NRDC Experts: Signing of Paris Climate Agreement Turns Hope into World Action
WASHINGTON—With the signing of the landmark Paris climate agreement at the United Nations on Friday, the world will unite to combat dangerous climate change, dramatically expand clean energy and seek to leave our children a livable world, international experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council said today.
In a telephone press conference, NRDC’s climate and clean energy experts gave a progress report and outlined opportunities ahead for the world’s top polluting countries and regions—including the United States, China, India, Europe, Brazil and Mexico—as the Paris agreement moves from aspirations to global action.
More than 130 nations are expected to sign the international agreement hammered out in Paris in December, marking the next key step toward sharply reducing climate-changing emissions and transitioning to a clean energy future.
In the teleconference, Jake Schmidt, NRDC’s International Program director, noted that once 55 countries that account for more than 55 percent of the world’s emissions sign the accord, it goes into effect. To date, more than 38 percent have committed to the plan and more are likely this year, he said.
“This significantly increases the chances that the agreement will enter into force this year. After all, who wants to be the last to join this climate agreement?” Schmidt said. “So as countries have been taking necessary steps to formally join the agreement, they also have been moving forward with domestic climate action. We’re already seeing some very promising signs from key countries that they are continuing to build a clean energy economy that reduces their carbon pollution, spurs jobs, drives down air pollution and meets other domestic goals. What I think we’re seeing is the standing ovation that was reached in Paris will now be translated into clear intent to deliver as countries sign on the bottom line.”
Alvin Lin, NRDC’s China Climate and Energy policy director, based in Beijing, said China has invested $110 billion in clean energy, making it the world’s leader on developing wind and solar power. It’s also moving ahead with putting a price on carbon and is on track to peak both its coal consumption and CO2 emissions earlier than expected.
“China will attend the signing in New York this Friday, along with India, the U.S. and over 100 nations. This will show really how China and the U.S., since November 2014, have worked together, as the largest economies, the largest greenhouse gas emitters, together accounting for 40 percent of global emissions, to address the challenge of climate change,” Lin said.
He added that with China’s clean energy advances, reduced coal use, curbing emissions and moving to stop a rapid growth of coal power plants, “There’s a sign that it will rebalance the economy toward clean energy.”
India, the world’s third-largest emitter of pollution driving climate change, is sending two senior government officials to the climate accord signing, said Nehmat Kaur, consultant to NRDC’s India Initiative. India has an ambitious goal to develop 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022; it’s mandating building codes that will develop energy efficient buildings; it has developed heat preparedness plans for a number cities and regions (the first of their kind in South Asia); and it’s striving to bring power to millions who lack it, she said.
“India’s excited about signing the Paris agreement in New York this week,” she said. “India is hugely important in the international climate conversation. Its priority is to combine energy access to 300 million people who don’t have access to modern electricity. Yet India is very committed to be part of the solutions on climate change, and domestically we’re seeing incredible action on the ground. As an emerging economy, with a growing population, India’s targets on emission intensity as well as clean energy are really significant, and a major contribution to the global fight against climate change.”
Amanda Maxwell, NRDC’s Latin America Project Director, said that Latin America has a big stake in the climate agreement. In New York expect to see the presidents of Peru, Guatemala and Paraguay attend the signing, along with representatives from Argentina and Brazil, one of the largest emitters of pollution causing climate change. Also signing on will be leaders from Mexico, which is advancing an energy reform package to help support clean energy; and Chile, which has committed to get 20 percent of its power from renewables by 2025 and has imposed a tax on carbon emissions to promote renewables, she said.
“Latin America is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change impacts, the most urbanized region of the world and a region where, according to a recent Gallup survey, more than 70 percent of the people in Latin America view climate change is a serious threat—compared to only 40 percent global average approximately 50 percent in the United States. So, climate change is a very big issue on the radar in Latin America, and in the lives of people there,” Maxwell said.
A new blog by Maxwell addressing climate action and clean energy developments across Latin America is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/amanda-maxwell/what-expect-latin-american-countries-earth-day
**A recording of the press conference is available upon request.