Climate Change in 2016: 16 Reasons to be Cheerful

2016 wasn’t just a year of celebrity deaths and political turmoil. It was a momentous year for progress on climate change.

Of course it isn’t all good news. We are still nowhere near reaching the levels of action we need to keep global warming well below 2°C. But we have seen a significant increase in ambition and some very promising breakthroughs, which when taken together suggest we might just get there in the end.

So this festive season, rather than focusing on the very real doom and gloom which can occur as a result of climate change, we would like to give you 16 reasons to be cheerful. Here are some of the highlights from 2016 that show how we might just get on track to deliver a sustainable, low carbon future.

  1. In November the Paris Agreement came into force, following one of the quickest ratifications of an international agreement in history, securing a global deal on climate change for the first time.
  2. There was a landmark deal agreed at a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal for a new global market-based measure to curb emissions from international aviation.
  3. In Kigali more than 170 countries agreed to phase out use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a powerful greenhouse gas, which could reduce global warming by as much as 0.5°C.
  4. There are now over 200 companies that have committed to set science-based targets to reduce emissions, which are aligned with what will be necessary to keep warming below 2°C.
  5. Businesses are recognising the benefits in shifting to 100 percent renewable energy, with 83 corporates – including Wal-Mart, BMW Group and Unilever – making pledges.
  6. City and regional governments are showing leadership, with 165 jurisdictions now signed up to the Under 2 MOU, covering more than 1 billion people and a third of the global economy.
  7. The need to act on air pollution is helping to transform the approach to transportation in cities, with Mexico City, Paris, Athens and Madrid all moving to ban diesel cars by 2025.
  8. Solar Impulse 2 highlighted the potential for clean energy technologies this year by completing the first ever circumnavigation of the globe in an entirely solar-powered aircraft.
  9. Although they haven’t yet agreed to a deal on greenhouse gases, there was promising progress from the shipping industry with a move to cut sulphur dioxide pollution by 85 percent.
  10. G20 economies have been cutting emissions from the economy at a record rate, cutting carbon intensity by 2.8 percent in the past year, more than double the business-as-usual average.
  11. Renewables have overtaken coal as the world’s largest source of electricity capacity, with the International Energy Agency significantly increasing its five-year forecast for renewables growth.
  12. Expectations for when we will see peak oil demand are getting closer and closer, with some major energy companies now predicting this could happen as soon as five years from now.
  13. Momentum continues on introducing carbon pricing, both through cap-and-trade schemes and carbon taxes, with countries including Canada, China and Mexico taking steps forward.
  14. Breakthroughs in battery technology mean that we are seeing big increases in the roll out of electric vehicles and grid-scale energy storage, which is also improving cost competitiveness.
  15. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, led by Bill Gates and of some of the world’s most successful and wealthy businesspeople, launched a major new investment fund for clean technologies.
  16. We have proof that international environmental agreements can result in real positive change, with the hole in the Antarctic ozone layer shrinking by 4 million square kilometres since 2000.

From everyone here at the Carbon Trust, we hope you will join us in our efforts to make 2017 another great year of progress and action on climate change.