What now for the Paris climate change agreement? President-elect Trump has made it clear that he intends to trash much of Obama’s climate change legacy, including withdrawing from the COP21 agreement signed in Paris. If one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters on the planet stops taking climate change seriously, where does that leave us? And will others (including China) follow suit?
We recently attended an event in Brussels, hosted by Friends of Europe, looking at the future of energy mix of a post-COP21 world. The event was held before the US elections, when a Trump victory still seemed improbable. We had the opportunity to interview some of the participants at the event, and we put your questions to them on climate change and energy.
To be honest, the whole issue can seem a bit overwhelming. We had a comment from Gianvito arguing that there’s nothing ordinary people can do to protect the environment, because pollution and degradation are “just going to happen”. Perhaps precisely because climate change is such a huge, global issue, it can often make ordinary people feel powerless and insignificant. Is there anything individual citizens can do to cut CO2 and help avert catastrophic climate change? Or is it all in the hands of states and multinational corporations?
To get a reaction, we spoke to Andreas Goldthau, Professor of International Relations at Royal Holloway University of London and Associate with the Geopolitics of Energy Project at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. What would he say to Gianvito?
I think it’s imperative that individuals act. Without individuals, nothing will happen. Individuals need to change their day-to-day behaviour, but also push for bigger solutions at higher policy levels. They have to do both. They have to adapt individually, but also make sure climate change adaptation and mitigation happens are incorporated at national policy levels.
But how radically will they have to change their day-to-day behaviour? We had a comment from Willy, who questioned whether we can we keep our current lifestyles and cut CO2 emissions to an acceptable level. So, will citizens have to radically transform the way they live?
I would say an absolute not. We can keep the quality of life that we have, and probably improve it – though we might have to change our lifestyle a little bit. But it’s possible to reconcile both climate targets and lifestyle going forward, based on novel technology that’s in the process of being rolled out. This will be possible as the technology progresses.
What can individuals do to cut CO2 emissions? Will we have to radically change the way we live, or will technology let us keep the quality of life we have today? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!