An outlook of the fight against climate change

According to the Paris Agreement (also known as the Paris climate accord), which was initialed in 2015 and signed by more than 190 countries all over the world, we all human beings are in a war against the global climate change and should work together to curb the greenhouse emissions. The Paris Agreement has a very specific goal to limit a global temperature rise within 2 Celsius degrees compared with the pre-industrial levels. Otherwise, the temperature rise will be irreversible and lead to sea level rising and more frequent extreme weather conditions threatening millions of lives.

People seeing hopes in the Paris Agreement give praise to it. Sure, the Paris Agreement is the first climate agreement with a such level of world-wide recognition. However, we also need to realize its downside: Formally, the signatories only agreed to start their actions against climate change in 2020, five years from its introduce. More importantly, the Paris Agreement does not have a mechanism to “force a country to achieve a specific by a specific date”. The only requirement is that for a country a successive target (if there is one) should go a step forward (not backward) than the previous ones. In addition to the Paris Agreement, solid work still needs to be done before we can sit back and cheer up.

Fortunately, many countries have already taken the lead in the climate change battle field. For example, Germany has spent two hundred billion dollars over the past two decades on the energy sector aiming to substitute the traditional fossil fuels with the low-carbon energy. Years of enormous investment starts to bear fruit in Germany: the production cost for the renewable energy is cheap now. Due to the warm weather and strong breezes that produced an abundance of wind power on last year’s Christmas, the renewable power plants from all over Germany produced more energy than what could be used. The consumers are in fact paid to use more power on that day. Note that, low or even negative production does not necessarily mean low electricity charges for German households. Besides the production cost, the electricity charges for German households also include state taxes and fees to fund Germany’s transition to fossil-free power, which makes Germany charges the highest in Europe. Certainly, we do need to pay a price for the renewables.

UK also believes that it is worth paying the price for the Low-carbon energy: An analysis shows that in 2017 for the first time low-carbon technologies outperformed the combined power from coal and gas and produced more than 50% of the energy. More surprisingly, in last year there were 1,226 half-hour periods where coal was not generating any power at all, the equivalent of more than 25 days, and in April there was a full day when UK powered itself without any coal in more than 130 years. Some environmentalist praised last year in UK as the “greenest year ever”.
The examples can go on and on: China plans to create the world’s largest carbon market around 2019 to reduce the carbon emissions; France wants to ban all the sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040; about 30 US cities sign up to run entirely on renewable power, and so on.

Admittedly, we still have long journey to go on the way to save our environment. But with all the exciting advances and development in renewable technologies, we should have the confidence that we can win the battle against the climate change.