• Corinne E. Atton

2021: A Super Year for Climate Action and a “Perfect Storm” of Opportunity?

Last year changed the world as we know it. We switched to working remotely, and many of us continue to make big life changes. On a more global scale, a microscope is now focused on the climate crisis, our roles in that crisis, and what we can, and should do about it.


Governments, regional and city leadership, the private sector, and individuals are scrambling to plan for the future—most immediately how to not only survive, but thrive post-COVID; and more long-term, how to be sustainable and deliver on ambitious climate targets.


By the United Nations’ 26th Climate Change Conference in November 2021 (COP26), signatory states must make public their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) setting out their goals to continue to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement. The eyes of the world are, in particular, on China, the United States, the European Union, India, Russia and Japan as they lead the world in carbon dioxide emissions. But these countries are not alone—all signatory states are obliged to deliver NDCs, and the pressure is on to deliver increasingly ambitious, yet attainable commitments.


The decision of the U.S. Biden-Harris Administration to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement was crucial. There are high expectations that the U.S. will once again lead the way, and steer the world away from the parade of horribles that await us all if we fail to limit the global average temperature to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels by 2050.


At the regional and city level, initiatives like C40 Cities are coordinating efforts to “replicate, improve and accelerate climate action.” And the private sector is coalescing on the scale never before seen in initiatives such as the UNFCCC Race to Zero.

In January 2021, #RaceToZero reported the astonishing achievement that “63% of global emissions” are now covered by a net zero goal, stressing that change “must accelerate in all areas of the economy and society,” and “every sector must undergo an exponential transformation.” The next step in this private sector plan is “Breakthrough Ambition”—a tipping point of 20% of key actors within each sector must break away from business as usual, “move in synchronization” and commit now to systemic change.


Promises are no longer enough—a microscope is increasingly focused on how entities will achieve their emission reduction targets, and by when. And pressure is mounting for roadmaps to be disclosed publicly. Prudent entities will decide now whether to lead the pack, or to follow—either way, mandatory disclosure, at least at some level, looks increasingly unavoidable.


(Image acknowledgment: #RaceToZero)

This blog post is brought to you by Draper & Draper LLC, a law firm devoted to international arbitration, resolution of natural resources and renewable energy disputes, climate change innovation and patents.