There’s no time to waste for meaningful climate action — every day is an opportunity to invest in and build a more ecologically just tomorrow.
As we look ahead to 2022, there are dozens of environmental goals that we hope countries, companies, and individuals advance. Here are just a few of them.
Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
From a scientific perspective, solving the climate crisis is simple — countries just have to stop releasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. But for all sorts of political and economic reasons, countries have failed to take the scientific consensus seriously.
Hundreds of countries have pledged to reach “net zero emissions” by the middle of the century but most of their plans are sketchy at best and, in their current form, put the world on track to warming more than 2.7 degrees by the end of the century, according to the climate action tracker.
Under the Paris climate agreement, countries map out emissions reductions through a process called nationally determined contributions (NDCs). In 2022, countries must improve their NDCs to clearly show how they will transform their economies in alignment with the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.
The biggest improvements need to come from high-emitting countries like the US, Australia, Russia, Brazil, and China.
Mobilize Climate Finance
The climate crisis is a global injustice. The countries least responsible for global warming and biodiversity loss are facing the harshest consequences. Because of this imbalance, high-income countries promised in 2009 to provide $ 100 billion in annual climate finance by 2020 to help low-income countries adapt to climate change.
So far, countries have failed to realize this commitment. Not only that, the true cost of adapting to climate change is far greater than $100 billion annually, so even reaching this amount will be insufficient.
In 2022, high-income countries must fulfill the original climate finance pledge and then go beyond it to ensure that all countries can adequately adapt to climate change and transition their economies. This funding should also come in the form of grants rather than loans to prevent low-income countries from being further burdened with debt.
Create Funds for Loss and Damage
The costs of recovering from climate change are rising as forest fires, extreme storms, and droughts get worse. As a result, countries need to mobilize funds for what’s known in climate circles as “loss and damages.” These funds need to be globally distributed on an as-needed basis to account for the historic injustice of climate change and the vast wealth disparities that exist between countries.
Similar to climate adaptation, countries need to create mechanisms in 2022 for loss and damage that allow countries to access resources to recover from catastrophic environmental events. During COP26, the Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility was proposed by highly impacted countries and the year ahead can see it become a reality.
End Fossil Fuel Subsidies
Fossil fuel production receives $5.9 trillion in subsidies each year. That’s greater than the gross domestic product of every country except the United States and China.
Ending these subsidies would have an immediate and dramatic effect on greenhouse gas emissions, the International Monetary Fund found. In fact, accurately pricing fossil fuels to account for their cost of production and societal impacts would cut emissions by a third.
That money could then be shifted to renewable sources of energy and other facets of a country’s economy to found a just transition.
Invest in Conservation and Restoration
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is essential but severe climate change will still occur if countries fail to protect global biodiversity, from forests to oceans to endangered animals.
In particular, countries need to stop degrading ecosystems and then rehabilitate already degraded areas. Roughly 75% of land areas have been degraded, and the ocean is both overexploited and over polluted.
Over the past few years, more than 100 countries have pledged to protect 30% of land and marine spaces by 2030, but some of the most egregious environmental polluters have yet to sign on, including the US, Russia, Brazil, and China.