In the end, such political will needs to convert to action. That means the largest emitters of GHGs need to cut emissions. China has said that it is now in the “driving seat in international cooperation” on battling climate change, and it certainly has invested heavily in reducing emissions in some areas, for example by promoting electric vehicles. And yet, while China might be working to lower its territorial emissions, it has come under criticism for financing a large number of coal power plants in other countries.

Sometimes it might seem like democracies, with their short political cycles, are unable to take the sort of action on climate change that requires long-term thinking. For example, the Groundhog Day-like Brexit negotiations in the UK or the political impasse in the US stemming from investigations into president Donald Trump’s probity are dominating the political agendas of those countries at the expense of many other issues.

But democracies, by their inherent nature, are more accountable. That accountability, combined with commitments to global pacts like the Paris agreement, can spur them to act for the greater good. In its report, the UK’s Climate Change Committee said the country should “ideally begin redressing” its historical contributions to global emissions. Setting an ambitious net-zero goal would set an example for other countries to follow. The ease with which the climate-emergency motion passed in parliament shows that Britain’s political parties acknowledge the privileged position its economy commands thanks to its past consumption of fossil fuels. Lawmakers in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway made similar arguments when passing net-zero legislations.

And Trump withstanding, it’s not all bad news out of the US either on the climate front. Today (May 2), the Democrat-held House will send a message to the president by voting on a bill to reverse Trump’s 2017 announcement on abandoning the Paris agreement. That’s happening at a time when lower-cost renewables are starting to edge out coal, as the country’s low-carbon industry undergoes the sort of growth that few expected only five years ago. In April, the US produced more power from renewable sources than from coal for the first time. On an annual basis, coal is still ahead, but likely not for long.

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