about a managed decline of the oil sector.
Researcher Michelle Havlik of Australia dives into the water during a research trip in the Red Sea, offshore of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Reuters
Launched partnership with US to tackle climate change and repeated a promise to install 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity.
“To combat climate change, concrete action is needed. Together we will help mobilise investment, demonstrate clean technology and green collaborations,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
India, the world’s third largest emitter behind China and the US, was criticised its continued financing of overseas power plants.
President Jair Bolsonaro said his country would work on recommitting to its 2015 pledge under the Paris climate agreement to eliminate illegal deforestation.
“There must be fair payment for the environmental services provided by our biomes to the planet at large as a way to recognise the economic nature of environmental conservation activities,” he said.
It was unclear how Brazil would pay for the additional enforcement required and environmentalists were sceptical about the president following through on the pledges.
President Joko Widodo said Indonesia has reached its lowest level of deforestation and is “rehabilitating mangrove forests” as a carbon sink.
“We are currently rehabilitating 620,000 hectares of mangrove forests until 2024, the largest in the world, with carbon absorption reaching fourfold higher than that of tropical forests,” Mr Widodo said.
Coal production rose in Indonesia last year, the IEA said.
Made two pledges, one raising its targets for reducing its emissions and eliminating public financing of coal-fired power plants.
“Korea will end all public financing at home or overseas of coal-fired power plants,” President Moon Jae-in said.
Greenpeace East Asia welcomed the move but said South Korea, alongside China and Japan, needed to adopt more ambitious targets.
To “significantly” reduce the country’s emissions over the next 30 years, while it noted the importance of carbon capture.
“The fate of our entire planet, the development prospects of each country, the wellbeing and quality of life of people largely depend on the success of these efforts,” President Vladimir Putin said.
Russia’s emissions are rising. Paul Bledsoe, a former Bill Clinton-era climate official and professor of environmental policy, said: “Its emissions are out of control.”
Is on course to hit net-zero emissions by 2050. Chancellor Angela Merkel said carbon pricing, already implemented in Germany, was “the right way forward”.
“We’ve doubled our financing of the climate fight” she said.
Despite an increasingly climate-conscious electorate, cars remain cool. Germany, home to BMW, Mercedes and Audi, has a strong motoring lobby and has not set out a date for phasing out internal combustion engines.
The construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory for electric cars is pictured in Gruenheide near Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Factories in Berlin and Austin, Texas, are on track to start producing this year. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Upped its target for cutting emissions from 30 per cent of 2005 levels to at least 40 per cent.
“Today, Canada is in a position to raise our climate ambition once again. Our new climate target for 2030 is to reduce our 2005 emission levels by 40-45%,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, said the new target was not in line with securing a 1.5°C compatible future – a goal she said would require a 60 per cent emissions reduction.
Will aim to reduce emissions by 46 per cent in 2030 compared to 2013 levels, almost doubling its previous commitment of 26 per cent.
“Japan is ready to demonstrate its leadership for worldwide decarbonisation,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.
Environmentalists had wanted Japan to pledge at least 50 per cent. It is another of the countries identified by Greenpeace as needing more ambitious targets.
No new pledges but urged countries to follow its lead in pricing carbon, ending subsidies for fossil fuels and financing environmental adaption.
“We must do better to support countries to adapt to the effects of climate change,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman said: “Ardern is encouraging other countries to follow New Zealand’s lead on climate. Quite frankly, that’d be a disaster, considering our government is too timid to regulate our biggest climate polluter.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador praised his nation’s reforestation efforts.
“We have planted 700 million plants,” he said.
One of the influential voices of climate activism is Xiye Bastida, whose family moved from Mexico to New York after floods and droughts devastated her hometown for years. She demanded governments act decisively using the tools available to end the climate emergency.
Investing in “new technology solutions” including $20 billion to cut the cost of clean hydrogen and carbon capture.
“We are creating our own hydrogen balance, where we will transform our transport industries and mining and resource centres, and manufacturing our fuel and energy production,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Australia faces criticism for not setting a timeframe for reaching net zero, and for not taking meaningful action on climate change.
“The government has made a mockery of Australia on the world stage,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific spokeswoman Nelli Stevenson said.
Says it will strengthen its emissions cuts, deploy more renewables, reduce methane emissions and end illegal deforestation.
“We have to be aware of the suicidal path we are walking … we have to work together, we have to have social justice, financial justice and environmental justice,” President Alberto Fernandez said.
The Argentine environmental activist group Vida Silvestre said the country has a lot to do and faces “enormous challenges” but must act quickly to turn words into action.
To strengthen its commitment to cutting emissions by bringing forward its planned peak emissions by 10 years to 2025.
“Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. It is a global phenomenon from which developing economies are particularly vulnerable,” President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa said.
A disappointed Greenpeace wants South Africa to adopt a bill to “drastically reduce emissions” by the Cop26 conference later this year, and move away from coal towards renewables.