Quantcast
Business

5 Reasons 2015 Was One of the Most Important Years in Decades

2015 was a breakthrough year for our environment—one of the most important in decades.

The nations of the world agreed to a climate deal that finally gives us a chance to turn the corner toward safety. America put in place the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from its largest source, power plants. And the Senate passed sweeping bipartisan legislation that promises to fix our chemical safety system, which has been broken for 40 years.

At Environmental Defense Fund, we’re proud to have played key roles in all of these breakthroughs.

Still, even with all that we accomplished, I expect 2016 to top the year now coming to an end. The twin drivers of progress in the next 12 months will be ambition and accountability—two mutually dependent qualities the environmental movement must have to thrive.

Ambition without accountability is just rhetoric and accountability without ambition is merely record keeping. Together, though, they are what made the recent Paris talks such a success and they are how we’ll ratchet up global action in the year ahead.

Here’s why:

1. Paris Set the Tone

For the first time, the world got the message: Climate change is the race of our lives. And leaders responded with action on a global scale. In support of the latest Conference of the Parties or COP21, 187 countries covering almost 99 percent of global emissions submitted commitments to take action on climate.

The agreement reached in Paris doesn’t solve climate change, but it created a framework through which the world can take measurable, verifiable action to see emissions peak, stabilize and eventually decline. And it requires countries to track progress and increase ambition over time, further improving the odds that we can keep warming below catastrophic levels.

In other words, Paris is the starter’s gun.

2. Markets are Ramping Up

The Paris agreement sent a powerful, immediate signal to global markets that the clean energy future is open for business. It’s a message markets are primed to receive: emissions trading systems are already at work in more than 50 places that are home to nearly 1 billion people.

With the Paris framework in place, momentum for bottom-up, decentralized market-based policies will only increase—and at the core of such systems are transparency and integrity.

It’s a principle of economics that as participation grows, activity accelerates. As we reach economies of scale, new investment is drawn in and businesses come to depend on the new market tools.

3. Private Sector is Coming Onboard

The corporate world is ready to play a larger role, too.

More than 100 savvy businesses ran an ad in The Wall Street Journal just before the Paris talks, supporting action to reduce U.S. emissions that achieve or exceed national commitments “and increase ambition in the future.”

By pledging, these companies also invite us to hold them accountable.

4. Clean Energy Investments are Rising

Domestically and internationally, 2015 was a breakthrough year for clean and efficient energy and 2016 should see the amplification of smart policies and investments.

On the domestic front, the U.S. Department of Energy released a new standard to cut emissions from commercial air conditioners and furnaces. It’s expected to save more energy than any other standard the agency has issued so far.

The promise of clean energy is global and another critical piece of the Paris agreement is that it invites the developing world to participate in the rising flow of clean energy investments.

Emerging economies such as China and India are expected to spend $2.7 trillion on renewable energy between 2015 and 2040, far outpacing industrialized nations.

Now all nations, rich and poor, will be able to show that these investments pay off.

5. Market Solutions Grow on Land and at Sea

The “no net loss” habitat standards the Obama administration announced in late 2015 and is set to ramp up in 2016 and call for landscape-scale, market-based solutions that bring net benefits for wildlife on working lands.

At the same time, successes in the U.S. commercial fishing sector are expanding globally. Fishing rights management programs are transforming the industry, increasing prosperity in fishing communities and abundance in fish populations.

These two, ambitious initiatives are built on demonstrable results. Look for more progress in 2016 as they continue to expand.

2016: A Year of Opportunity

While we’re making extraordinary environmental gains, there is, of course, still much to be done.

We need to continue to work with government and industry partners to identify and mitigate methane leaks from the oil and gas sector. We know it can be done at low cost and have tremendous impact.

We also need to ensure that a strong bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act emerges from the House-Senate negotiations and is signed into law. Americans deserve to know their everyday products are safe to use.

The era of delay is over. We must be ambitious and hold our public officials, our business leaders and ourselves accountable. We need smart, flexible solutions that can ratchet up environmental protection over time.

Ambition plus accountability accelerates progress.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Watch 25 Years of Arctic Sea Ice Melt in One Minute

10 Incredible Moments in 2015: A Landmark Year in Climate Action

Michael Mann: How Close Are We to ‘Dangerous’ Planetary Warming?

15 Big Climate News Stories of 2015

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular
Desperate for water, Puerto Ricans are resorting to any available sources, such as this stream in Cayey. Angel Valentin / NPR

Desperate Puerto Ricans Are Drinking Water From Hazardous Waste Sites

The ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee called for an investigation into the availability of potable water in Puerto Rico following reports Friday that residents are scrounging for water from hazardous waste sites.

After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed residents were trying to access water from three Superfund sites, and following a CNN story Friday featuring Puerto Ricans taking water from a fourth site, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke asking if she knew about the situation and calling the reports "beyond disturbing."

Keep reading... Show less
Brant at Izembek Lagoon. Kristine Sowl / USFWS

Groups Slam Zinke's 'Backroom Deals' to Build Road Through Alaskan Wildlife Refuge

Ryan Zinke's Interior Department is working behind the scenes to build a controversial and long-contested road through the heart of Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, documents show.

The refuge was established more than 30 years ago to conserve wetlands and habitats for migrating birds, brown bears and salmon and other wildlife. 300,000 of its 315,000 acres has been designated as Wilderness in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Keep reading... Show less
FAO / Giulio Piscitelli

On World Food Day, Pope Francis Says Link Between Climate Change and Hunger Is Undeniable

By Andrew McMaster

Speaking at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on World Food Day, Pope Francis addressed the need for governments around the world to acknowledge that climate change and migration were leading to increases in world hunger.

Francis received a standing ovation after a stirring speech in which he said all three issues were interrelated and require immediate attention.

Keep reading... Show less
The pallid bat is native to the western U.S., where the spread of white-nose syndrome is a threat. Ivan Kuzmin / Shutterstock

Why Are America's Bats Disappearing?

By John R. Platt

It's Friday evening in Pittsburgh, and the mosquitoes are out in force. One bites at my arm and I try to slap it away. Another takes the opportunity to land on my neck. I manage to shoo this one off before it tastes blood.

I'm at Carrie Furnaces, a massive historic ironworks on the banks of Pennsylvania's Monongahela River. Stories-tall rusting structures loom all around me, as do the occasional trees poking their way out of the ground. A tour guide, leading a group from the Society of Environmental Journalists conference, tells me the soil here is full of heavy metals and other pollutants from the factory, which operated for nearly a century before closing in 1982.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
The Amur tiger is the extinct Caspian tiger's closest living relative. Mathias Appel / Flickr

After a Half-Century, Tigers May Return to Kazakhstan

Wild tigers may be on their way back to Kazakhstan.

This news is surprising for a few reasons. First, most people associate tigers with the jungles of India or Sumatra, even the snowy slopes of eastern Russia—not the dry landscapes of Central Asia. But Iran, Turkey and Kazakhstan were once home to thriving populations of Caspian tigers. Unfortunately, sometime between the 1940s and '70s, this subspecies went extinct due to widespread trapping, hunting, poisoning and habitat degradation.

Second, Kazakhstan isn't a nation that often comes up in conversations about conservation. In fact, if Americans recognize the world's largest landlocked nation for anything, it's probably the movie Borat.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

California Wildfires: One of 'Greatest Tragedies' State Has Ever Faced

With aid from easing winds, the 11,000 firefighters beating back the Northern California wildfires are making "good progress," as the number of major blazes dropped to 15, the state's fire agency Cal Fire announced Sunday.

But as Cal Fire noted‚ "Sadly, the death toll has risen to 40 people."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Bonn Climate Change Conference, June 4 2015. UNclimatechange / Flickr.

UN Urges World Leaders to Heed Climate Risk, Warns of More Severe Disasters

By Paul Brown

The hurricanes and wildfires that have severely damaged large areas of the U.S. in recent weeks have had no impact on President Donald Trump's determination to ignore the perils of climate change and support the coal industry.

In a deliberate denial of mainstream science, the Trump administration has issued a strategic four-year plan for the U.S. Environment Protection Agency that does not once mention "greenhouse gas emissions," "carbon dioxide" or "climate change" in its 48 pages.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
www.youtube.com

Oil Rig Explodes in Louisiana: 7 Injured, 1 Missing

An oil rig exploded on Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana Sunday night, injuring seven crew members, with an eighth believed to be missing, authorities said.

The explosion was reported at 7:18 p.m. near St. Charles Parish and the city of Kenner. The platform, located in unincorporated Jefferson Parish, is owned by New Orleans-based Clovelly Oil Company.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox