Last fall, diplomats from across the globe gathered in Marrakech, Morocco to strengthen the Paris Climate Agreement. There, in the early hours of November 9, they watched in dismay as Donald Trump, a man who had promised to undo the landmark accord, was elected president of the United States.
Nearly a year to the day after the election, diplomats are meeting again, this time in Bonn, Germany for the first major UN climate meeting since Trump took office.
Under the new administration, the United States has abandoned its role as a global leader on climate change. But Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement has inspired unprecedented action at the local level, and leaders from around the world have made clear they will not follow Trump’s lead.
Sixty-six countries have ratified the Paris Agreement since Trump’s election, bringing the total to 167. Nicaragua and Uzbekistan both joined the agreement, leaving only Syria and the United States on the outside. Eight countries and subnational governments launched carbon pricing initiatives. In October, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “China has become an important participant, contributor and torchbearer in the global endeavor for ecological civilization,” signaling China’s new role as the global leader on climate action.
Around the world, governments are making progress on climate change.
In every region of the world, countries are moving away from fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy:
- China canceled plans for more than 250 coal-fired power plants in 2017. The total capacity of the canceled plants is greater than the generating capacity of every power plant in Germany and Japan put together.
- China also already exceeded its 2020 target for solar power. In response, the government doubled the target.
- India is closing 37 coal mines and cancelling numerous coal power projects to focus instead on solar power.
- The United Kingdom and Canada jointly pledged to phase out coal power as the Britain’s coal use fell to a 135-year low.
- Saudi Arabia received the cheapest bid ever for solar power, the latest milestone in the falling cost of renewable energy.
- France announced plans to end oil and gas exploration and production by 2040.
- New Zealand’s new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plans to set a target of making the country carbon neutral by 2050.
- Scotland banned fracking to avoid “long-lasting negative impacts on communities.”
Countries, cities and automakers are making major strides in electrifying transportation and phasing out gas-powered vehicles:
- Several countries plan to ban the sale of new diesel and gas-powered cars, including China, France, India, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.
- Major automakers including General Motors, Ford and Volvo are working toward producing all-electric fleets.
- Twelve major cities, including London, Los Angeles, Paris and Vancouver, signed a “fossil-fuel-free streets” declaration, promising to buy only zero-emission buses by 2025 and to create zones that are free from fossil fuel emissions by 2030.
Major businesses are acknowledging the economic risks of climate change and taking steps to protect their bottom line:
- Some 1,400 companies are factoring a carbon price into their business planning — representing an eightfold increase over the last four years.
- Exxon shareholders voted to support a resolution asking the company to report on the risks it will face from technology changes and policies to limit climate change.
- Deutsche Bank announced it would stop financing coal projects as part of its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
- BNP Paribas, a French bank, announced in October it would stop financing companies involved in oil and gas extraction from shale or tar sands. It had previously said it would not fund coal projects.
- Axa, a French insurance company, announced it would stop providing investment and insurance support to companies heavily invested in coal.
While Americans fret about Trump’s deregulatory agenda, governments and businesses are stepping up. “The Paris Agreement remains irreversible and will be implemented…by all the other nations,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. “We will succeed.”
Bridgette Burkholder writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, politics, art and culture. You can follow her at @bridgette_ck.