On the 25th of September 2015, at the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development, more than 150 Heads of State adopted the 2030 Agenda, which includes, among other things, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, such as eradicating poverty, hunger, and inequality, combating the climate crisis and protecting the environment, as well as improving access to health and education. The goal of climate change is considered very critical, due to its great impact on the other SDGs but also due to its obvious negative effects in many countries.
The importance of the goal of climate change is evidenced by relevant commitments, such as the goal set by the EU in December 2019, in the context of the European Green Deal, to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Respective commitments for climate neutrality followed a year later, in 2020, when Japan and South Korea announced that by 2050, they would be climate neutral, while China set the same goal for 2060. The United States are re-entering the climate change mitigation “arena”, as Joe Biden pledged to return to the Paris Agreement Accord from the very first day of his presidency.
But what are the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and what are the estimates?
For 2020, it is estimated that emissions will be reduced by 6-8%, due to the restrictive measures that emerged as a result of COVID-19. Their exact reduction, however, will depend on the evolution of the pandemic and the relevant measures taken by governments to address it. For example, during the peak of the restrictive measures in early April 2020, global CO2 emissions decreased by 17% compared to 2019. These emissions were equal to the emission levels recorded in 2006, indicative of their rapid rise the last 15 years. A few months later, in early June 2020, global emissions were approaching 2019 emission levels (down to a range of 5%). In 2019 the emissions reached a record high, 37 gigatonnes of CO2 eq, resulting to 62% increase compared to the start of negotiations on climate change in 1990.
To meet the 2030 targets, the emission gap is estimated to be equal to the combined emissions of the six largest polluters in the world (China, America, India, Russia, Japan, Germany). With these data, the goal of the Paris Agreement to maintain the temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100, seems almost impossible. The average temperature for the period 2016- 2019 is the highest ever recorded. And it is already increased by 1.1°C, compared to the pre-industrial levels of the period 1850-1900, which is the reference period for temperature changes.
In view of the pandemic, the future effects of which are still unknown, what is required is not a superficial recovery. What is required is the activation of all stakeholders, with commitment and effective participation in the effort of total restart in terms of sustainability and real progress. The goal is one and is reflected in an overall aim of Better Reconstruction. Towards this direction, a crucial role will be played mainly by the new generation, the generation of the multidimensional crisis but also of hope, as it is the only one that still has time to succeed and put into practice the #BUILDBACKBETTER.
* Article by Alice Corovessi, Managing Director, INZEB, and Dr. Haris Doukas, Assoc. Prof., NTUA, which was published in the winter edition newsletter of the Hellenic-Dutch Association (HeDA).