The Critical Decade for Climate Action: Why 2021-2030 Matters

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The Critical Decade for Climate Action: Why 2021-2030 Matters

The Critical Decade for Climate Action: Why 2021-2030 Matters

Despite decades of political efforts and a wealth of research on the causes and catastrophic impacts of climate change on our world, so little has been achieved in our collective bid to bend the global emissions curve. Carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise and are 60% higher today than they were in 1990.[1]

Today, the world is facing an existential crisis of increasing global warming and its devastating impacts on our planet. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has noted that humanity has only a few decades left to take decisive action to mitigate the worst impacts of global warming[2] and the current decade, 2021 to 2030, is the critical decade for this action, a crucial ten-year window for humanity to take significant and effective measures to tackle this ongoing threat.[3]

For the longest time, direct human activities through the burning of fossil fuels have been responsible for global warming. This has led to rising temperatures, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels, all of which are having profound negative impacts on the planet and its inhabitants.

The Paris Agreement[4], established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed by 196 countries in 2015 and the plan was to galvanize world leaders to begin to take immediate and decisive action to collectively tackle the climate crisis, by reducing our carbon footprints and mitigating the effects of climate change. The major focus was the need to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change by lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The agreement sets an ambitious goal of limiting global temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. The agreement also calls for enhanced international cooperation to address the challenges posed by climate change, including the provision of financial and technical support to developing countries. But, it is becoming more apparent that this goal cannot be achieved through mere rhetoric. It requires decisive action and concrete steps toward a low-carbon and climate-resilient future. Some of these steps are examined in the subsequent paragraphs:

  1. Renewable Energy – The world’s energy mix is currently dominated by fossil fuels, which are the main drivers of GHG emissions and the main contributors to climate change. Thus, the transition to renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and hydropower, is crucial to reducing emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Although investing in renewable energy has its challenges, such as high upfront costs and technological limitations, it also offers significant opportunities, such as creating new jobs, increasing energy security, and facilitating the development of new technologies. The International Energy Agency (IEA)[5] believes renewable energy will play a growing role in meeting global energy demand in the near future. Likewise, the World Bank Group[6] has also consistently reinforced the importance of transitioning to renewable energy sources by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects while supporting countries in their transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.
  2. Sustainable Practices – Currently, many sectors of society, including agriculture, transportation, and building construction, continue to rely on unsustainable practices that contribute to GHG emissions and drive climate change. As such, in addition to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy, we must also focus on sustainable development. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” [7]. This includes reducing our carbon footprint, investing in green infrastructure, and implementing sustainable practices in all aspects of our lives, from the way we produce and consume goods to the way we manage our waste. No doubt, there would be significant challenges to adopting sustainable practices, including the need for behavioural change and the cost of adoption. However, the overarching importance of making these crucial lifestyle changes will not only secure the earth for our generation but will also preserve it for future generations.

As the years continue to roll by, the impacts of climate change are already being felt everywhere, and they are disproportionately affecting communities that are already marginalized and vulnerable. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)[8] has continued to emphasize the importance of addressing the impacts of climate change on the environment and human well-being, recognizing the need for a global response to this global challenge.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report[9] indicated that CO2 emissions needed to be cut by 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. The latest science from the IPCC released earlier in 2022 uses 2019 as a baseline, indicating that GHG emissions need to be cut by at least 43% by 2030 if the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century would become possible.

During the build-up to COP 27 held in Egypt in November 2022, Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change had this to say. “The downward trend in emissions expected by 2030 shows that nations have made some progress this year, but the science is clear and so are our climate goals under the Paris Agreement. We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world. To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years.”

Thus, it cannot be overstated that the challenges posed by climate change require immediate and decisive action, including international cooperation, investment in renewable energy, and the adoption of sustainable practices on a global scale. The choices made over the next decade will determine the future of the planet for generations to come.

Ultimately, this is a call to action for individuals, communities, and nations to come together and take meaningful steps toward sustainability. Global leaders must make the necessary pivot from negotiations to implementation and get moving on the massive transformation that must take place throughout all sectors of society to address the climate emergency.

The window is closing! The world is not on track to reach the Paris Agreement goals and global temperature increase could reach 2.8°C by the end of the century. The Emissions Gap Report[10] 2022 finds that the world must now cut emissions by at least 45 percent to avoid global catastrophe. Solutions to align our societies to a climate-friendly future exist, but the time for collective, multilateral action is now.


[1] Three Decades of Climate Mitigation: Why Haven’t We Bent the Global Emissions Curve? – Annual Review of Environment and Resources 2021 46:1, 653-689. Retrieved from https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-environ-012220-011104

[2] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2021). Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

[3] Margaret Kuhlow, (2020) Why Are the Next 10 Years so Key for Climate Action. Global Citizen. Retrieved from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/climate-action-2030-next-ten-years/

[4] United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (2021). The Paris Agreement. Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement

[5] International Energy Agency (IEA). (2021). Renewable Energy. Retrieved from https://www.iea.org/topics/renewables

[6] World Bank Group. (2021). Climate Change. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/climatechange

[7] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2021). Sustainable Development. Retrieved from https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development.html

[8] United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). (2021). Climate Change. Retrieved from https://www.unenvironment.org/issues/climate-change

[9] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2022). Sixth Assessment Report. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/

[10] Emission Gap Report (EGR). (2022). Retrieved from https://www.unep.org/resources/emissions-gap-report-2022

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