In 2016, nearly 200 countries signed up to the Paris climate accord, which set individual targets aimed at preventing global temperatures from rising above 2C this century – and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5C or less.
As mass strikes united the globe in its fight against our climate crisis, we look at what some of the countries with the largest stake in our environment are either doing – or not doing – to save our planet.
Since Donald Trump’s administration took office, the US president – who famously called climate change a “hoax” – has done plenty to reverse his predecessor Barack Obama’s pro-environmental policies.
Mr Trump has often pursued the interests of industries such as coal and car manufacturing at the expense of the environment in his pursuit of jobs growth. In 2017 he also announced the US will drop out of the Paris Agreement and its commitment to reduce emissions.
The last two heads of the Environmental Protection Agency that have carried these changes. Andrew Wheeler, the current boss, was a former coal lobbyist. Scott Pruitt, his predecessor, opposed environmental regulations.
Justin Trudeau is a vocal proponent for fighting climate change, celebrating the introduction of a carbon tax in 2018 with the tweet: “Starting next spring, it’ll no longer be free to pollute in Canada.”
However, he has faced criticism for another commitment: breathing life into Canada‘s oil industry. As he once put it: “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave it there.”
Indeed, the day after the government declared a climate emergency this summer, it approved a multibillion dollar oil pipeline expansion.
However, Mr Trudeau vowed that profits from the Trans Mountain pipeline would be funnelled into green projects.
If all EU’s environmental policies were fully enacted, Climate Action Tracker (CAT) estimates it would exceed the current target, which aims to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2020.
New targets bind countries to work towards 32 per cent of its overall energy coming from renewable sources by 2030 (although individual targets of countries differ).
Other schemes reduce CO2 emissions for new cars and emissions from factories and power plants, for example, through the largest greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world.
However, according to National Georgraphic, despite all these positive steps, and perhaps because of its size and scope, the EU remains the third largest emitter of CO2 in the world.
The fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gas in the world has seemingly had a change of heart recently when it comes to climate change.
Having previously signed but not ratified the Paris Agreement, the final step may finally come by the end of 2019.
In addition to this, Russia is moving to regulate its emissions for the first time and to impose a carbon tax.
Previously, Vladimir Putin did not seem very concerned about climate change, even suggesting parts of Russia might benefit from rising temperatures and that Russians would save money on fur coats, as The Economist reported.
He recently expressed a dislike of wind turbines, which harm birds and, apparently, worms according to the Russian leader. “They shake, causing worms to come out of the soil,” he said. “This is not a joke.”
Similarly, China’s attitude to climate change has drastically altered over the last decade, before which it viewed environmental policies as a western conspiracy plotting to curb its growth, as the Financial Times pointed out.
Since 2015, there have been strict environmental regulations for power plants and a drive to reduce air pollution.
China has also given its growing electric car manufacturing industry a boost with large subsidies. In turn, Chinese people bought 1.1 million electric cars in 2018 – more than the entire world combined.
However, largely due to heavy coal consumption and electricity production, emissions have been rising for the past two years, whereas they were previously stagnant or falling, according to a report by Carbon Brief.
One bright note, China’s capital of Beijing is on track to drop out from the list of the world’s top 200 most-polluted cities this year, with hazardous smog concentrations falling to their lowest on record in August, data compiled by IQAir AirVisual.
Britain’s biggest environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, urged chancellor Sajid Javid to invest at least £42bn to tackle the climate crisis – which is far off the current £17bn a year spent.
A report by the Commons Science and Technology Committee found the current practices of fracking, reducing subsidies on renewable energy and opposing wind farms are also restricting Britain’s ability to fulfil its pledge.
In fact, the country’s failure to protect its Amazon rainforest, which is hugely important for capturing emissions, was impossible to miss as it was engulfed by recent forest fires.
Mr Bolsonaro defunded agencies protecting it from deforestation and his government even planned to fund construction projects across the world largest rainforest, leaked documents show.
During his presidential campaign, he blamed environmental regulations for holding back Brazil.
And, with the Ministry of Environment’s budget for tackling climate change slashed by 95 per cent, according to CAT, Brazil does not look likely to lead the fight against the global crisis anytime soon.
To mark the climate change strikes which united the globe today, Australian academics sent a damaging open letter to their government.
“Australia’s current climate policies and practices are dire,” it read.
The government has been accused of both propping up and encouraging the expansion of its coal industry.
In turn, CAT predicts it will fall well short of its targets set by the Paris Agreement, estimating a 8 per cent increase above its 2005 fossil fuel and industry emission levels as opposed to the desired 14 to 17 per cent decrease.
In line with the academics, CAT accuses Australia of having “turned its back on global climate action”.
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