2015 in Review: A Breakout Year for Climate Action

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2015 in Review: A Breakout Year for Climate Action

2015 was a pivotal year for the environment, with a broad spectrum of sustainability successes and climate action pledges. The movement (and the planet) received boosts on all fronts from corporate executives, religious leaders, and elected officials.
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Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - 9:35am

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For those of us working to enhance awareness of and commitments to sustainability, this year offered much desired gratification and hard fought vindication. Our work is far from complete, but the events of 2015 have certainly strengthened the foundation for an abundant, sustainable future.

Historic Global Agreement

The landmark agreement reached in Paris at the COP21 meetings to limit global warming, reduce carbon emissions, adopt clean technologies, and assist poor countries that have been impacted by climate change is a game changer for the planet. Never before has there been so much alignment on action that needs to be taken to mitigate the risks of climate change. Never before have we had such a framework for cooperation.

The Agreement, however, simply opens a door for change, and now we must walk boldly through it.  The success of global climate action efforts will be assessed by the ability and continued willingness to execute on the stated commitments of over 190 countries, cities around the globe, and hundreds of multi-national businesses.

The Paris accord forces the hand of both the public and private sectors to shift to a zero emissions economy, presenting what is considered to be the greatest business opportunity of the century. All aspects of the economy will be affected by the unprecedented move towards decarbonization, sustainability, renewables, and resiliency, and trillions of dollars will be redirected to support the transition.

Business at the Vanguard

Businesses in every sector stepped up this year to support climate action. Major apparel companies banded together to reduce the textile industry’s environmental impact.

Companies in the construction industry announced initiatives to make all new buildings net zero energy by 2030 and all existing buildings net zero by 2050.

Consumer products giants promised to dramatically reduce deforestation and engage in widespread land restoration efforts.

Transportation companies pledged to reduce vehicle emissions and increase fuel efficiency, while expanding electrification, automation, and connectivity.

Even the behemoth agriculture companies got in on the action by promising carbon neutrality across all operations.

Religious Leaders in Lockstep

Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change made a powerful statement, encouraging people of faith to adopt stewardship as a moral duty. The document helped to depolarize the topic of climate action, shifting the conversation away from politics and onto compassion and humanitarianism.

The Pope’s message, reverberating around the world, was brave and direct: climate change has been caused primarily by human activity; humans have been irresponsible stewards of the planet; citizens of developed nations must change their lifestyles in order to eliminate an abhorrent “culture of waste”; and every one of us must step immediately for an all-inclusive crusade to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century.

The Encyclical turned climate action into a moral imperative, attempting to unify and inspire people from all walks of life with the suggestion that the planet, and existence itself, is a precious gift, and that each one of us has the responsibility to care for it joyfully, vigilantly, and tenderly.


Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | COP21 | Carbon Footprint | Climate Change / Global Warming | Conservation | Environment & Climate Change | Environmental Politics | Green Builder Media | Sara Gutterman | climate change

CAMPAIGN: Ethical and Sustainable Living