As corporations, citizens and governments continue to urge the Trump administration to stick with the Paris Climate Agreement, a new analysis is undercutting one of the climate naysayers primary objections:
China and India are actually years ahead of their climate commitments.
Those, at least, are the findings from Climate Action Tracker which suggest that scaling back of coal consumption in both countries is likely to be enough to 'cancel out' the expected slowing down of progress by the United States under President Trump. India, for example, had pledged to lower the emissions intensity by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The new analysis suggests they will leap past that mark to a 42 to 45 percent cut in emissions intensity by 2030.
Bill Hare of Climate Analytics described the significance of these findings:
“Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping—or even slowing—coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle, as coal-fired power plants were thought by many to be necessary to satisfy the energy demands of these countries. Recent observations show they are now on the way toward overcoming this challenge.”
We should not, of course, let this analysis soothe us into inaction. "Canceling out" the fact that the United States may renege on its commitments only means that Globally, assuming every other country steps up, we'd still be on track to meet the goals set out under the agreement. But those goals don't yet get us to a point where we have a chance of limiting warming to safe levels.
That said, given the fact that China is also getting serious about electrified transportation and India has even floated plans to make every car electric by 2030, there's good reason to believe that progress made on burning less coal may translate to other sectors of both countries' economies. And as those countries pick up the mantle of leadership, it's inevitable that large swathes of the world—including the US—will follow.
In fact, it's already happening: Just yesterday, for example, we heard that South Korea's new president will shut down ten big coal plants. Meanwhile more and more businesses and cities commit to going 100% renewables.
Who knows where American leadership will be four or even two years from now. Heck, I'd have had a hard time predicting today's headlines yesterday. But it continues to be clear that the transition away from fossil fuels has reached a point where it cannot be derailed.
Now we just need to speed it up.