Lately it feels like we’re being bombarded with a torrent of record-breaking climate and climate-related events around the world that are as frustrating as they are frightening. Yet in the midst of the madness we shouldn’t ignore the hopeful signs that we may yet implement broad and meaningful measures to forestall environmental catastrophe.
In November 2021, world leaders will gather in Glasgow, Scotland for the first successor meeting to the now historic 2015 meeting in Paris which yielded the Paris Climate Agreement. At that landmark meeting, nearly 200 countries signed on to the first binding international treaty for climate action with a goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. We’re not currently on track to make that goal. But the Glasgow meeting will afford the opportunity for world leaders to recalculate, recalibrate and ramp up emissions targets to get us back on track.
Nations are stepping up. In September 2020, Chinese president, Xi Jinping, announced that China aims to be carbon neutral by 2060. While that goal may feel a bit nebulous and a long way off, for a country that’s responsible for an estimated 28% of total global carbon emissions to even set it is a big deal. China’s not alone, nor was it the first. In June 2019, the United Kingdom was the first major world economy to make a legally binding net zero commitment. The European Union did likewise in March 2020.
Since then, Japan and South Korea have joined an estimated 110 nations that have set mid-century net zero targets. Combined, these countries produce more than 65% of global emissions according to the United Nations. And, with the change of administration in the U.S. 2020 election, the United States has rejoined the cadre of carbon-cutting countries.
It takes green to go green and the costs of renewable energy technologies have fallen, making international net zero targets more financially achieveable. Falling costs coupled with growing public pressure on businesses in every sector to take climate action is slowly transforming corporate attitudes and behaviors. As a sign of the turning tide, Tesla’s skyrocketing stock value made it the world’s most valuable car company in 2020, while Exxon’s share price (once
the world’s most valuable company of any kind) fell all the way off the Dow Jones Industrial Average of major U.S. corporations. Likely no coincidence, in May/June of this year, Exxon inducted three climate activists onto its board of directors.
Investors, arguably motivated more by one type of green than the other, are embracing environmentally responsible technologies in response to public pressure and growing implementation. Integrating lending requirements into the world’s financial services sector for corporations to demonstrate that their operations and investments are supporting the transition to a net zero world is on the agenda for discussion at the upcoming Glasgow conference.
In these signs of change we can find cause for hope. We can hope that world leaders and the countries they represent will be as good as their word when it comes to taking climate-positive action. We can hope that the plans we develop to mitigate the effects of climate change will be enough and in time. And while we hope, we can do our best to do our part to give hope a helping hand.