Around the world, provinces, states, and nations are investing in climate protection with the goal of simultaneously reducing emissions and creating jobs and new markets. A few examples are highlighted here.
Despite its recent financial crisis, Iceland remains committed to weaning itself off fossil fuels by the middle of the century. Instead of importing oil to power its cars and fishing vessels, this remote island nation of 300,000 plans to power them with electricity from hydroelectric and geothermal plants. Iceland also has a pilot project to replace petroleum with hydrogen.
France has the lowest carbon intensity in Western Europe due to the preponderance of nuclear power in its electric mix. Indeed, France’s emissions have been declining since 1979. Since then, emissions have fallen by 32 percent. Per capita emissions are nearly three times lower in France than they are in the United States.
Spain, Germany, and Denmark have used preferential power purchase rates and guaranteed access to the grid to accelerate the installation of renewable energy. Today, they get 13, 7, and 19 percent of their electricity respectively from wind energy. Solar power is also growing rapidly in these countries
Reducing energy consumption is the cheapest route to emission reductions. Typically a dollar (or euro) invested in efficiency will save two. California is the leading pioneer of efficiency programs in the United States. Today, its per capita electricity consumption is 40 percent lower than that of the rest of the U.S.
In Europe, building scientists have invented the “Passivhaus.” These single and multi-family housing units use 80 percent less energy than conventional buildings, and are so well insulated that they have no need for a heating system. Some new buildings are net energy producers.
Halting deforestation is key to ending the climate crisis. A century ago, tropical rainforests covered 2 billion hectares (5 billion acres). Today just half remains. In Costa Rica one- quarter of the forest receives official protection. Although Brazil faces enormous pressure to convert forest to cattle grazing and soybeans, it has protected more than 100 million hectares since 2002.
In India, growing numbers of farmers use conservation tillage to enhance profits while reducing labor costs, tractor fuel consumption, soil erosion, and carbon outputs from newly plowed fields. The government also plans to invest $4 billion in solar power by 2013.
Countries Take Action