With its Climate Ambition Summit 2020, the United Nations recently celebrated the five-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Environmental journalist Stephen Leahy (writing in Need to Know) is “happy to report there was a game-changing announcement.” In this piece he writes about the 6% solution, calling it a game-changer.
The Paris Agreement After 5 Years
When the Paris Climate Agreement was signed December 12, 2015, I wrote an article that said, with some sarcasm: ‘The Paris Agreement is a historic plan for at least 3.0 degrees C of warming’. To be clear, 3.0C would be disastrous for much of humanity, but that is what countries’ Paris commitments to cut CO2 emissions would result in. That’s a long way from their agreement to keep the heating of our atmosphere to “well below 2.0C”.
When challenged about this huge gap, many countries said they would have plans to improve their CO2 reduction efforts by 2020.
Well, 2020 is nearly over, and most countries haven’t put in the effort to meet their original Paris reduction pledges, never mind improving their plans. Four countries have submitted plans to improve their reduction targets. Today’s big need-to-know is that one of those ‘countries’ has the potential to be a climate-action game changer: the European Union (EU).
Climate Action Game-Changer
The EU, a 27-member country union, just made a legal commitment to cut its CO2 levels at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. Equally significant is the United Kingdom’s new pledge to cut emissions by 68% by 2030. And then there’s Denmark; Europe’s largest oil and gas producer. They’ve announced a phase out of all oil and gas production by 2050 and legally committed to a 70% reduction below 1990 levels by 2030.
All fossil-fuel producing countries need to phase out their production by 2050 said the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at the UN Climate Ambition Summit 2020.
“We made a promise in Paris. The children of the world are depending on us to keep that promise,” said Frederiksen.
Here’s a quick need-to-know on what “below 1990 levels” means:
Confusingly countries use different baseline years to measure their reduction efforts against. For example, Canada set a target to cut emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. It’s emissions were 730 million tons (Mt) in 2005 and 729 Mt in 2018.
To meet its goal Canada needs to cut it’s emissions 219 Mt by 2030. If Canada had used the EU’s baseline of 1990, it would have needed a much larger reduction of 308 Mt to get emissions 30% lower than 1990 levels.
Update: Canada just announced a new target to cut emissions up to 40% on 2005 levels, increasing the current $30/a ton carbon tax to $170/a ton by 2030.
The 6% Solution
To reach it’s new target the EU needs what I called “The 6% Solution” in a previous issue: A 6% overall emission reduction year after year until 2030. That will require major transformations at all levels of society European officials acknowledge. Or as I said previously: “Even the dog catcher (animal control) needs to be part of the 6% solution team”
Fortunately this necessary transformation has the potential to be very good for European society overall according to the director of leading European climate science research institute:
….evidence increasingly shows that zero-carbon development is beneficial for the economy, jobs, health and resilience… — Earth system scientist, Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Another positive development is the U.S. rejoining the Paris Agreement on January 20. President-elect Biden has re-confirmed that the U.S. will reach net zero emissions “no later than 2050.”
Welcome to New York City in April 2030
As usual, midtown Manhattan is packed with whisper-quiet cars and electric trams while thousands walk the streets listening to the birds of spring sing amongst the gleaming, grime-free skyscrapers in the crystal-clear morning air.
This is not a fantasy. It’s a perfectly achievable goal for any city, and what European cities are likely to be like in 2030. Here’s a bizarre need-to-know: The climate crisis could force us to make our cities, and ways we live, far better than they are today. Imagine that.
So how do we get there? In 2013 I wrote about a study on powering New York State exclusively on green energy and how it can be done:
Under the plan 40 percent of New York State’s energy would come from local wind power, 38 percent from local solar and the remainder from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave energy.
All vehicles would run on battery-electric power and/or hydrogen fuel cells. Heating and cooling for homes and businesses would come from air- and ground-source heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps, heat exchangers and backup electric resistance heaters – replacing natural gas and oil. Water heaters would be powered by the same heat pumps while solar hot water preheaters would provide hot water for homes.
High temperatures for industrial processes would be obtained with electricity and hydrogen combustion.
Since then many similar studies and plans have been drawn up. One large study from Stanford University published a year ago laid out how 143 countries could move to 100% clean, renewable wind-water-solar energy, with efficiency and storage — all without experiencing power blackouts — and doing so no later than 2050. And about 80% of this could be reached by 2030. Energy costs and air pollution would plummet and tens of million of new jobs would be created. The overall savings would mean the cost of doing all this could be paid off in seven years.
Incredible right? The story of the decade: Climate crisis solved, more jobs, healthier air and environment, stronger, more resilient economy and so on. That’s a pretty significant need-to-know. But this may be the first you’ve heard of it. Shockingly, it didn’t get much media coverage at the time nor since.
It’s up to us to spread the word that there are detailed plans that can give us the world and future we want.
If you’re interested in the details of the 100% plan, there’s now a comprehensive textbook on the whole thing.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.