Climate change: What are the big polluters doing to cut carbon emissions?
The European Union (including the UK) along with China, United States, India and Russia are accountable for the majority of the worlds emissions of carbon dioxide(CO2), being the most common greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. All five countries signed up to the Paris agreement in 2015 to combat emissions and halt the rise of the global temperature. Carbon neutrality indicates total carbon emissions with measures to absorb it from the atmosphere such as planting trees.
Chinas dependence on coal equates to them being the biggest producer of CO2 that shows no signs of slowing down, as experts say carbon emissions will peak before 2030 however China is aiming for 25% of energy from non-fossil fuels by 2030. This year President Xi Jinping proclaimed it would stop funding new coal-fired projects overseas. Contrary to their foreign policy, Chinas coal mines at home have been directed to accelerate production to meet surging energy demands. China now accounts for more than a third of all global solar power while becoming the worlds largest producer of wind energy, this is capable due to massive progression on renewable energy. Chinas contradiction is that they need to cut demand for coal by more than 80% by 2060 to meet their goals. While climate action tracker says Chinas policies and action if they were to continue and other nations follow the global temperature will rise by 3C.
Currently the US has the most emission per person of any country. To combat this Joe Biden’s environmental plan focuses on expanding green energy. With a 100 billion pound investment into companies transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. They plan to change this by cutting CO2 by 50% of 2005 level by 2030 and also half of new vehicles to be electric by 2030. President Biden’s environmental plan has run into strong opposition from US lawmakers whose concern for the coal and fracking industry due to the negative impact it will have. Even through CO2 emissions have been steadily dropping over the past decade climate action tracker says US policies are too moderate and need meaningful improvement to achieve their goals outline in the Paris agreement of keeping a 1.5C increase in global warming as a maximum.
The European Union
As many countries make up the EU with differing financial and technical capabilities this is taken into account when setting the emission goals. The highest emitters of C02 in the EU are Germany, Italy and Poland. The EU as a collective must come together and reach a resolution on how they reach the blocs targets as the 2021 United Nations climate change conference (Cop26). The EU is in a very promising situation as climate action tracker says the policies and actions undertaken by the various EU governments is sufficient enough to keep the global temperature rise below 2C, as emission have been decreasing since 2018 and are on track to achieve their aims for 40% of energy from renewables by 2030, a 55% emissions cut from the 1990 level by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2050.
India’s annual CO2 emission have risen steadily in the past two decades as is common for nations undergoing industrialisation and will likely continue as growth continues. It also produces the lowest emission per person among the top five. India has made the argument that as wealthier and more industrialised countries have contributed more to the problem of global warming over time, that they should bear more of the burden and believe a fairer way to compare the metrics with other countries is CO2 per unit of economic growth. This is why India believes it will take longer to get to net zero later than other major emitters. The goals they have set are aiming to be net zero by 2070, 40% of electric capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2030 and a reduction of 35% in emissions intensity by 2030. Striving towards their goal India has increased production in wind, solar and hydro power reaching 23% by 2019 while fazing out fossil fuels. However 70% of Indias electricity grid is powered by coal and as climate action tracker shows they need to transition from coal by 2040 to achieve their goals but this might come at the risk of economic growth.
Russias carbon emissions drastically decreased after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Yet as the second largest producer of natural gas in the world, non-fossil fuel alternatives such as wind, solar and hydro power make up a minuscule proportion of its total energy mix. While depending on its extensive forests and swaps to absorb carbon, as fossil fuel contributes more that 20% of gross domestic product equivalent to the goods and services produced by Russia. Russias aims to cut emissions by 30% from 1990 levels by 2030 and vow to be carbon neutral by 2060 but the policies and actions are incredibly insufficient to cap global warming to 1.5C.