Climate Action Past and Present

Climate Action Past and Present

Net-zero, carbon neutrality, carbon footprint, carbon emission… If you’re hearing about these topics for the first time, it’s unlikely to be the last.  

As stated in the IPPCs latest report, institutions, and countries must start taking action now to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. 

Net-zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. According to the current conditions, we have a long way to go to reduce human-driven emissions and achieve net zero.  

There are many milestones on this journey, from changing our consumption habits to changing the policies of high-emission economies. And when we look back, we can say that significant steps have been taken in the last 50 years, but there are still so many things to do and there is no time to lose for our planet. 

The history of the COPs 

Since the first climate conference in 1979, many national and international organisations have been established to combat the climate crisis. The meeting of the UNFCCC Parties (Conference of the Parties, COP), where member states meet annually, is important to agree environmental priorities. The Kyoto Protocol and the Paris (Climate) Agreement have to be accepted as significant milestones on this road. 

With the COP3 held in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol adopted an international emission reduction target of approximately 5 percent above pre-industrial levels until 2012. In line with this, reduction targets were assigned to each developed country included in the Kyoto Protocol. While these were important targets, China, South Korea, and Mexico, all countries with rapidly developing economies did not agree to targets. The expected progress could not be achieved, although reasonable targets were set for industrialised countries to reduce emissions. Countries that fulfilled their emission obligations in the first phase, such as Russia and Canada, in the second phase of the contract, also took a step back. The Kyoto Protocol is symbolically important, but it has failed to reach its target as countries representing 55% of global emissions did not comply.  

With the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, a new era started in the international climate regime. Within the Paris Climate Agreement, the commitment was given that we have to reach net-zero across the globe by 2050. And for the first time in history, all countries agreed on action and investment, showing unity in the fight against the global climate crisis. The agreement was unanimously accepted by all countries and entered into force in less than a year. Significant improvement compared to the Kyoto Protocol. The fact that there is a climate agreement valid for all countries, including large developing countries with significant emissions like India and China, is an important step in the fight against climate change. 

The last COP summit, which was held in Glasgow, already has special importance as it is the first summit to take place after the COVID epidemic. While the commitments of the Paris Agreement were reiterated at Glasgow, the time allowed for countries to achieve their emission reduction targets was shortened from 2025 to 2022. There was however resistant from China and India. The article included the phrase “stopping the use of unfiltered coal”, which is of serious importance in reaching net-zero however it had to be softened to “reduce it”. The “emerging country” card was brought to the table once again. Likewise, the USA did not participate in the commitment to retire from coal.  

However a momentous situation was reached. Considering the main objectives of COP26, where do we now need to focus our actions? 

What do we need to do now?

1. Reduction

We have until the middle of the 21st century, to reach net-zero and to have a chance of achieving the target of 1.5 degrees C. For this reason, our primary goal against climate change is to reduce emissions. This requires a radical transformation in many aspects from the way we produce and consume to the way we think. Unfortunately, many organisations are still at planning and measurement stages and many are not doing this accurately.  Although there are certain standards such as ISO14064 for the calculation and reporting of carbon emissions, institutions have difficulty in starting these complex reporting processes.  

Big companies and countries are starting to set net-zero targets. To achieve these goals, the most important part of the reduction target is to start measurement and reporting and even to present this process with smarter solutions by removing it from excel tables.

2. Adaption

Although a serious issue such as climate change requires high-level participation, countries remain slow-paced in this process. Efforts should be made to adapt these frameworks drawn by summits and agreements with the locals so that we can hear the voices of the main actors. Local support for the fight against the climate crisis is a critical factor. Especially municipalities play an important role in this process. The adaptation of cities to this process is the first requirement in terms of the health and well-being of local communities.  

In this sense, many cities have started to transform themselves by recognising their role in achieving net-zero. However, this transformation requires innovative investments. It is important for all actors, from municipalities to companies, to receive assistance in adapting their infrastructure and systems for net-zero to be reached.

3. Finance

In line with net-zero targets, new measures are foreseen in the carbon market. Even in countries leading the net-zero charge, carbon prices are not high enough. However, economic inequalities show that carbon pricing alone is not sufficient. Although carbon pricing is necessary for large economies, developing countries will still not be able to easily adapt to this system. For this reason, the path to net-zero also includes a financial transformation. The implementation of regulatory policies by making investments and financial incentives stands as a prerequisite for reduction and adaptation.

4. Cooperation

To reach net-zero; It is necessary to conduct calculation and analysis of your carbon footprint, and monitor progress.  However, it may seem scary, tiring, and costly and you may not even know where and how to start.  

We can help.  Carbon Intelligence supports institutions in collecting data, viewing it and understanding where to focus your attention.  You can easily set targets and workflows through the platform to increase efficiency and ensure you reach net-zero.


Irem Altiparmak 

Marketing Assistant at Faradai