The Top Take-Aways From New York City Climate Week 2019

The speakers at this year's Climate Week were united in their message: Unless major changes are made in the next 10 years, the future of humanity is looking bleak. Now is the time to act. According to Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Energy Transitions Commission, we need to grow the renewable energy sector at three to four times its current pace, totally electrify our roads (aka ban vehicles that run on fossil fuels), and make all plastics completely recyclable by the time the decade's up.

These massive changes won't happen without political buy-in, which is in short supply these days. In fact, governments around the world are now spending $4.7 trillion (6.3% of the global GDP) to subsidize fossil fuels with each dollar, bringing us further from our 1.5-degree target.

José Ángel Gurría, secretary-general of the OECD, summed up this hypocrisy during a Climate Week panel in saying, “Countries are undoing with one hand what they're doing with the other.” We won't be able to move forward if there are still financial incentives for staying stuck in the past.

In order to make the Climate Decade a success, major world powers need to increase their climate commitments and decrease their fossil fuel subsidies. Period. But as climate pledges from heavy emitters like the U.S., China, Russia, and India consistently fall short, other countries are starting to lead by example: Costa Rica is on track to emit zero carbon emissions by 2050, and the nation already gets 98% of its power from renewable resources. Spain has also pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, and Denmark aims to cut its emissions by 70% by 2030.

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