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New Year brings thrust to Climate Change fight
December 30, 2017, 7:17 pm

The world is faced today with the challenge of coming together to plan and take tangible action in order to fulfill the planet’s common destiny, which is at risk from climate change. Whether we can we unite behind a common strategy should be a mute point at this stage, for there is no plan B, as there is no planet B.

On 12 December, two years to the day after the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change was concluded in 2015, Paris was once again the venue for a ‘One Planet Summit’.

The summit, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, brought together leaders, administrators, non-governmental organizations, civil society and ordinary people from around the world, in a bid to provide new tangible responses to mitigating climate change.

A main focus of the event was to determine how those working in public and private finance can innovate to support and accelerate the global community’s common efforts to fight climate change.

The three main aims of the summit were, to take tangible and collective action both globally and locally; to innovate through creative and resourceful ways to adapt systems to the inevitable changes and step up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to support each other, especially the most vulnerable, in the common fight against global warming and its consequences.

Less than a week after the One Planet Summit, China announced its long-anticipated carbon cap-and-trade scheme. The last fortnight of the year also witnessed a flurry of activity as other countries announced innovative initiatives aimed at mitigating climate change. Here we look at some of these initiatives.

China: In mid-December, Chinese officials provided updates on the country’s long-anticipated carbon cap-and-trade scheme, which aspires to be the biggest in the world. During a briefing in Beijing, Zhang Yong, Vice Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission announced that the carbon market will initially involve only the power sector, contrary to previous plans to include China’s 8 biggest industries: electricity, chemicals, petrochemicals, construction, steel, nonferrous metals, paper, and aviation.

Due to a lack of accurate emissions data, the scope was narrowed down to only include power companies where emissions information is easier to collect. However, the country’s carbon market will still be bigger than the European Union’s equivalent. It will cover approximately 4 billion metric tons of emissions with more than 1,700 companies participating.

The carbon cap-and-trade scheme will allow the biggest corporate polluters to buy credits from companies that do not emit all their carbon allocation credits. This way, companies will be encouraged to reduce emissions in order to sell unused carbon credits. For now, only companies that emit more than 26,000 tons of carbon per year will be included in the market, although, the threshold will decrease in the future.

The ultimate goal is to cover more than 7,000 companies, which in total emit more than 3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. If this goal is met, it will turn the Chinese carbon market into the biggest in the world. Currently, the program is focusing on cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants to encourage power companies to accelerate the shift from coal to natural gas and renewable energy sources.

France: France has taken another bold step towards combatting climate change by passing legislation to end all oil and gas exploration and production by 2040. It will also ensure that no new exploration permits are granted within French territories from now.

While the nation is not a major oil producer, exploiting only 61,000 barrels a day, the move is seen as an important signal to other nations to make the transition away from exploiting hydrocarbons. The United States is the current leading nation for petroleum production, moving almost 15 million barrels per day, followed by Saudi Arabia at 12 million barrels and Russia at11 million barrels per day.

Commenting on the move, French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said on 20 December that the legislation means, “current generations can take care of future generations”. In September, he commented that the move will “allow us to progressively free ourselves…It will allow investors to go much further in their renewable investments. Currently oil and gas leave us dependent on geopolitics”.

Germany: New data has shown that renewable energy provided one-third of Germany’s electricity this year, with wind energy becoming the third largest electricity source surpassing natural gas and nuclear energy.

On 21 December, the Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) published its preliminary calculations for 2017, where it revealed that renewable electricity generation grew to a record 33 percent, contrary to the 29 percent share in 2016.

In addition, the gap between coal and renewables in Germany’s power production fell from 11 to under 4 percentage points in just one year. According to the association’s calculations, the share of coal in the country’s electricity generation mix fell from 40.3 percent in 2016 to 37 percent in 2017.

“The reduction of coal-fired power production is in full swing”, Stefan Kapferer, Chairman of the BDEW told journalists in Berlin, stressing that the declining trend is certain to continue over the next years as “nobody is investing in hard coal plants any longer”. According to current figures from the Federal Network Agency, six coal-fired power plants were shut down in 2017. However, he warned that if policymakers do not invest drastically in renewable energy generation and low-emission natural gas power plants, the phasing out of coal and lignite power plants will create a steep shortfall of available energy in 2023.

Finally, he warned that the transportation sector needs to increase its contribution to the national emissions reduction targets, stating that if Germany fails to meet its 2020 goals, the transport sector would be the “the main culprit”.

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