Climate change is a national and international security threat. It is known to cause resource depletion, weather instability, and socioeconomic instability in communities, regions, and countries around the world. To mitigate the existing and future threats of climate change, global carbon emissions must be reduced. Achieving this would require a global transformation in energy consumption towards renewable energy. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report, emissions must be curbed on unprecedented levels. The Paris Climate Agreement already set ambitious goals, but the IPCC recommends more must be done. Are those objectives impossible to reach? These countries think not:
This month, Spain announced an ambitious plan to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Most notably, before Spain’s declaration to achieve 100% renewables, the government announced the closure of nearly all coal plants by the end of 2018. Additionally, Spain hopes to ban fossil fueled vehicles by 2040. Implementing bans on new fossil fuel acquisitions, improving energy efficiency, and taking immediate action to lower carbon emissions places Spain to become a world leader in renewable energy.
In 2017 Costa Rica set the world record of running on renewable energy for 300 consecutive days. Presently, Costa Rica generates roughly 99% of its electricity from renewable sources, compared to the U.S. at 10%. Their government is also incentivizing residents to purchase electric cars by implementing three times the amount of charging stations currently available nationwide. Costa Rica’s switch to renewables is the result of a cultural and constitutional belief of environmental stewardship. In 1994, the Costa Rican government amended their constitution to “…incorporate the right to a healthy environment for all its residents.”
China is famously known as the world’s leading carbon emitter. China burns roughly half of the world’s coal, however, the country is quickly changing its path largely due to health concerns of its citizens from poor air quality. China has shown tremendous growth in the renewable energy sector. China is the world leader in renewable energy production, deployment, and investment. The Chinese government plans to commit $360 billion towards renewables, generating an estimated 13 million jobs by 2020. By 2040, renewables will be China’s primary source of energy.
States in the U.S.
Even though the United States growth in the renewable energy sector is slow compared to other nations, individual states in the U.S. have expressed an eagerness to achieve their own renewable energy goals. Oregon, for example, is the nation’s leading state in renewable energy consumption at over 45%. “In 2017, 76% of Oregon’s utility-scale net electricity generation came from conventional hydroelectric power plants and other renewable energy resources.” Additionally, California has set an impressive goal of reaching 50% renewable energy by 2025 to ultimately achieve 100% by 2045. Hawai’i also hopes to meet 100% renewables by 2045.
The countries and states outlined above represent a mere fraction of governments who aim to achieve equally, if not greater, ambitious targets. Some countries include Portugal, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, to name a few. There is an international movement to reach and exceed the objectives outlined by the Paris Climate Agreement, noting nearly 200 countries are scheduled to gather at the UN climate talks in Poland next week. The Trump administration’s pulling out of the Paris agreement was a shock and disappointment, particularly because the U.S. is the world’s second largest carbon emitter. International support is required to achieve carbon zero, including the United States. The federal and state governments listed above demonstrate ambitious renewable energy goals are not impossible to reach. The U.S. must re-commit to the Paris Climate Agreement and follow in the footsteps of the various countries and state governments previously mentioned. Without smart climate action, no country in the world will be exempt from the fast approaching and far reaching consequences of climate change.