5 Paris Agreement All-Stars to Watch

These countries are successfully on track to meet the ambitious Paris Agreement targets

Oct 29, 2019

Four years ago, leaders from 196 nations came together and adopted the International Paris Agreement; a framework that seeks to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to curb a sustainable level that will  curb the increase in global temperatures. In September 2019 these countries convened again for the UN climate Action Summit in New York and this time it was for pinning down more ambitious and concrete actions.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the assembled world leaders “Don’t come with a speech, come with a plan.” This was necessary because while countries are committed under the agreement to limit their emissions and prevent a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures (as compared with pre-industrial levels) many countries are not on track to do so. 

A number of countries stand out as exemplary leaders, as they are, in fact, taking the necessary steps to enact meaningful climate policy. These Paris Agreement all-stars are investing in renewable energy, divesting from fossil fuels and pollutants, and building a sustainable infrastructure for future generations. 

You can track how your country is doing to limit global warming and if they are meeting their goals on The Climate Tracker.

Morocco

Morocco and The Gambia are the only two countries whose national targets are aligned to prevent a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming of the climate according to the UN. Morocco stands out not only because of their ambitious targets, which include 42 percent renewable energy by 2020 and 52 percent by 2030, but more importantly because they are successfully on track to meeting those goals.

One reason Morocco is so successful is due to investments in solar energy and cutting down fossil-fuel subsidies. In fact, several years ago Morocco built the largest solar farm in the world— roughly the size of San Francisco – in Ouarzazate. The electricity will soon be sold for a record low price of 0.68 Moroccan dirhams per kilowatt-hour during peak hours. 

The Gambia

While this small country in Western Africa is no large emitter, it is highly vulnerable to the changes that the climate crisis may cause and is therefore working hard to meet the Paris Agreement's targets. One of the ways that the country is seeking to both develop economically and sustainably is through renewable energy including a 20-megawatt solar farm, which will increase the country’s electricity by 20 percent. Another method Gambia is using to meet targets is forest and mangrove restoration, which will not only absorb a significant amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and will also provide cleaner water and healthier landscapes to approximately 50,000 families. 

India

The expanse of India, home to over 1.3 billion people, follows closely behind in third place. Currently, India is on the way to achieving 40 percent renewable energy by 2030, and the cost of the energy is among the cheapest in the world. India’s success is a result of strong environmental policies, such as mandating that utilities purchase solar energy; auctioning off contracts, which incentivizes competition thus driving the price down; and by expanding off-grid solar projects in remote villages. India’s policies are in line with reducing global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

The United Kingdom

The UK is one of the world’s leaders on climate policy, especially among developed nations. While they’re not entirely on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals, they have successfully reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 44 percent since 1990. The UK is also the first country with a legally binding target for net-zero emissions by 2050. 

What really makes them stand out is that they have begun building both short-term and long-term targets to reduce emissions and have commissioned an independent scientific group to ensure that goals are appropriately determined and are on track. This is particularly useful during political and governmental changes.

Switzerland

Switzerland is another European country that has been making significant climate progress. The country’s emissions have been declining since the 1970’s due to an array of effective policies, both voluntary and market-based. Switzerland was among the first countries to adopt a carbon-tax, which charges $96 per ton of carbon. Those funds then go to improving building efficiency, research and development for clean technologies, and also to workers whose industries were negatively affected by legislature.

Around the Globe

Many other countries throughout the world are making incredible strides to achieve zero carbon emissions, 100 percent renewable energy, and rehabilitated lands. Costa Rica, for example, has successfully reforested land cover that was lost from years of logging, and is now almost on track to meet its ambitious Paris targets. Norway has also committed to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and has successfully encouraged the adoption of electric cars. In fact, in 2018, 60 percent of all new cars sold were electric vehicles.  

The current climate crisis offers countries an opportunity to green their economies to move away from dirty energy and to embrace cleaner, cheaper, and more stable alternatives. The frameworks are only a few of the innovative methods that nations are implementing to reduce emissions and encourage entrepreneurship. In fact, every day, new stories of ambitious targets and game-changing technologies are paving the way for a sustainable future. 

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.