Why 2015 Was A Breakthrough Year For The Environment
2015 was a record-breaking year in many regards: it was the hottest year ever recorded, and CO2 levels have also reached unprecedented highs. Despite these troubling developments, 2015 was also a year of significant environmental progress, as detailed in this Huffington Post article. China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and increasing clean energy use. Domestically, the Clean Power Plan put national limits on power plant emissions, clean energy is spreading and green jobs are growing. President Obama shut down the Keystone Pipeline, sending an important message about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. And the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP21) is widely expected to yield important climate change progress; in the words of Todd Stern, the White House’s climate envoy, “the stars are more aligned right now to reach agreement than I have ever seen happen before. We have a real opportunity.”
So while the fight for climate change progress isn’t over, the tide is turning. Perhaps most encouraging – and important for the future – is the news that most Americans now want climate action. Studies have shown that often, social and political will are the main barriers to climate action, but a recent poll found that 76 percent of Americans believe climate change is happening, including 59 percent of Republicans. Eighty percent of voters under the age of 35 want climate action. These are the voters, consumers, and leaders of tomorrow who will continue to push for climate progress, and who are transforming social barriers into social support for climate action. As the lead-up to COP21 and the climate achievements of the past year have shown us, national and international policies are beginning to reflect the fact that more and more people are demanding climate action. As 2015 winds down, let’s carry this momentum into 2016.
By Fred Krupp, contributor to Huffington Post
While data suggests that 2015 will likely go down as the hottest year on record, this has also been a year when we’ve made extraordinary environmental progress in five key areas. We have the numbers to prove it.
1. Most Americans now want climate action – and they’re being heard
The Clean Power Plan, finalized this year, puts the first-ever national limits on pollution from United States power plants – our single largest source of greenhouse gases.
The numbers show the plan is a win on multiple fronts, and another data set offers further encouragement: An October poll found that 76 percent of Americans believe climate change is happening, including 59 percent of Republicans. That’s up from 47 percent among Republicans as recently as March.
As my colleague Keith Gaby noted recently, the fight over climate change or the Clean Power Plan isn’t over. But with the changing attitudes among Americans everywhere, the shift in the political landscape is clear.
We’re finally moving in the right direction.
2. Nations step up to the plate to cut emissions
When it comes to sheer numbers, it’s hard to top China, with the world’s largest population and the most greenhouse gas emissions of any nation.
Seven carbon trading pilots are now underway in five cities and two provinces in China, covering 250 million people and a quarter of China’s gross domestic product. These markets are giving the nation’s top leadership the experience and confidence it needs to launch a national carbon market in 2017.
Getting the emissions numbers right is key to viable markets, however, and in 2015 we saw China taking important steps to verify this crucial data. The country also standardized calculations of greenhouse gas emissions from 10 major industries.
Data will also be the foundation of a successful climate agreement in Paris – and what comes after Paris. Today, we’re seeing countries prioritizing good baseline emissions data in a way they haven’t before, all with the goal of meeting their climate targets.
Image credit: saultstar.com