The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Glasgow climate summit has already achieved success. But time is running short.

President Biden delivers remarks during a meeting at the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 1. Looking on is John F. Kerry, the president's climate adviser and a former secretary of state. (Kevin Lamarque/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

John F. Kerry is the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate. He was secretary of state from 2013 to 2017.

The world has entered the decisive decade for confronting the climate crisis. This week’s global climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, has already helped summon more ambition to face this emergency than the world has ever seen. In that regard, the summit has already achieved success. We can still avoid a catastrophe, but time is running short.

On the plus side, countries representing almost 65 percent of global gross domestic product have stepped up to meet the goal of holding the rise in warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times — what science tells us will prevent the most devastating impacts from warming. Those countries include the 27 that make up the European Union, Britain, Canada, South Korea, Japan and South Africa.

India aims to build 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and the United States has agreed to partner with them in that effort. Major oil producers, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, are announcing stronger steps and zero emissions goals. And more than 100 nations representing 70 percent of the global economy have joined the pledge we initiated with the European Union to significantly reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Reducing methane emissions is the single fastest option we have to slow warming.

For its part, the United States rejoined the Paris climate agreement on President Biden’s first day in office. This spring, the president went even further, pledging to reduce our emissions in line with the 1.5 degree limit, and putting the United States on pace to meet the net-zero emissions deadline.

To get there, he laid out the most ambitious climate agenda in our history. It plans for a carbon-free power system by 2035 and quadruples funding for clean-technology research, development and demonstration. It invests in our forests and fragile ecosystems, protecting our natural treasures while ensuring every community is ready to meet the climate challenge.

Fifty years ago, a moonshot defined the space race. Today, the Biden administration’s energy earth shots will marshal innovation and investment in the next generation of technologies to produce a clean-energy revolution.

But while we have made progress in averting runaway warming, more needs to be done. A sizable gap remains in cutting global carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, which is critical to put the world on a realistic path to reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and avoid calamity.

Too many countries are still not doing enough. Unfortunately, no country or region can overcome the climate crisis alone. We have seen remarkable progress in just a matter of months, but we must all accelerate our efforts.

The massive technological transformations we need to save lives, improve health and protect our waters, land and air also present the greatest economic opportunity since the Industrial Revolution. The private sector is forging ahead. Last year, wind and solar accounted for 90 percent of new electricity capacity in the world, and are now more often than not the cheapest power sources available. The world’s highest-valued car company only makes electric vehicles and many of its competitors are racing to keep up. Even steel and cement manufacturers are following suit. Investors bet half a trillion dollars on the clean energy transition. Several of the largest U.S. banks will commit more than $4 trillion to this new economy over the next decade. A new generation of jobs awaits the countries that meet global demand for clean technologies.

After Glasgow, we all must remain committed to the ambitious goals and concrete actions required during this decisive decade. Countries must revisit their plans to ensure that they align with the global 1.5 degree goal. The private sector must redouble its efforts to reinvent our global economy.

And every single one of us needs to do our part. Shop climate consciously. Ensure your employer invests in sustainability. Talk to your friends and neighbors about this issue, and support politicians who will address this crisis head on. This is the fight of our lives, and all of it matters.