After Paris COP 21

An important and amazing thing happened at the end of a year of tragically bad news—and it was not even treated as a top news story. On December 13 it was announced that 195 countries (out of 196 countries world-wide—near unanimity!) agreed to limit the rise in the earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Most of the environment groups that SWS uses for sounding boards have been positive about the agreement. However, some groups think the agreement lacked enough bite—there are no consequences if a nation fails to keep its commitment. We have to trust that the 195 countries will honor their commitment.

A number of countries are already imposing a carbon tax to help fund the transition to a fossil fuel free economy. Where there is an absence of federal action, a number of regional entities are imposing carbon taxes—for example, British Columbia. Also, Seattle’s Initiative I-732 will be voted on in the next election cycle.

The business sector increasingly recognizes the business potential in lower cost energy and in ending subsidies for fossil fuel extraction, distribution, and mitigation. This was a clear breakthrough at the Paris conference. There are now more jobs in renewable energy, which is another reason for optimism among this normally resistant group. An area of concern is how to achieve carbon reduction in air transportation and the shipping and distribution of consumer goods.

A bright spot is Boeing’s and Seattle airport’s announcement that they will pursue the use of biofuel for their jet propellant. Meanwhile, protecting our farm land from an onslaught of biofuel agriculture remains a concern. However, more food is being grown locally and more people are eating seasonally, and this could eventually help offset loss of food production due to the growing of biofuels. It is becoming increasingly clear that relying on big agriculture as a source of food is not in our best interest anyway. Algae-based biofuels may one day meet some of our need for fuel.

Even though oil prices are low, electric powered vehicles (EVs) have never been more popular. Electric transportation technology is growing fast. On average, most cars are owned five-six years or less, so your next car may be an electric vehicle! The Tesla Company has been improving battery storage capacity and increasing recharge ability at a fast pace. Tesla claims it will be able to produce a $35K car with a 1000 mile range by 2020. They are also working on long-lasting home energy storage for Solar PV rooftop homes. I think movement toward freedom from fossil fuels is gaining the momentum we have been waiting for.

We all heard that hover boards and other electronic gadgets were a top holiday gift. Happily, another top gift was LED light bulbs, which last twenty years and are at least ten times more efficient than incandescent bulbs.

You can tell that I feel optimistic that we are moving in the right direction. I am hopeful that the top down proposals that came out of the Paris meetings will increase momentum toward a fossil-fuel-free world. At the same time we can all become fossil-free consumers.

The transition to a fossil-fuel-free world is already happening. Sustainable West Seattle can speed that along by setting annual goals and challenging the public to participate. We have generally taken a bottom-up approach. We encourage consumers to make decisions that will reduce both the cost of energy and the cost to our planet. In 2016, with the ongoing subsidy from Seattle City Light, we can work to bring affordable LED lighting to local homes and businesses. We can challenge local industry to get on board and join in the transition—we can consider a petition to local industries asking them to make a commitment to the transition.

There is much to look forward to in 2016 following the Paris COP21. There is also much to do. Please join us.