What Can Countries Do to Tackle Climate Change Successfully?

Climate change and the need to address it have become pressing global concerns in recent years. The effects of rising global temperatures have already become evident, from extreme weather events to melting ice caps. To mitigate these impacts, world leaders have been making commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the challenge lies in how countries are implementing these commitments and whether they are on track to meet their targets.

One way to assess the progress of countries in tackling climate change is by examining their emissions reduction efforts. The interactive chart below provides a comprehensive overview of how different nations are faring in their commitments. It is clear that not all countries have the same capacity or resources to take significant action on their own. Some less affluent nations set two different goals: one that they aim to achieve independently and a more ambitious one that they can only reach with support from wealthier nations.

However, reducing emissions is just one aspect of the complex climate change debate. Another factor to consider is historical responsibility. Climate Action Tracker, a group of independent researchers, has developed a method to calculate “fair share” targets based on a country’s historical contributions to global emissions. This approach takes into account the varying levels of responsibility among nations. Countries that have contributed minimally to global emissions have a lesser “fair share” of responsibility compared to heavy emitters.

By analyzing specific countries, we can gain insights into their progress or lack thereof in meeting their climate targets. China, for example, is the world’s largest annual emitter of greenhouse gases. While China’s historical contributions to global warming are less significant, its rapid economic growth has begun to tip the balance. The country has made strides in adopting renewable energies such as solar, wind, and electric transportation, but it continues to heavily rely on coal. Additionally, China has not yet joined the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

Similarly, the United States ranks second in annual emissions but has taken steps towards meeting its targets. The Inflation Reduction Act represents a significant investment in climate action, and a joint statement with China prior to COP28 shows a commitment to cooperation. However, the US still has a long way to go in reaching its emissions goals, and it has approved new oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico, which undermines its climate ambitions.

Brazil, under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has made progress in reversing the deforestation of the Amazon. While deforestation rates have reached a six-year low, Brazil’s plans to align itself more closely with Opec and continue oil exploration raise concerns about its long-term emissions targets. The UK, on the other hand, has achieved success in reducing emissions through the decarbonization of the energy sector and ambitious net zero targets. However, recent policy decisions such as granting new oil and gas licences have raised doubts about the government’s commitment to a net zero future.

Despite these country-specific developments, there have been positive global outcomes in addressing climate change. The agreement to implement a “loss and damage fund” at COP28 is a victory for developing countries, providing financial support to cope with climate-related destruction. Countries have also agreed to include greenhouse gas emissions from food and agriculture in their national plans. The expansion of clean energy sources, such as solar and wind, has been impressive, with many countries pledging to triple renewable energy use by the end of the decade.

However, the increase in clean energy has not resulted in a significant decline in fossil fuel use, and some regions continue to expand their reliance on fossil fuels. Despite the progress made, it is clear that much more needs to be done to meet the ambitious climate targets.

The news from COP28 highlights both the advancements and challenges countries face in tackling climate change. It underscores the importance of collective action, international cooperation, and the need for countries to align their domestic policies with their climate commitments. To effectively address climate change, countries must prioritize emissions reduction, transition to renewable energy sources, and implement impactful policies across sectors. Ultimately, success in combating climate change requires sustained efforts from governments, businesses, and individuals around the world.