2015 – A Turning Point for Climate Change?

By Marjorie Sun, Executive Director, China-U.S. Energy Efficiency Alliance

I hope we can look back on 2015 and see it as a turning point in the battle against climate change. This year, there has been a crescendo of activity to cut carbon in China and the United States, which are the largest emitters in the world. Progress reached a zenith in December with the successes achieved at COP21.

Here are some of the year’s highlights:

Photo credit: Jacob Scherr

Photo credit: Jacob Scherr

  • Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama introduced major initiatives to reduce carbon pollution before the convening of COP21. Their leadership gave the highly anticipated international conference in Paris–where the Eiffel Tower glowed with the slogan, “DECARBONIZE’’–the critical momentum to reach a pact.
  • At COP21, 195 nations reached an historic agreement to cut carbon. Nations promised to review their de-carbonization plans every 5 years and tighten their goals. They accepted the principle of standardized monitoring and verification, which will be critical to success.
  • The wildly popular Chinese documentary, “Under the Dome,” (Watch here in Mandarin with English subtitles) put the nation’s terrible problem of air pollution squarely before China’s leaders and the public as never before. The film made its debut in late February and was viewed by hundreds of millions of Chinese before authorities banned it. The film, reported and produced by former CCTV investigative report Chai Jing, threw the spotlight on the myriad of causes behind the horrendous air quality, including the country’s hunger for economic growth, corruption at many levels and government mismanagement. In the film, Jing poignantly exhorts citizens to speak out so that the nation’s children, including her own daughter, can grow up in a healthier environment.
  • California passed pioneering clean energy legislation in October that provides a model for other governments in the U.S. and abroad. Among the key provisions, the law requires the state to double energy efficiency in existing homes, factories and office buildings. And it mandates that California must generate half of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030.

There is so much work to do to build on the successes of this year, especially COP21. The urgency could not be greater. As I write this, Arctic temperatures hit above freezing and historic floods are affecting millions in the Midwest.

We believe one highly effective and critical tool to cut carbon emissions is energy efficiency. From the simple—broadening the use of LEDs—to the complex—integrating EVs and renewables into a smarter grid, a new project we’ve just begun.

The Alliance team is determined to help expand energy efficiency in China and the U.S. Please support our work by donating here. Every dollar counts.

Here’s to a lower carbon 2016. Happy New Year!