9 things that give you hope about climate change

The IPCC-report, which was published in October, has caused many to wake up to the fact that there is very little time left to limit climate change: emissions need to be reduced globally within a decade.

This is why so many were shocked by the tense atmosphere at the UN Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland. Expectations were not high to begin with and now there is even disagreement about what wording should be taken into consideration in the October IPCC report.

The rise in global emissions and presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere indicate that there is cause for concern.

There are fortunately also clear signs that some issues are developing in a positive direction and that significant solutions are being brought forward on how to decrease emissions. Furthermore, IPCC’s central message is that it is still possible to achieve the goal of 1,5 degrees. We have compiled a list of nine ongoing processes, that give us reasons to be hopeful.

These have already happened:

1. Solar and wind energy costs have come down. Solar and wind energy have in many cases become cheaper than energy generated by fossil fuels. This development looks set to continue since the price of solar energy is predicted to continue to decrease by 40% by 2020.

2. China’s emissions have begun to decrease sooner than expected. China’s emissions grew at an alarming rate in the 2000s and are by now higher than those of the US and EU combined. China has, however, taken significant steps in implementing its energy and environmental policies and the year when China’s estimated emissions will begin to decrease is fast approaching.

3. The use of coal in energy production is becoming unprofitable. 42 percent of coal-based energy production is unprofitable. The portion of non-profitable production will continue its rapid growth in the coming years. This is especially important, because simply increasing the use of renewable energy will not be enough since it is also necessary to replace the use of coal and other fossil fuels in order for emissions to decrease.

The cost of solar energy is predicted to drop by about 40% by 2020.


4. Pension funds are withdrawing from oil, coal, and gas companies. New York City has, for example, divested its pension funds of about 5 billion US dollars in fossil fuel-linked money. A breakthrough in renewable energy is not enough, though. Other strategies need to be found, by which the processes that produce the most emissions can be stopped. The financial markets have a pivotal role in this.

5. Spain is to shut down its coal mines. The transition to more sustainable energy production will cost the Spanish government 250 million euros, but this will enable it to resolve the consequences of the loss of over a thousand jobs. The deal is an important example of how an entire section of energy production can be closed down with the active participation of government. Similar deals will be made in many other countries.

6. New goals for carbon neutral cities. Where governments have struggled to agree on even a few tens of percentages of carbon reduction goals, a large group of significant cities has committed to achieving carbon neutrality in the 2030-2040s (E.g. New York and Berlin aim to be carbon neutral by 2050, Stockholm by 2040 and Copenhagen already by 2025. In Finland, Turku aims to be carbon neutral by 2029, Espoo by 2030 and Helsinki by 2035). Carbon neutrality has become a guiding principle of urban planning. This is important since a significant portion of the regulation of energy production, construction, traffic, and urban planning stems from cities.

Carbon neutrality has become a guiding principle of urban planning.

Helsinki aims to be carbon neutral by 2035. Photo: Tapio Haaja / Unsplash

Changes in the near future:

7. Digitizing construction. The energy efficiency of buildings is continuing to improve. A possible further development could be that digitizing buildings may allow them to be used significantly more efficiently, which could result in a decrease in the need to build more spaces, that require lighting and heating. This will be possible once the spaces we occupy can be converted to serve different purposes and can therefore be rented in the short term, according to what use they are required for.

8. ‘Peak car’ indicates that private vehicle travel has decreased in the West. Fewer young people are gaining a driving licence and many prefer not to own a car. It will be easier to switch to a new traffic system once driving and owning a car has less perceived status.

9. Plant-based food is becoming the norm in the West. The popularity of new meat substitutes is increasing in both Finland and worldwide. Finnish food recommendations encourage eating less meat more clearly than before.

What else would you add on the list? What SHOULD be added?

Ps. We compiled this list before #COP24 negotiations ended in Katowice.

Follow Aleksi Neuvonen on Twitter: @leksis. Take a look at the One Planet Economy theme here and get in touch with our experts. #Together we can create a more sustainable future.

Header photo: Anna Jiménez Calaf