A glance at the planet and politics of 2016. Where we’ve come since COP21.
“The historic pace at which countries are joining the Paris agreement brings it significantly closer to entering into force, yet there remains a massive gap between what the agreement calls for and what world governments are actually doing to meet these targets”
May Boeve, 350.org Executive Director
Today, world governments are meeting at the United Nations for the General Assembly, with 31 more countries ratifying the Paris Agreement during a ceremony. It’s an important moment to look back at where we’ve come since December 2015 when the world gathered in Paris. What is clear when we see what’s happened so far in 2016 is that now is not the time to be complacent.
[This is not a complete list of all that’s happened in 2016, but just an overview.]
2016 on course to be the hottest year ever. August 2016 was the 16th month straight warmest month on record. There’s no signs of slowing down.
Iraq and Kuwait experienced summer temperatures of 54°C (129.2°F) — the highest reliably measured temperature in the eastern hemisphere.
Certain parts of the Pacific Ocean are 2°C warmer than normal which has helped spur massive cyclones, including super typhoons Winston and Nepartak . Recently, Super Typhoon Meranti “would have been the equivalent of a Category 6 hurricane, if the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale extended beyond five.”
Warm temperatures have led to record breaking mass coral bleaching around the world. 93% of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching.
Catastrophic floods have hit many places — China, Pakistan and Louisiana especially. Rainfall in June led to one of the costliest disasters in China’s recent history. Louisiana also faced several cases of extreme flooding — during the most recent case “some spots picked up more than a foot of rain in 24 hours and 2 feet in 72 hours”
Scientists confirmed that 5 islands have disappeared in the Solomon Islands due to sea level rise. 6 others have been partially submerged. Officials from Tuvalu have said that the country has already lost four islands.
The Isle de Jean Charles band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe were the first community in the U.S. to receive federal funding to relocate because of climate change. The indigenous village of Shishmaref in Alaska has voted to relocate due to rising sea levels.
Governments made pledges to cut emissions, but this is some of what has actually been happening. There is no way countries can meet the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground.
Swedish government completely blew off its Paris Agreement promises and climate leadership when it went ahead with sale of Vattenfall’s German coal mines, ensuring that its lignite will be burnt (1.2bn tonnes CO2, equivalent to many times Sweden’s national carbon emissions).
UK slashed renewable subsidies and renewed its ‘dash for gas’ just weeks after Paris.
The Obama administration went ahead with an oil and gas lease auction right after the extreme floods in Louisiana.
The Philippines’ new president Rodrigo Duterte said they will not honor their climate commitments.
Brazil has ratified the Paris Agreement but seems to be heading in the opposite direction — by opening the energy sector to unconventional forms of oil and gas extraction, such as fracking, encouraging investments in the natural gas industry, and making changes in the environmental licensing laws to ease the processes to approve large energy projects.
Portugal ran for four days straight on renewable energy alone.
Solar power sold for the lowest price ever in Chile.
Around the world, communities have been organizing and stepping up to do what it takes to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Tens of thousands worldwide take part in largest global civil disobedience in the history of the climate movement. People took to the streets, occupied mines, blocked rail lines, linked arms, paddled in kayaks and held community meetings in 13 countries, pushing the boundaries of conventional protest to find new ways to demand coal, oil and gas stay in the ground.
After Sweden’s Vattenfall decision, Swedes pledged to organise and take action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and hold governments to account.
Opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline has massively grown and become a national movement and inspired people globally.
About 190 new institutions have divested since Paris. The majority of new divestments are municipalities and faith groups that represent large part of our population.
People power won in Canada when the government agreed to mandate a new climate test for all new tar sands pipelines.
Resistance to fracking has grown in Brazil. More than 70 Brazilian cities have approved fracking bans.
Fossil Fuels Vs Renewables
So how have fossil fuel companies been doing the past couple months in comparison with renewables?
The amount of coal capacity under development has dropped a lot, falling 14% globally. This decline is nearly equivalent to the European Union’s entire coal fleet.
Germany’s largest utility, Eon, reported a €3 billion loss for the first half of 2016 due to stranded fossil fuel assets.
In July, Exxon posted worst profits since 1999.
Exxon is now under SEC investigation for climate change and accounting practices.
Electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy forms have set monthly records every month so far in 2016.
The number of wind turbines in Scotland has been growing by at least one a day.
A new opinion poll reveals more than 2/3 of the public support renewable energy schemes where projects are undertaken at a community level and local people receive financial benefit.