196 countries negotiated the 2015 Paris Agreement and committed to taking steps to limit the increase in global average temperature by reducing and mitigating carbon. Despite this, global carbon emissions increased 1.7 percent in 2017 and a further 2.7 percent in 2018, and it has been estimated that the rate of increase in 2019 will be among the highest on record. Fast action now could reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and hold global increases below 2 degrees C and perhaps 1.5. But which countries are taking real action?
In the UN’s climate action summit in September 2019, 70 countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020 or have started the process of doing so, while 65 countries and major sub-national economies such as California committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Why not make these places your choice of trip destination in 2020 to give yourself a more sustainable travelling experience and do your bit to help?
The next stage is to hold all these places to account, of course. Many times countries have committed to change for press attention but then failed to act. You can use the Climate Action Tracker to find out what your country is doing – and to make your voice heard if they are not doing enough. More here.
Meanwhile, below is a summary of the most interesting bits for travellers to help you pick and choose. You can find a full list of countries and exactly what they are doing on the Climate Watch Data website here.
France said it would not enter into any trade agreement with countries that have policies counter to the Paris Agreement. Finland promised to become carbon neutral by 2035 and planned to become “carbon negative” soon afterwards. Germany also committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. Slovakia pledged to end subsidies to coal mines in 2023 as it joined the powering past coal alliance, committing to close all coal mines. It has also committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. Italy said it would phase out coal by 2025 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. It also committed to put in place a “Green New Deal”, including a green jobs programme and review its subsidies to fossil fuel. Greece pledged to close all lignite power plants by 2028 with coal plants to be dismantled from 2020. Hungary promised to phase out all coal-powered electricity production by 2030 and increase forest cover by 30% by 2030. The UK pledged to double its funding to tackle climate change through overseas development aid to £11.6 billion over the next five years Ireland has vowed to set a moratorium on exploring for new oil but said it still intends to use gas as a “bridging fuel”.
India said it will raise the portion of renewable into its energy mix to 175GW by 2022, with the aim of boosting it to 450GW in the long-term. Indonesia promised to cut fossil fuel subsidies and develop a green finance facility. Pakistan committed to reach land degradation neutrality by 2030 by restoring at least 30% of degraded forests, 5% degraded croplands, 6% of degraded grasslands and 10% of degraded wetlands, and would plant 10 billion trees over the next five years.
In South and Central America
Chile promised a full decarbonisation of its energy mix, but did not communicate a date. Bolivia said it would reach 100% of households with electricity, with 79% renewable by 2030. Guatemala pledged to restore 1.5 million hectares of forested land by 2022. Colombia has committed to restoring 300,000 hectare (about 180 million trees) of forest by 2022, and an additional 900,000 hectares of agro-forestry and sustainable forest management.
Morocco promised to produce 52% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. South Africa pledged to finalise a just transition plan compatible with the 1.5C target and a climate change bill to provide the legislative basis for updating its climate plan, allocate sectoral emissions targets, and regulate large emitters. It also vowed to develop a programme to enhance the land’s net emissions sink capacity by restoring subtropical thicket and grasslands, expanding forestry and reduce tillage. Kenya promised to plant 2 billion trees by 2022. Nigeria said it would employ youth to plant 25 million trees. Ethiopia reaffirmed its commitment to planting 4 billion new trees a year. Congo DRC committed to stabilize its forest cover at 60%.
In Small Island Developing States
Many smaller countries, including Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, were among those who made the biggest pledges, despite the fact the they have contributed the least to the problem. Fiji, for example, committed to plant 1 million new trees and said it was exploring planting 31 million more. Barbados pledged to plant one million trees by end of 2020 (on 166 square miles of land) and called on all Bajans around the world to come and help. Some pledges are likely to be contingent on receiving climate finance from the wealthiest countries.
Russia (finally) ratified the Paris Agreement. New Zealand has committed to plant one billion trees by 2028 and to make the country “the most sustainable food producer in the world”. Sweden, South Korea, Denmark and Iceland announced a doubling of their contribution to the Green Climate Fund. A total of 12 countries made financing announcements to the fund, including the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Monaco, Slovenia, Hungary and Lichtenstein.