More than six years after the first United Nations Climate Change Summit, the world still has a long way to go to align with the 2016 Paris Agreement. The 2022 event (COP27) in Egypt yielded high expectations to get countries back on track, especially after an increase in climate pledges resulting from COP26. However, for many, this year served up underwhelming results.
With the commitment to limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius on life support, governments came out of COP27 with hope that a more realistic goal of 1.7 degrees would be within reach. The conflict now centers on how to accelerate decarbonization and who will pick up the tab.
There’s no doubt that reducing emissions is on the global agenda but progress up until now has been stagnant. While we’ve seen massive new investment in solar and wind recently, there is also massive new investment in fossil fuels.
If change is what the world wants, there must be a large-scale technological transformation aided by political action. Climate policy will need to be reframed, made less partisan, and directly address the concerns of actors bearing decarbonization costs. And as we continue to see the impacts of climate change on communities and the rising costs of related damages, climate finance will be more important than ever.
The hard reality is: if we don’t want to spend the coming decades in emergency response mode, we need to start getting ahead of the game.
These challenges are daunting, but there is hope. For governments globally, 2022 was a big year for international climate policy. Historically, tackling climate change is pushed aside when events such as spiraling inflation and energy shortages plague the world. Yet amid Russia’s war on Ukraine and the lingering scare of a recession, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters – China, the United States, the European Union, and India – have made climate agendas central to recovery plans.
If there’s anything to take away from 2022, it’s that climate action and economic stability are no longer seen as competing priorities – on the contrary, they go hand-in-hand. Global leaders acknowledged this with historical commitments to drive more adoption of renewable energy.
The EU announced a plan to eliminate reliance on Russian gas by 2027, and nearly halve overall gas use by 2030. Similarly, the U.S. took action through the Inflation Reduction Act which put clean energy investment at the forefront to address the cost-of-living crisis.
China’s government has released plans for coupling economic and energy security, and low-carbon growth, as well as targets that will more than double the installed capacity of wind and solar by 2025.
In India, a National Electricity Plan released by the central government this year has clean energy at its core. The country’s renewables capacity is set to soar by 250% over the next decade.
We finally have significant momentum toward building a global scaffolding on which to structure our climate policy and investment commitments. However, as we know, commitments mean nothing unless there’s follow through, especially on the grand scale that is the Earth. We’ve done the talking in 2022, and now it’s time for the doing in 2023.
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