The year of climate solutions

With 2020 in the rearview, what can we look forward to for the climate in 2021? Here are the biggest climate solutions we see on the horizon. 

We all gave a sigh of relief as 2020 came to an end. So many activities, plans, and dreams took a backseat in the year of Covid-19. 

This is true for our personal lives, and for the movement to slow climate change and protect our living planet. As we carefully look ahead to a post-pandemic life, this is our chance to reprioritize climate action for years to come. Because despite a brief dip last year, overall carbon emissions are still going up.

That means the climate crisis is still the biggest challenge of our time — and we need a huge team effort to solve it. Luckily, there are positive trends on the horizon. From new tech to new policies to new tools for individual action, we’re entering 2021 with a lot to be hopeful for. Here’s why we’re anticipating more climate action this year than ever and how you can get involved: 

Political promises transform into policy agendas

The second half of 2020 saw an unprecedented call for climate action from governments and politicians across the globe. Over 100 countries, including massive polluters like China, Japan, and South Korea, have pledged to go carbon neutral. Voters in the US elected President Biden, arguably the first climate-positive president in history. And politicians have pushed for a post-pandemic “green recovery” that prioritizes renewables over fossil fuels. 

What specifically can we look forward to in the next 12 months? Big changes from the world’s two biggest emitters: 

In March, China will unveil its next five-year strategic plan. Last fall, President Xi Jinping announced a pledge to go carbon neutral by 2060 and see emissions peak by 2030. This year, we’ll get a glimpse of how that grand promise could turn into reality. Specifically, we hope to see substantial investments and subsidies for wind and solar, and clear steps away from coal. 

China is by far the world’s biggest CO2e emitter, and has made deep investments in coal infrastructure both domestically and abroad. That’s fueled huge economic growth, but contributed to notoriously bad air quality in cities across the region. 

If China is going to meet its neutrality promise, it will take a massive effort to shift from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy and clean air. We hope to see the beginnings of that take place in 2021.

In the United States, Joe Biden will be sworn in as President on January 20th. He’s promised to immediately re-enter the Paris climate accord, invest $1.7 trillion in the climate over the next ten years, and spark a ‘Clean Energy Revolution’ that pushes the US to net-zero emissions no later than 2050. 

It’s a lot — but never before has there been a president-elect with this focus and fervor for fighting climate change. If Biden formally commits the US to a net-zero by 2050 pledge, that would mean that over two-thirds of the global economy is under some form of net-zero commitment. 

Even better, there have already been positive developments post-election. A US stimulus bill passed at the end of December included over $35 billion for clean energy initiatives. This could indicate that there’s more existing support for climate action than expected. By the end of the year, we should begin to see a clearer picture of the policies this administration will pursue, and their ability to push them to fruition. 

Tech and finance get onboard

For far too long, climate solutions have been notoriously underfunded and under researched. In 2021, this should shift as substantial funding pours in from both the public and private sector. 

One specific development we’re keeping our eye on — battery capacity and pricing. In 2020, solar produced the cheapest electricity in history, but storing that power for use after dark or during peak demand has historically been a challenge. 

Battery prices have dropped 88% over the past ten years, and are set to drop even further as tech advances in 2021. As the demand for large-volume batteries increases, businesses developed faster and cheaper ways to build them. It’s a virtuous cycle that should help smooth the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. 

That’s especially important as renewables continue to grow. In 2020, wind and solar increased 7% despite pandemic-related slowdowns. In 2021, that trend will accelerate, as they are projected to add another 10% of capacity. As more renewable energy is available, prices will continue to drop, driving a phaseout of expensive and dirty coal and natural gas. 

Lastly, new funding sources are coming in from all sides. Most notably, Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest person, created a landmark fund in 2020 to give away $10 billion for the climate. At the end of the year, he announced the first recipients, including the Environmental Defense Fund. They’ve received $100 million in funding, which they’ll use to strengthen the carbon credit system even further. This will help build confidence in the system, by educating the public and business world on how carbon credits are measured, tracked, and sold. 

Individual action goes mainstream

If you want to do your part to help fuel climate solutions in 2021, then you’re in luck. You don’t have to be a billionaire or a world leader to help build the world you want to see — in fact, solving the climate crisis will need all of us to get involved. Our millions of little actions add up to big change — change in discourse, choices, and ultimately in CO2e concentrations. 

This year, more than ever, it will be crucial that we all push for structural change by voting for climate champions, advocating for climate policies, and protesting when we see missteps. You can read our collective action guide for more tips. 

If you want to reduce your personal carbon footprint, we can help, too. From the food you eat to the clothes you buy to the way you get around, your individual choices all produce emissions — but some are much lower than others. You can read our simple guide to cutting your carbon footprint for more ideas.

And of course, if you want to directly fund effective, verified, and sustainable climate projects, you can do that with Klima. We help you calculate your carbon footprint and then offset it with a simple monthly subscription. That means you live carbon neutral while directly funding climate progress and innovation. 

Looking ahead

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we truly can’t predict what the future holds. But we can  do our best to try and shape it. What happens in the next twelve months will be crucially important for the climate — so watch this space for updates and ways you can be involved. 

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