Earlier this month, 195 nations reached a landmark agreement at COP21 in Paris to fight climate change and unleash actions and investment towards a low-carbon, resilient and sustainable future.
The Paris Agreement, for the first time, brings all nations into a common cause based on their historic, current and future responsibilities. Its main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The 1.5 degree Celsius limit is a significantly safer defense line against the worst impacts of a changing climate.
Although the agreement won’t deliver all the emissions reductions needed, it provides a framework to ramp up ambition over time: a transparent system for reporting and review; regular assessments of progress; and strengthening commitments every five years.
Developing a practical and effective system for assessing countries’ progress and pledges on climate change action will be critical to ensuring the Paris agreement succeeds in accomplishing its lofty aims. A new tool produced by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a non-profit organization that supports informed debate on energy and climate change issues, could help achieve just that.
The ECIU Comparator Tool strives to be “the most comprehensive resource anywhere for information on countries’ progress and pledges on climate change and renewable energy, known as intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs.”
The tool uses information from the United Nations, World Bank and the World Resources Institute, and will be updated as new information becomes available, ECIU said in a statement. It enables users to select comparisons including UN negations blocs, information on energy sources and carbon intensity, and many other metrics.
Renewable Energy and Carbon Sinks
Paraguay already generates almost 100 percent renewable energy, the tool shows. The South American country gets most of its electricity from hydropower, which is also exported to neighboring countries.
The tool enables people to look beyond existing metrics on climate and low-carbon technologies, revealing some surprising results.
Some countries, such as Bhutan, already serve as global carbon sinks, according to the tool. Bhutan’s INDC stands out as one of the most ambitious of the 180 UN member states that have submitted plans, as the country plans to increase forest cover as well in an increase in its determination to tackle climate change.
Many people wouldn’t put Bhutan at the top of any global list, except maybe the one for being apparently the “happiest country” in the world, but the tool reveals that even the smallest states are serious about addressing the risks posed by climate change. However, as a small state high in the Himalayas, Bhutan faces disruption to water supplies, extreme weather and impacts on ecosystems as a result of changes to the climate, ECIU says, so it is in their interests to address the problem both domestically and through the UN climate process.
France and Canada Lead G20 On Renewables
The tool also reveals that, comparing G20 nations, France derives a very high percentage of energy from low-carbon sources, including nuclear power, at 46.7 percent. Of course, nuclear energy comes with its own slew of environmental risks and rewards. The next highest G20 state is Canada, at 23.3 percent, with the UK at 10.8 percent.
The tool also shows the dramatic increases in global solar capacity per capita over recent years. Thirteen G20 countries have seen a more than 100 percent increase in solar capacity, with South Africa’s solar capacity per capita growing by over 1,000 percent since 2012. The rapid pace of change in renewable and low-carbon technologies formed an important backdrop to the negotiations taking place in Paris, experts say.
This has resulted in an explosion of investment and installations, which is helping to disrupt traditional power grids based on centralized generation and fossil fuels. This year, renewable energy technologies have become cost-competitive with fossil fuels, without subsidies, in some markets and major utilities are beginning to move away fossil fuels for electricity generation.
These trends, combined with the successful outcome in Paris means that a low-carbon future is inevitable — the question is how fast we will get there.