There’s no doubt that climate change is a hot topic now, and hearing about the recent COP23 environmental conference in Bonn, Germany, got me thinking. There’s also a lot going around on social media too, warning of the dangers that the effects of climate change are having on the environment, animals and humans too. What is going on with climate change? How far has it come since the signing of the Paris Agreement a year ago? The latter has also been in the spotlight in 2017, as US President Donald Trump announced the USA’s withdrawal from the agreement, which sent shockwaves all over the world. This move has been and is still considered greatly controversial, and isolates the country even more from the rest of the global community, as most countries that took part in signing the agreement have respected it. Hardly surprising, considering other controversial measures that Trump has introduced in the year since his inauguration.

This move…isolates the country even more from the rest of the global community, as most countries that took part in signing the agreement have respected it.

This is a topic that has interested me recently, as climate change is currently having a global impact like never before, particularly with the Paris Agreement. According to its website, it is “a new course in the global climate effort”. This suggests a turning point in the way that countries are dealing with global warming. This has been proved by numerous summits and meetings of national leaders in the last few years, such as the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, which took place in 2014. Now that the US has officially withdrawn from the agreement, with the President having reportedly called climate change “a hoax”, this in my opinion makes the fight against the increasing effects of global warming even more difficult for the other nations involved, particularly as the US is one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. In addition, according to the New York Times, the President has expressed the view that remaining part of the Paris Agreement would hinder the reform of current climate change policies in the US. On the other hand, he has also recently expressed the opinion that the US could find a way back in, unsurprisingly absurd, as we’ve all seen in recent months in the media.

the US has officially withdrawn from the agreement…make[ing] the fight against the increasing effects of global warming even more difficult for the other nations involved.

So what effect is the Paris Agreement having on nations’ environmental policies? In 2015, the participating nations agreed that they would try and reduce emissions to keep the global average temperature below 2°C, as well as report to each other on how they are progressing to keep emissions down. This seems like a sensible plan of action. Other smaller governmental bodies, not just national governments, are also included in the Agreement, as well as cities and societies in general to “support actions” and “build resilience” against the effects of climate change, according to the European Commission’s Climate Action webpage. Moreover, implementing climate policies does take a long time, and two years down the line, progress still seems to be slow. Though this doesn’t mean that it is stopping outright. For instance, the 5p bag charge was only introduced in the UK in late 2015, while this policy was already present in continental Europe well before then. So, while this took time to come to the UK, this doesn’t mean that it wasn’t going to happen.

On the other side of the Channel, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the One Planet meeting in Paris in December 2017. This had the aim of bringing together the countries taking part in the Paris Agreement to review the policies and to affirm strategies against climate change. However, according to Oxfam climate specialist Arnelle Le Comte (as quoted by Deutsche Welle), France hasn’t invested nearly enough money towards combatting climate change, with Germany contributing 30% of subsidies from their climate budget. Ironic really, considering all that Macron is attempting to do, and that France is arguably one of the more powerful nations in Western Europe. Hardly surprising that Germany is contributing as much as it is either, as it carries a strong ecological streak, and caring for the environment is very much a part of German culture. This is demonstrated for example by the Pfandsystem which involves the recycling of disposable drinks packaging, which has existed in Germany since 2003. This means that consumers are obliged to return empty drinks bottles to the shop they were bought from, in return for a deposit that’s payed when you first buy the bottle. This effectively cuts down on production as well as packaging costs, and you pay less for your drink as well!

Image: Flickr

So, to sum up, the fight against climate change is progressing, albeit at a slow pace. According to the US think tank Climate Policy Initiative, 410 million dollars have been invested worldwide in fighting climate change between 2015 and 2016, which looks positive. Nowadays too, society seems to be more aware of the effect that greenhouse gas emissions are having on the planet, as after all, if we don’t look after our planet, the planet won’t look after us.

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