Reasons for optimism (caution): The good news of the climate crisis | Adam Morton

TThere is no shortage of things to say about what goes wrong. The extent of damage caused by 1.2°C of global warming since pre-industrial levels is proving to be greater than what climate scientists predicted not so long ago.

As discussed last weekthe disastrous outcome of Historic floods in Pakistan Heat waves and droughts across the northern hemisphere in summer are showing signs of escalation. A peer-reviewed study found several catastrophic climate tipping points, including the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet and the Gulf Streams in the Atlantic Ocean, It may now be inevitable.

But there is also evidence that action to combat the climate crisis is accelerating too late. Recognizing that every bit of global temperature avoided makes a difference, here are some reasons for hope.

Low emissions in China

While Australia’s emissions increased in the latest data, China – the world’s largest annual carbon polluter – recorded a decline of 8% in the June quarter and 3% year-on-year.

as such reported by Analyst Laurie Myllyverta in carbon brief, the drop compared to the same period in 2021 was 230 million tons – equivalent to nearly half of Australia’s annual emissions, and the largest reduction in Chinese carbon pollution in at least a decade. It was driven by both short- and long-term trends: the real estate slump, Covid-related restrictions, weak growth in electricity use, and the continued expansion of renewable energy.

It’s too early to say if this is a permanent decline – the recently announced stimulus package may encourage construction and the use of both clean and dirty energy – but this is the fourth consecutive quarter that pollution has decreased.

Despite all the talk about China continuing to build coal-fired power plants, electricity generation from burning dirty fuels fell 4% in the first six months of the year. As with most types of infrastructure, the country is building more coal power than it needs.

This can be reversed, at least temporarily – coal-fired power has rebounded in recent weeks The water capacity has decreased due to severe drought and heatChina’s commitment to the United Nations is that its emissions will be so Peak before 2030.

Renewable energy – especially solar energy – is happening

Found a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) More people are now working in the field of clean energy (defined as including renewable energy, electric vehicles, energy efficiency measures and nuclear power) from the fossil fuel industry. One small problem: Clean energy jobs don’t pay well, in part because they are less likely to join unions. But the argument that there are no clean energy jobs has been dispelled.

Investment in clean energy has grown 12% annually since 2020, in part due to increased public and private support for sustainable finance, particularly in rich countries. Renewable energy, new grids and energy storage account for more than 80% of the total energy sector investment. The International Energy Agency estimates spending on solar power, batteries and electric vehicles now At a rate in line with achieving global net zero emissions by 2050.

In Europe, where the Russian invasion of Ukraine increased energy supplies, there has been a significant shift toward renewable energy even as countries provide short-term fossil fuel subsidies to maintain lighting and heating. British think tank Ember found that record northern summer for solar power generation meant the continent was able to Avoid spending 29 billion euros ($43 billion) on gas. Across the 27 European Union countries, renewable energy provided 35% of electricity, compared to 16% of coal.

according to Bloomberg NEF تحليل AnalysisManufacturing of solar polysilicon – the semiconductor used in photovoltaic panels – is happening so fast that the entire supply chain needed to stop emissions is already under construction. Almost everything is in China – just one of the many potential complications that Bloomberg’s David Fickling outlines – but it says something about what can be achieved.

The wealthy are finally starting to get ahead (in some ways)

There was no agreement in the UN climate talks that the wealthy would pay to help the developing world Dealing with the unavoidable losses and damages caused by global emissionsBut the wealthy are finally moving to drive the clean energy transition in some countries that will be important.

The goal is very simple – to give big start-ups the financial and other support needed to move their economic expansion away from fossil fuels. A model deal was announced at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, when South Africa signed the Germany, UK, US and EU partnership that promises US$8.5 billion in global capital over the next three to five years as a The country is restructuring the coal-based energy system.

In June, the Group of Seven confirmed a larger goal – to Access to up to $600 billion in public and private financing More than five years for clean energy infrastructure in countries such as Indonesia, India, Senegal and Vietnam. Along with other steps, such as G20 countries pledge to stop financing new coal power abroad And the ADB’s Energy Transition Mechanism, he can repaint what is possible. Ensuring that local communities are not taken advantage of or left behind in the process will be vital to its success.

The United States landed a white whale

This is arguably the biggest reason for optimism this year. After years of trying and failing, the United States – the biggest historical impulse – has done it Passed key climate change legislation through Congress. The analysis found that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) could lead the country to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels – a significant jump from where it was heading otherwise. If its political system holds together, it should put the national goal of a 50% cut this decade, and larger cuts thereafter, within reach.

One key point to note: US law asserts that penalizing fossil fuel industries with carbon pricing, while not dead, is outdated. The IRA is mostly about investing — $370 billion of it — to help clean solutions usurp the old, dirty paradigm. Many of them will only be available for US-made goods. Experts say that in addition to reducing domestic pollution, it can also increase competition and reduce costs in international markets.

Australia is no longer completely backward

Compared to the United States, the First Australian climate change legislation passed in a decade It’s secondary news – it’s a smaller country and More modest bill – but it’s still indisputably one of the positive stories right now.

After years of bracketing Australia with Russia and Saudi Arabia as a global lag, the Albanian government will win praise for its new 2030 emissions reduction target (43% reduction compared to 2005) at the main UN climate summit in Egypt in November.

But the Labor government can also Anticipate questions. The most relevant will likely be the same as the one she gets at home: will it really undermine her new commitment and global effort, By continuing to expand exports of fossil fuels? He may need to develop a better answer.

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