Leaders from seven of the world’s most powerful economies meeting in Germany this week pledged to dramatically reduce or fully eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2100, a move that should deliver strong impetus to the global development and implementation of low- and no-carbon energy sources.
While the pledge from G7 leaders has the immediate effect of building momentum for a global climate agreement when nations gather in Paris in December (details are currently being drafted in Bonn, Germany, by climate officials from nations around the world), it also underscores the consensus that emissions from coal, oil and natural gas that is burned to power utilities, cars and trucks, airplanes and other end uses must be scaled back and eventually stopped.
The G7 pledge validates the work being done by 25x’25, which pursues a vision that by 2025, America’s farms, ranches and forest lands can meet at least 25 percent of our nation’s energy needs with renewable resources – biofuel, biomass, wind energy, solar power, geothermal energy and hydropower – all while continuing to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed and fiber.
In a joint statement issued Monday, the G7 leaders made clear they intend to “work together and with other interested countries to raise the overall coordination and transparency of clean energy research, development and demonstration, highlighting the importance of renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies.”
The agreement reflects the pressure being placed on world leaders to speed up the development of renewable energy if the worst impacts of a changing climate, including volatile weather, food insecurity, diminished biodiversity and habitat degradation, are to be avoided. .
News this week from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) would suggest leaders from around the world are fully acknowledging the need to act fairly quickly. IRENA says that 164 countries have adopted at least one type of renewable energy target, up from just 43 countries 10 years ago. Two more countries, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, have set renewable energy targets at the sub-national level. And, of course, a majority of U.S. states have their own renewable energy standards that require or call on utilities to obtain a certain percent of the power they sell to come from renewable resources.
Officials with IRENA, which is the global hub for renewable energy cooperation and information exchange among 139 nations and the European Union, say the targets have emerged over the past decade as a mechanism to set national and regional economies on the path towards a more secure and sustainable energy future.
The issue driving both this week’s G7 pledge – and what many analysts say is the agreement that will likely be reached in Paris this fall – is a GHG-driven increase in climate temperatures that is outpacing current efforts to scale them back. Many scientists are now saying it even may be too late to meet the goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) – a widely acknowledged target the international research community says must be met to avoid the severe impacts of climate change.
The persistent rise in those temperatures, which has been well-documented by the International Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. National Climate Assessment, also brings a need to improve our climate resiliency.
The 25x’25 Alliance is playing a role in meeting adaption needs. Solutions from the Land (SfL), an outgrowth of 25x’25, is an initiative in which stakeholders explore the development of integrated sustainable solutions to the challenges of climate change, food security, economic development and biodiversity conservation. SfL, in turn, has led in the creation of the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA). The climate smart agriculture alliance will run a three-year project that will give farmers, ranchers and foresters the opportunity to collaborate with industry, academia, government and NGO partners to develop ways to improve production resiliency and mitigate current and future risks of changing climatic conditions. The initial meeting of the NACSAA leadership committee is set for June 30.
The awareness of climate change and the potential impact it can have on agricultural and forestry production – in fact, our quality of life – is growing wider here in the United States (and globally) every day. The attention G7 leaders have drawn to the issue this week should motivate renewable energy and agricultural stakeholders to make the case to policy holders to support the programs, funding and incentives that allow this nation to deal with these changing conditions and move us to a cleaner energy future.