As we move into 2016, it’s worth a quick pause to reflect on the progress that, together, we’ve made in accelerating the transition to the clean and green low carbon economy of the future. As the climate movement has grown, we’ve been able to exert more and more political pressure. One word describes the progress we made together in 2015: Winning!
In the United States, wind and solar accounted for more than 60% of new electricity generation capacity in 2015. For the first time in history, the Environmental Protection Agency instituted limits on greenhouse gas pollution from existing power plants, an important policy that will deliver the single largest commitment the United States made at COP21 in Paris. Shell Oil Company buckled under the pressure of a massive campaign to abandon their dangerous plan to drill for oil in the pristine waters of the Arctic, and the Obama administration rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline once and for all.
Speaking of Paris, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of the historic climate agreement among the more 190 nations that attended COP21. While the agreement isn't perfect, it has sent a clear message that the era of fossil fuels is over and that the future will be powered by clean energy. The agreement contains the most ambitious target ever formalized, holding average global temperature rise to well below 2 °C, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. The agreement also makes it clear that the wealthiest countries must mobilize, financing support for developing countries to the tune of a $100 billion a year until 2025. And perhaps most importantly, the agreement includes the commitment of countries to come back to the table in 5-year cycles to increase ambition and accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy.
Our friend, and one of the true heroes of COP21, Tony de Brum, Minister of Foreign Affairs from the Marshall Islands, summed up the agreement this way: “We have made history today. Emissions targets are still way off track, but this agreement has the tools to ramp up ambition, and brings a spirit of hope that we can rise to this challenge. I can go back home to my people and say we now have a pathway to survival.” So, while historic in scope, it’s clear that Paris is a beginning, not an end. It gives us the tools to come together, but there are still many challenges ahead.
So as we move into 2016 and the dawn of a new era powered by clean energy, let’s celebrate the victories we achieved together in 2015. But let’s also commit ourselves to working even harder to keep up the pressure on world leaders to make good on the promises made at COP21 in Paris to Save Our Swirled.