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A New Direction for the Planet’s Sake

With humanity consuming the planet's natural resources at an increasing rate, governments must demonstrate a much stronger collective commitment to tackling climate change. And with the significant exception of the United States, they generally seem to be getting the message.

MADRID – By July 29, according to the sustainability organization Global Footprint Network, humanity will have used up the Earth’s resource budget for the entire year. This “Earth Overshoot Day” has moved forward by an astonishing two months in the past 20 years and in 2019 it will arrive earlier than ever. Although humanity’s increasing environmental impact manifests itself in many ways, climate change has the broadest and longest-lasting effects. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels account for an estimated 60% of our ecological footprint.

The G20 countries are, to different degrees, the main contributors to climate change, and collectively emit around 80% of all greenhouse gases. China, the United States, and the European Union head the CO2 emission rankings, with America being by far the biggest per capita emitter. Under President Donald Trump, however, the US has announced its withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, whereby 197 countries have pledged to limit the increase in the global temperature to a maximum of 2˚C above pre-industrial levels.

At the recent G20 summit in Osaka, the Trump administration again distanced itself from the Paris accord, while claiming that energy-related CO2 emissions in the US had fallen by 14% between 2005 and 2017. But this drop largely reflected economic factors – particularly access to abundant low-cost natural gas, which has displaced coal in the US energy mix. The Trump administration, which is busy rolling back Obama-era climate policies, cannot take credit for these trends.

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