Now is the time to go bold on climate

Fred Krupp

Our greatest opportunity to make real progress on climate change is happening right now. Frankly, it’s the greatest opportunity I’ve seen in my lifetime. The window is opening — but to take advantage of it, we have to be willing to go bold.

After four years of science denial in Washington, there’s no time to waste. But with the Biden Administration stepping up on climate and equity issues, and CEOs from over 300 businesses calling for bold emission reductions, it’s clear that international ambition is once again on the rise.

What happens between now and the next global climate summit, COP26 in Glasgow, can set us on course for a dramatic breakthrough. Here are three bold moves we need to see on the road to COP26.

1. Electrify the transportation sector while cleaning up electricity generation

Ensuring that healthy communities can continue to exist on a thriving planet means cutting emissions where the greatest gains can be made most rapidly — and transportation is the single largest source of climate pollution in the U.S. Fortunately, we have the technology to drive this huge triple win for jobs, for cleaner air and for a big reduction in climate pollution.

By 2035, all new cars — and by 2040, all new trucks and buses — sold in the U.S. must be zero emission, with deployment prioritized in frontline communities that have long suffered a disproportionate burden of air pollution.

Momentum is building. GM, Volvo and some other automakers have already embraced this goal for cars. The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced $162 million in funding to pioneer electrified medium- and heavy-duty trucks as well as a range of approaches to electrification. And as we speed the transition to electric vehicles, we must also ensure that electric power is 100% clean by 2035.

Globally, we must reduce climate pollution from transportation by driving global markets, policies and investments to jumpstart all transportation to net-zero emission technologies. This includes ensuring that by 2030, zero-emission cargo ships are using green alternative shipping fuels to travel deep-sea shipping routes and sustainable aviation fuels are meeting a significant portion of global demand by 2030.

By the middle of the 21st century, transporting our goods across the globe should no longer add to the world’s climate pollution.

2. Harness the power of nature to help stabilize the climate

Develop scientific and stakeholder consensus on the value of nature-based climate solutions.

Achieving net zero emissions by mid-century requires stopping tropical deforestation and removing some of the climate pollution already released into the atmosphere. This demands scientifically sound natural climate solutions, such as protecting and managing forests, farms, oceans and grasslands to store carbon — while also creating markets and investments to bring these solutions to scale — for example, by rewarding indigenous people and other rainforest defenders for their invaluable work.

If we spur investment in natural climate solutions, we can limit global temperature rise while safeguarding ecosystems, thus helping communities to become more resilient to the climate impacts we can’t avoid, such as increased flooding and dry spells.

3. Slash methane pollution to supercharge planet-saving strategies.

The fastest way to put the brakes on climate warming right now is to reduce highly potent methane pollution. Our climate plan can’t stop at carbon dioxide.

Methane pollution drives over 25% of today’s warming and reducing it requires immediate action to prevent more extreme climate impacts, such as severe storms and hotter fire seasons. Only by slashing methane pollution can we save Arctic sea ice.

We need an economy-wide decline in methane pollution, starting with oil and gas, where the International Energy Agency says we have the greatest opportunity for rapid reductions at the lowest cost.

The world cannot avoid climate catastrophe without China’s active participation. This includes making firm commitments for methane reduction targets and national methane standards. Europe has an opening to play an outsized role too. The world’s largest gas importer can use its buying power in coordination with countries outside the EU to signal to the global market that only the gas with the lowest methane emissions profile will be purchased.

Addressing methane is the single most effective thing we can do to limit temperature rise in the near term.

There have been moments throughout history that have tested the will of humankind. The bold have stepped forward to change the course of history and transform the world for the better.

Our climate moment is now — right now.

It's an opportunity unlike any other for bold climate action. Together, we can meet this moment to drive real change for healthier communities and a thriving planet.