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Good News 5 - What the Big Four are doing


Tihuta Pass Wind Turbine, Romania

-Image by Rsocol, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


As the producer of 14% of global greenhouse emissions, the USA is the second biggest contributor to Climate Change. Although China at 27.92% ranked higher in 2019, the US has historically produced far more of the cumulative emissions already in the atmosphere. 

The USA was also the last to sign the Paris Agreement* which seeks commitment from countries to keeping global temperatures below 2ºC above pre -industrial levels. Nevertheless great strides were being made in the US even before formal signing of  the Paris Agreement in February this year. Renewable energy projects had almost doubled (46%)on the previous year and in the first six months of this year they reached a new high, adding just over 9.9 GW of onshore and offshore wind, battery storage, and utility-scale solar capacity, a 17% increase over the same period in 2020.Pre -pandemic employment in renewables in the USA outpaced that in fossil fuels with the sector employing 2.17 million more people in 2019, three times as many as the fossil fuel industry. 

Global financial consulting firm Deloitte notes that in 2020, renewables had edged out other forms of electricity generation on 153 days, compared to 39 days the previous year.It also expects the sector to get a huge boost once the Biden administration's $US 2 trillion investment kicks in.

President Biden has now promised to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and completely decarbonise the US economy by 2035. It plans to have 50% of its electricity coming from renewable sources – up 20% from today, and shutting the country’s 200 remaining coal -fired plants. Two thirds of all new cars will be powered by batteries (a 97% increase),  and all buildings will be heated by electricity instead of gas. It will also impose energy efficiency targets on high emission industries such as concrete and steel production,  the chemical industry and oil and gas producers. Agricultural emissions will be reduced and  regenerative agriculture and forestry will be increased to draw a further 20% more CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Maine has become the first US state to completely divest itself from the fossil fuels.

*If you were wondering what the Paris Agreement is all about watch this short clip



China is currently by far the world’s biggest emitter –contributing 27.92% in 2019 of global C02 emissions, however it is argued that the USA (14.5%) in the same period, has contributed far more to the cumulative burden of C02 since the start of the Industrial Revolution than China has. 

To its credit, at $126.6 billion China is also the world’s biggest investor in renewables accounting for 45% of global investment.In July China also announced that like Japan and South Korea it will no longer fund overseas coal projects.  This is significant because between them the three countries are responsible for 95% of new coal projects around the world with China alone being responsible for 70% of such projects in places such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Brazil. 



 Of 52 Chinese overseas coal projects - $160 billion worth, only one is operational and 33 have been shelved or cancelled. Although such power stations are still being built domestically, a decade ago China was building a coal fired power station every three days and increasing emissions by 3% per year.[China has still approved 24 new coal - fired power stations within its borders

China’s biggest bank has already abandoned plans to build a $US 3 billion coal – fired power development in Zimbabwe


In third ranked India, at 7.1% (2019) wind and solar have now surpassed 100 Gigawatts and no new coal fired power plants being switched on in the first quarter of this year.Future cruch

On August 13, India reached a quiet milestone, achieving 100 GW of installed renewable energy capacity, without counting hydro. With hydro it’s 146 GW and making it fourth in the world and no coal fired power plants had to be switched on for the first three months of this year.

More than 1,800 schools in the Indian state of West Bengal have installed mini-solar plants in the past two years, and there are plans to expand installations by 1,000 schools a year until the number reaches 25,000. Schools have used the savings for tree-planting, additional teachers, computer classes and sanitation upkeep. 

India’s renewable energy sector should also get a big boost in the near future because Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man will be investing $10 billion over the next three years in the hope of transforming India into a net exporter of solar energy instead of a large importer of fossil fuels. While the initial focus will be on rooftop solar, increasing battery storage is next on the list, followed by investment in energy from hydrogen, particularly for the energy hungry steel making sector.

THE EU and the UK

The European Union which is collectively responsible for 18% of historic emissions, primarily by Germany, France, Italy and Poland, has reduced its emissions by 13% since 1990 to 2.54 metric tones per capita. It plans to reduce this further, mainly by continuing to close coal f-ired power plants which has been a successful strategy to date, leaving the transport sector as the major emitter. This  too will change  as most popular car makes are switching to electrics. We will discuss this further in a later post. The International Energy Agency estimates that Europe’s renewable energy sector will grow by 11% to 44 GW in 2021 and to 49% in 2022, with Germany leading the way and being followed by France, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and Turkey.

The EU recently approved landmark legislation to enshrine greenhouse gas emissions targets in law, requiring a 55% reduction by 2030, net zero by 2050, and the creation of a carbon budget for 2030-2050 that meets climate goals. Renewable energy in the EU now costs half as much as energy from fossil fuels and two thirds of its energy now comes from Zero Carbon supplies. Coal generation is down 15% on the previous year.

  • Swedish company Vattenfall and mining company LKAB have just delivered the world’s first  “green steel" by using hydrogen instead of coal. Since steel production using coal accounts for approx. 8% of global emissions, it offers better prospects for the industry, even though the process is not yet commercially viable. 
  • In a landmark judgement a Brussels court ruled that Belgium’s failure to meet climate targets is a violation of human rights, and recognized 58,000 citizens as co-plaintiffs. Similar rulings have also occurred in the Netherlands, Germany and France.
  • The Sines coal plant in Portugal has been shut down nine years ahead of schedule, reducing the country’s carbon emissions by 12%. A second and final plant is due to close in November which will make Portugal the fourth European country to eliminate coal, after  Belgium (2016), Austria (2020) and Sweden (2020).This plant was responsible for 12% of Portugal's emissions. 
  • Director of Beyond Coal, Europe, Kathrin Gutmann, warns countries who have committed to phasing out coal, to do it sooner rather than later, otherwise they will be playing catch -up, because it will happen anyway.
  •   The Spanish government will close its last coal mine in December and coal consumption will cease by 2030.signed an agreement with trade unions and energy companies to shut down its entire coal industry and begin a just transition. The last coal mine is now due to close in December, and coal consumption will end completely by 2030. This article has lessons for Australian coal miners who are worried about their jobs. The longer they leave it, the more difficult the transition will be.  

  • Romania will phase out its coal plants by 2032 and introduce eco taxes  and tax incentives to decarbonise its transport system and get rid of cars more than 15 years old.
  • Austria's Ivicom is building a second windpark next to its existing plant in Kučevo, Serbia and is also investing $1.2 billion in geothermal energy for district heating. Serbia also has seven wind farms under construction.
  • German company, wpd is investing 500 million Euros in a large scale windfarm in northern Macedonia, the biggest private investment in the country since it gained independence. 
  • Norway's sovereign wealth fund - the largest in the world, with over $1.3 trillion in assets, including 1.4% of the world's stocks and shares -  just added a new set of environmental criteria to its investment standards, putting serious pressure on natural resource extraction companies, including several of Russia’s energy giants.  


 In 2019, the UK became the first country in the world to set a net zero emissions target. Three years later, over 70% of world emissions are now covered by net-zero legislation, have net-zero emissions legislation under discussion, or occur where net-zero is the policy position of the government. 

The UK’s low carbon economy is now worth £ 200 billion and is four times the size of its manufacturing sector. Its green economy employs 1.2 million people and involves 75,000 businesses from recycling plants to turbine construction.  Future Crunch


On the 14th of October, Boris Johnson outlined his ten point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution involving a £12 billion investment by government and three times as much from the private sector. He expects the move to create an additional 250,000 jobs.





Russia is the world’s fourth largest emitter at 4.6% in 2019. Although it committed to the Paris Agreement last October, it has not made any substantial effort to reduce emissions. Indeed it plans to increase them somewhat by building new coal and gas plants. However, since its industrial capacity has shrunk considerably since the break up of the Soviet Union, its emissions have fallen below 1990 levels. Russia stands to lose more than most from climate change.

 Up next:

Coming soon:  What's on earth is happening in Australia?

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