A changing climate threatens lives and costs businesses, governments and individuals money -- but what if we could save the world and improve economic conditions for everyone?
The cost of climate change is staggering. Global economic damage is estimated to be between $54 trillion and $69 trillion by 2100, according to Moody's Analytics. Changing weather will harm agriculture, while human life, infrastructure and property are threatened by rising seas and intense storms and wildfires.
If you despair, have hope -- there are solutions. In fact, one recent study in Science magazine said that restoring a few billion acres of forest around the world would be a relatively cheap and effective way to tackle the problem. In the image above, volunteers plant young trees in deep mud in a mangrove reforestation project in Samut Sakhon, Thailand.
All around the world people are acting, innovating, investing, creating jobs and improving well-being for people through bold action on climate change, according to a report by The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
We may sit on the brink of a new economic era in which growth is "driven by the interaction between rapid technological innovation, sustainable infrastructure investment, and increased resource productivity," the report says.
The commission's report, The New Climate Economy, lists big and small ways people are addressing solutions, including pricing carbon, harnessing the power of the private sector, accelerating investment in sustainable infrastructure, and making equitable and just transitions to new models of energy, food and land use, water management, and industry.
Based on The New Climate Economy, here are 30 ways countries around the world are responding to climate change while delivering strong economic growth, sustainability and inclusivity.
Photo: Sura Nualpradid / Shutterstock
1. Canada Pioneers a Transition out of Coal
In 2016, Canada announced a phase-out of coal-fired power by 2030, as part of the Paris Agreement. To address socioeconomic transition challenges, the central government plans to "ensure workers affected by the accelerated phase out of traditional coal power are involved in a successful transition to the low-carbon economy of the future." Above, a coal mine in Alberta.
2. Carbon Pricing in British Columbia
British Columbia introduced a carbon tax covering three-quarters of its emissions in 2008. The revenue is returned to the people through corporate and individual tax rate cuts and a low-income climate action tax credit, benefiting low-income households in particular. Pictured is a refinery in Vancouver, B.C.
3. California's High Emitters Pay for Excess Carbon Use
California's cap-and-trade program is one of the state's key policies aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with permits distributed by a mix of free allocation and quarterly auctions. The plan is expected to reduce emissions from regulated entities by around 15% between 2013 and 2020, and by an additional 40% by 2030.
4. California Incentivizes Energy Storage
California committed to reach 33% renewables power by 2020. To prepare for more variable renewables in the grid, the state has put an increased focus on growing energy storage capacity. Pictured is a wind farm near Palm Springs, Calif.
Photo: Chris Rubino / Shutterstock
5. Indigenous Rights in Colombia Help Conserve Forests
In the 1980s and 1990s, Colombia designated approximately one-quarter of its land area the formal status of indigenous reserves. It also granted indigenous and forest communities legal recognition and recourse if their rights were infringed. Since then, large areas of the Colombian Amazon have enjoyed relatively high levels of forest conservation, and the value of the total ecosystem benefits associated with securing indigenous forestland over the next 20 years is estimated at $123 billion to $277 billion. Above, a member of the Ticuna tribe in Colombia's rainforest.
Photo: Laszlo Mates/ Shutterstock
6. Medellin's Cable Cars Improve Neighborhoods
Poor neighborhoods in Medellin, Colombia, once troubled by crime and drug trafficking, have transformed, thanks to a cable car system that brings residents down the hillsides in 25 minutes for about 60 cents. The cable cars have doubled residents' access to employment opportunities, and neighborhoods with cable cars experienced 66% fewer homicides in 2012 than those without them.
7. Charcoal from Renewable Forests for Carbon-Neutral Steel
Through its Brazilian subsidiary company BioFlorestas, ArcelorMittal (MT - Get Report) is managing thousands of acres of eucalyptus forests to create enough renewable charcoal to meet the needs for virgin iron of one of their steel-recycling sites. In their efforts to produce carbon-neutral steel, they are also piloting a project to harness the energy from the gases released during charcoal production.
8. Electric Ferries Take to the Seas
Norway's first all-electric ferry reduced costs by as much as 80% and emissions by 95%, compared with fuel-powered ferries.
9. Banning Plastic Bags
Ireland, Denmark, South Africa
A 15-cent tax on plastic bags in Ireland reduced consumption of plastic bags by 92% and promoted the use of reusable bags by most shoppers, with the money earned going towards waste management and other environmental initiatives.
The oldest existing plastic bag tax is in Denmark, passed in 1993, and as a result, Danes use very few plastic bags.
In South Africa, thin plastic bags were banned in 2003 and a tax imposed for thicker plastic bags. Thin bag use decreased by 90% when the measures were first introduced, thicker bag use decreased between 50%-90% across different income level retailers.
10. Increasing Transportation Efficiency
As part of its commitment to be zero-carbon by 2050, the U.K. supermarket chain Tesco (TSCDY) adopted a strategy to save approximately 26 million truck-driven miles every year. This could reduce emissions by as much as 80%, depending on the route.
Photo: Pajor Pawel / Shutterstock
11. Informing Investors of the Risks of Intensive Livestock Farming
An investor network in the U.K. works to inform its members of the material investment risks connected with intensive livestock farming. The network, known as Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return, also highlights investment opportunities in meat alternatives. The global plant-based protein market has been forecast to grow from $8.4 billion in 2016 to $14.2 billion by 2022.
12. Restaurant Enjoys Green Growth
Cafe and sandwich brand Pret a Manger in the U.K. has increased and improved the vegetarian and vegan recipes on their menus. A pop-up vegetarian-only outlet opened in London, and the company also has a "Not Just for Veggies" campaign that promotes plant-based dishes as appealing alternatives to non-vegetarians. The move has increased sales and profits.
Photo: Alena Veasey / Shutterstock
13. From Cement to Timber in France and the U.S.
Using wood substitutes for steel and cement in buildings and bridges -- assuming the use of sustainable timber and sustainable disposal of wood at the end of its life cycle -- could avoid 14% to 31% of global carbon emissions, according to the New Climate Economy report. In France, a government program has prioritized the use of timber in construction, and in the U.S. the concrete industry share of the critical mid-rise building market has shrunk by at least 10% in the past 10 years, thanks in part to an ambitious initiative by wood industry associations.
14. Taking Neighborhood Streets Back From Cars in Spain
Barcelona has improved access and safety for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as the quality of public and green space, by using an innovative model in which a neighborhood's surrounding roads serve through-traffic, but internal roads are reserved for residents driving slower than about 6 mph. Barcelona is planning more of the projects, called Superblocks, or Superillas, which decrease traffic by 21%, and could reduce emissions by as much as 75%. In the district shown above, nine city blocks are designated as one superblock.
15. A Successful Business Model in Plastics Recycling
One of the leading suppliers of synthetic carpet in Europe, Aquafil collects old fishnets and other nylon waste and turns it into a yarn that can be used for textiles, fabric and carpets. The system was a success: 30,000 tons of waste were recycled between 2011-2013, while still competing equally with virgin plastics on quality and price.
16. Morocco's Ambitious Large-Scale Solar Deployment
In 2016, Morocco began the first phase of a massive concentrated solar power project to provide renewable energy to over a million people. The Noor Solar complex will be the world's largest multi-technology solar plant, and is projected to create 1,600 direct jobs on average a year during construction of the next two phases, as well as 200 direct jobs during its initial 25 years of operation.
Photo: Michael Taylor/International Renewable Energy Agency
17. Green Freight in China
A national voluntary program in China aims to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions from road freight. The program focuses on green management of the fleet, deployment of green technologies and green driving.
18. Getting More Value from Less Water
In the Turpan Prefecture of China, water managers turned to satellite remote-sensing to assess evapotranspiration, allowing them to monitor water use and productivity, and reform allocation on the basis of actual consumption. The program focuses on getting more value from less land and water, by shifting from commodity crops like cotton and corn, to higher value melons and grapes. As a result, farmer incomes increased at around 4% above inflation and groundwater decline reduced by almost 170 million cubic meters.
Photo: Kylie Nicholson / Shutterstock
19. EVs Catch on in China
The Chinese government invested over $7 billion across every stage of the electric vehicle lifecycle. In 2015, China became the world's largest market for electric private passenger cars. By 2017, the country had more than 600,000 private electric cars on the road and an additional 200 million electric two-wheelers, 300,000 electric buses and up to 4 million low-speed, two seater electric vehicles.
Photo: xujun / Shutterstock
20. China's Building Codes Go Green
China was one of the first developing countries to implement a national building energy efficiency code, first issuing it in 1986 for residential buildings in severe cold and cold climate zones, in an attempt to reduce building energy consumption by 30%.
Photo: GuoZhongHua / Shutterstock
21. China: Highest Emitter but Leading on Climate Action
China has made progress in shaping and driving the global agenda, investing in renewable energy and tackling air pollution, according to the New Climate Economy report. The growth of China's emissions are expected to fall further from 2021-2025, and efforts to reduce urban smog have paid off with air quality in 338 cities across China with a 6.5% improvement from 2016. Pictured is Shanghai.
22. India Increasing Tree Cover
The Indian government has introduced a policy aiming to increase tree cover, with a national goal set at 33%, to meet growing timber demand, improve farmer livelihoods and tackle climate change.
Photo: Saurav022 / Shutterstock
23. Sustainable Food Chillers in India
Companies like Mumbai-based cold chain technology start-up TESSOL have developed solar-powered cold storage units to reduce the losses in food storage and crop protection in India. These solutions reduce the running costs of the units and reduce diesel consumption.
Photo: TESSOL via Twitter
24. Green Spaces in Dense Singapore
One of the reasons Singapore is such a livable city is its urban greenery, thanks to policies such as mandatory roadside plantings, which have ensured that trees have been introduced systematically with enough growing space to create substantial canopy cover. Between 1986 and 2007, green cover in Singapore grew from 36% to 47%, despite a 68% increase in population. The trees have helped reduce average temperatures.
25. Electric Planes Take Off
The Pipistrel Alpha Electro is a two-seater electric plane with an all-composite body and electric motor that can stay in the air for one hour. It became the first factory-built electric aircraft to fly in Australia in January 2018. Electric planes could be useful for short-haul air travel in places where high-speed trains are not an option.
26. Renewable Energy in Africa
The largest wind power plant in Kenya is being built thanks to a finance structure that combines public and philanthropic capital to reduce the risk of private investment. Once finished, the wind park is expected to produce enough energy to supply 15% of Kenya's current installed energy production. Above, workers install a windmill turbine.
Photo: Lake Turkana Wind Power
27. Women and Clean Energy
A locally-driven clean cookstove business is distributing stoves that are designed based on women's needs and preferences. BURN Manufacturing in Kenya has sold over half a million stoves since 2013. Traditional cooking methods use open fires that burn wood or charcoal, generate unhealthy smoke, forces women and children to spend hours collecting wood (above) and impacts the environment, according to the Clean Cooking Alliance. The stoves also save households money and reduce carbon emissions.
Photo: BURN Stoves
28. Surplus Food Feeds the Hungry
OzHarvest began when its founder, Ronni Kahn, saw the huge volume of food going to waste in the hospitality industry where she worked. Kahn began with one truck in Sydney, delivering surplus food from shops and restaurants to charities in the area - 4,000 meals were donated in the first month. Today, OzHarvest works nationally, rescuing over 1,000 tons of food a week from supermarkets, restaurants, catering companies, hotels and airports.
29. Restoring Degraded Land
Last year, the Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility financed a $95 million sustainability bond to help fund a sustainable natural rubber plantation on heavily degraded land in Indonesia. The project incorporates social and environmental objectives and safeguards, and will serve as a buffer zone to protect a threatened national park from encroachment. TLFF aims to bring long-term finance to projects and companies that stimulate green growth and improve rural livelihoods in Indonesia.
30. Women Provide Clean Energy
Pictured is Isabella, who has been marketing and selling clean energy in her own village and surrounding communities in Tanzania through a women-led social enterprise called Solar Sister, which operates in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. Their mission is to eradicate poverty by activating women's social networks to sell and deliver clean energy services to rural communities. Solar Sister recruits, trains and mentors women to distribute solar devices and clean cookstoves. Solar Sister now has a network of more than 2,500 entrepreneurs providing services to at least 350,000 people.
Photo: Solar Sister