How does the UK's new green drive compare to the rest of the world?

Wednesday 18th November 2020 09:15 GMT

His new 10-point-plan will, among other things, aim to take petrol and diesel vehicles off the road by 2030, harness greener energy sources and protect nature.

Sky News experts have analysed how some of the biggest emitters in the world are making progress - or not - on green commitments.

US: Joe Biden will need to unravel Trump's climate damage before making any progress

By Cordelia Lynch, US correspondent

The UK has always depicted itself as a global leader in tackling climate change, but Mr Biden is also on a mission, with the most ambitious climate agenda ever adopted by a US president.

He has called the climate crisis an "existential threat" to America and has outlined a $2trn plan to decarbonise the electricity sector and create millions of jobs in clean energy.

Mr Biden says his goals would see the US energy sector go carbon-free by 2035. That would allow the country to become a net zero emitter by 2050.

He also wants to revolutionise transport by using electric vehicles and trains, and build 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units. But none of the above will be easy.

Donald Trump spent the past four years denying climate change exists and trying to remove what he sees as roadblocks to efficient energy production.

He rolled back 160 environmental regulations, covering everything from car fuel standards, to methane emissions, to light bulbs.

Thanks to his support for fracking, the US briefly became the world's biggest oil exporter. His passion for fossil fuels, oil and gas production set America back on its previous path to a greener future.

Other countries, the UK included, have done far better. Mr Biden has a lot to unpick and unravel.

China: World's biggest polluter is splashing the green cash - but the reality is much different

By Tom Cheshire, Asia correspondent

China is the world's biggest polluter - much bigger than Britain. Its total carbon emissions are 27 times greater than the UK, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US non-profit organisation.

When it's a case of an elephant and a mouse, is the climate change strategy of the mouse even worth a squeak?

Yes, for a few reasons.

First, the UK and China aren't that far apart when you remember that China has 1.4 billion people.

According to the World Bank, its CO2 emissions per capita are 7.2 tonnes, not far off the UK's 5.8 - and well below the US figure of 15.5.

The West is not as green as we might like to think and we have a duty to act, regardless of what China does.

China's leaders, like the UK's, are in fact taking climate change seriously.

They have invested more than any country in renewable energy, built out an electric car industry and publicly pledged to be carbon neutral by 2060 (not quite the same as "climate" neutral, which refers to all greenhouse gases, not just carbon), with emissions peaking by 2030.

Reality, though, has a way of intruding.

Beijing has spent the last week wrapped in the choking smog locals thought was a thing of the past, as its lopsided COVID-19 recovery depends on heavy industry, rather than greener shoots.

Beijing needs to stay the course on climate change. Commitments from other countries, even if much smaller like the UK, are one way of keeping China honest.

India: Rampant growth and middle class aspiration hold back climate action

By Neville Lazarus, India reporter

According to a report by Greenpeace and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), India continues to occupy the top spot as the worst emitter of sulphur dioxide (SO2) for the fifth year running.

It emits 21% of the world's SO2, almost double that of Russia, which is the second worst country.

SO2 is a poisonous air pollutant that increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and premature death.

Air pollution is the cause for 12.5% deaths across the country.

In the winter months, a thick blanket of smog envelopes northern India, particularly the capital Delhi, where air pollution is almost 10 times the level recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Environmentalists say the cause of this is almost entirely man-made. Farmers set alight the stubble left over after harvesting their crops, as it is too costly to dispose of it any other way.

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There is very little financial help from the government for the farmer to change the method of disposal.

In the last month, the state of Punjab recorded almost 74,000 farm fires.

The government has tried to criminalise this, even fining farmers, but it has backfired as they are a big vote bank. No government would want to antagonise them.

Thermal power plants are also the major cause of SO2 emissions. Though renewable energy capacity is increasing in the country most coal plants lack the technology to scrub the emissions clean of sulphur.

With one of the largest middle class populations in the world, the government is grappling to balance the aspirations of people with the environment.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has pushed new initiatives in renewable energy, the gains have been overridden by other facets of the country's rampant and mostly haphazard growth.

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