Climate action 2021 will certainly take on a number of different faces. It will be scented with the political winds of change. It will be heavy laden with economists’ forebodings. It will float on the optimism of youth. It will rise and fall on currently-unforeseen factors that will mold and reshape the best intentions. The United Nations outlines how coalitions, business, and youth can make a positive impact on reducing emissions, but it’s really up to governments to take aggressive action to mitigate the climate crisis.
The UN Secretary-General has proposed 6 climate-positive actions for governments to take once they go about building back their economies and societies:
- Green transition: Investments must accelerate the decarbonization of all aspects of our economy
- Green jobs and sustainable and inclusive growth
- Green economy: making societies and people more resilient through a transition that is fair to all and leaves no one behind.
- Invest in sustainable solutions: fossil fuel subsidies must end and polluters must pay for their pollution
- Confront all climate risks
- Cooperation – no country can succeed alone
Climate Action 2021 from the US Government
The Biden Plan states that the US will achieve a 100% clean energy economy and reach net-zero emissions no later than 2050. On day one, Biden says he will sign a series of new executive orders with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform and “put us on the right track.”
His Plan pushes Congress to enact legislation in the first year of his presidency that:
- establishes an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025
- makes a historic investment in clean energy and climate research and innovation
- incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change
Let’s see US Congressional representatives and senators launch bold climate action of their own, too, in 2021. either through legislation or executive orders. Their constituents are feeling the impacts of climate change in serious, personal ways—from hurricanes and floods, to wildfires and extreme heat—that can no longer be ignored. When exit polling from Fox News finds that 72% of voters are concerned about the climate crisis and 70% support increasing government spending on green and renewable energy, we know it’s time to take climate action.
Global Climate Action 2021
Europe says it is committed to a new growth strategy that will transform the Union into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy, where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, economic growth is decoupled from resource use, and no person and no place is left behind. As part of this European Green Deal, the Commission proposed in September 2020 to raise the 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, including emissions and removals, to at least 55% compared to 1990. It looked at the actions required across all sectors, including increased energy efficiency and renewable energy, and started the process of making detailed legislative proposals by June 2021 to implement and achieve the increased ambition.
This would enable the EU to move towards a climate-neutral economy and implement its commitments under the Paris Agreement by updating its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). The 2030 climate and energy framework includes EU-wide targets and policy objectives for the period from 2021 to 2030. The EU’s NDC under the Paris Agreement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990.
Climate diplomacy is happening around the world as well. The United Nations Foundation reports that the UK committed to achieve a 68% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. China, Japan, and South Korea all announced dates by which they would will achieve net-zero emissions. The Philippines and Pakistan declared moratoria on new coal-fired power plants.
A recent Climate Action Tracker update finds that global warming by 2100 could be limited to a 2.1°C increase over preindustrial levels as a result of all the net-zero pledges announced as of November.
Protecting the World’s Most Vulnerable Populations
Building resilience in vulnerable populations must be a priority, not an afterthought, in our efforts to reach global climate action goals. Action from diverse constituents has brought intensity to moral conversations about the intersections among poverty, food insecurity, limited access to clean water and sanitation, unreliable infrastructure, displacement, and the climate crisis.
On average, non-Hispanic whites experience a “pollution advantage.” Researchers have determined this population experiences ∼17% less air pollution exposure than is caused by their consumption. Blacks and Hispanics on average bear a “pollution burden” of 56% and 63% excess exposure, respectively, relative to the exposure caused by their consumption.
A paper in the journal Science found that climate change will cause the most economic harm in the poorest counties in the US.
The US has a deeply racialized history that operates below the surface of contemporary apolitical narratives on vulnerability mitigation and adaptation to sea-level rise, and this history must be acknowledged as communities, regulatory agencies, and policy-makers plan for rising seas, according to research on Geoforum. The authors argue that it is important to recognize the landscapes of race and deep histories of racism that have shaped the socio-ecological formations of coastal regions and to identify racial coastal formation’s potential as radical transformation in climate change science.
Racial inequality also means that the people most at risk from climate change have the fewest resources to cope, as reported in an expose in the Washington Post. According to a study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, more than 30% of black New Orleans residents didn’t own cars when Hurricane Katrina hit — making it almost impossible for them to evacuate. After the storm, the city’s black population fell because many residents couldn’t afford to return.
The ability of climate-affected populations to adapt to the impact of climate change is about building community, collective, and individual resilience. Work done by organizations like the Global Resilience Partnership is indispensable for such goals. The Partnership holistically designs and advances knowledge, practice, and policy to build resilience in the communities and landscapes that need it the most.
So, too, is the 3Zero Global Alliance, which empowers stakeholders from all over the world to make lasting connections to create positive change and, together, educate and advocate to shape solutions and multisector partnerships that save and improve millions of lives. It inspires stakeholders to drive societal change and address some of the most pressing issues the world faces today.
Listen to the Scientists
The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there are only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. It is known that urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target.
A rise of a few degrees may not sound like much, but it has huge implications for the weather we’ll see in the coming years, Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA focused on the links between climate change and extreme weather, told Time. “It’s a number that is describing really profound and vast changes in the climate system that we feel mostly through individual weather events and through extreme events.”
“We are not listening to climate scientists,” argued Greta Thunberg recently during a joint interview with the author Margaret Atwood. “We’re not listening to scientists who work on biodiversity and that, of course, needs to change.” Thunberg said the election of Joe Biden as US president sent a signal that “it could be a good start of something new” for climate action 2021.