Bad news and good news on cutting climate pollution

Climate change is an urgent threat and we must overcome significant hurdles to address it — beginning with the reckless polices of the Trump administration.

Some countries are on track to meet their commitments under the Paris agreement, some are falling behind, and many will not start in earnest until compliance rules are agreed to at the UN climate conference in Poland.

The climate action story so far is a mix of positive and negative trends. As has been well-covered in the media, the US is trying to pull out of the Paris Agreement and global emissions rose in 2018. Those hard facts cannot be dismissed. But there are also larger market and technology trends which, combined with the actions of responsible governments, are creating some positive indications, too. Which side wins out will depend on the action of political leaders, investors, engineers, voters, and activists.

The positive examples below are not simply individual bits of good news, but signs of a world economy in the midst of transition:

  • US coal consumption is at a nearly 40-year low.
  • China, the world’s largest emitter of climate pollution, is likely to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions over 5 years ahead of its Paris commitment.
  • Building new renewable energy is now cheaper than running existing coal-fired power plants in many US states.
  • Solar projects with new efficient batteries in Arizona and other states will soon be able to provide electricity at a lower per megawatt-hour cost than new combined cycle natural gas-fired generation.
  • Falling costs and surging demand are predicted to drive the global energy storage market to a cumulative 942 gigawatts (excluding pumped hydro) by 2040, which is 209x more than today.
  • Duke Energy, the second largest utility in the US, will alone invest $500 million in battery storage over the next 15 years, which could help maximize our use of renewable energy on the grid.
  • Seventy percent of all new electricity generating capacity worldwide in 2017 was renewable, including in developing countries. If these trends continue, renewables will produce half of the world’s electricity by 2030.
  • The world’s largest shipping company has set a target to be carbon neutral by 2050.
  • Utility giant Xcel announced it will cut its carbon pollution 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
  • Thirteen oil and gas companies – comprising 30 percent of global production — committed to reducing methane emissions, which are driving 25% of current warming.
  • Walmart has committed to cutting a gigaton of climate pollution from its global supply chain by 2020. That’s more emissions than produced by the entire German economy every year.
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