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Pressing Questions, Elusive Answers on Climate Change

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Oct 15, 2015 10:22:49 AM

The world is awash in questions about how we will respond to the urgent need for climate action, but answers remain obscure.

As we race towards the upcoming COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change taking place in Paris in December, pressure is mounting to come up with concrete commitments and practical proposals to solve the critical issues of carbon emissions, clean energy adoption, resiliency, and climate action.

151 countries from Mexico to China have submitted plans to dramatically reduce emissions, rapidly adopt renewables, and quickly implement carbon pricing programs that incentivize heavy polluters to clean themselves up.

Even India—which had been the last major holdout (and the only country other than China to reject the roadmap for emissions reductions proposed by the UN in 2011)—recently announced its commitment to generate 40% of the country’s electricity from renewables and other low carbon sources by 2030. While India’s pledge was light on emissions reduction targets and other details, the commitment indicates that the global agreement to be proposed in Paris will most likely be supported by all of the world’s largest economies.

But tenacious questions remain, and answers are abstract at best. To begin with, how will these climate action plans be financed? Are developed countries allocating enough funds for successful implementation? And will the financial assistance that has been promised to date by developed countries be enough to assist smaller, poorer nations in coping with the effects of global warming, reducing emissions, and leapfrogging the lazy temptation of reverting to 19th and 20th century fuel sources and land management practices (namely, clearing old growth forests for grazing and agriculture)? If not, what then?

COP21

What kind of legal and monitoring frameworks will be created to impose the agreement on a global scale?

Here in the U.S., will we have the political courage to follow through with bold climate action? Will the next President support the Clean Power Plan—the most decisive action taken by a U.S. President to date to address the climate crisis by proposing emissions reductions on power plants—or will #45, in conjunction with certain states and special interest groups, sabotage forward progress?

How aggressively will we drive towards a clean energy economy, moving away from precarious projects like the Keystone XL pipeline (which would conceivably transport the “dirtiest oil on Earth” from Canada’s pristine Boreal forest, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake) and drilling in the Arctic (the “last great wild place on the planet”)? Can we get there in time?

No doubt, with public sentiment heavily leaning towards climate-smart policies (a recent poll shows that, in the U.S., 84% of voters nationwide are in favor of “taking action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy”,) the heat is on, and it’s virtually inconceivable that global leaders will walk away from Paris without some kind of signed agreement that substantially reduces emissions and addresses key climate issues.

The world tomorrow will invariably be a different place than it was yesterday. Let’s hope that today’s climate commitments and the COP 21 are just the beginning of a radical change, bringing with it an abundance of clear answers.

Clearly, I’m searching for answers about the future of climate action. Do you have any clarity that you can share? Write to me at sara.gutterman@greenbuildermedia.com or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

For more information about green building and sustainable living, visit Green Builder Media at www.greenbuildermedia.com, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for regular updates and breaking news.

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