Difficulty in enforcing the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement, albeit being an unprecedented global diplomatic effort that offers the promise to set the world on the path towards sustainably reducing GHG emissions, no organisation -not even the United Nationshas the coercive power to enforce environmental policy. On June 1 2017 President Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The US pulling out the Agreement entails a serious drawback, because the US is the second GHG emitter -both in absolute terms and per-capita. Russia with 5% of global emissions has not ratified also.
Unsustainable patterns of urbanisation.
The world is urbanising at an extremely fast rate and today 54% of the global population lives in cities. By 2050 it is expected that this number will rise to 68%. Unfortunately, urbanisation patterns in most parts of the world are mostly unsustainable and also difficult to change -low density urban sprawl, peri-urban low cost housing located remotely from jobs and services, transport systems heavily reliant on buses, cars and motorcycles, etc. In most parts of the world urban life is totally reliant in transportation modes that emit GHG and other noxious pollutants. This trend is compounded by another phenomena, the urbanisation of poverty, which means that the share of poverty in the developing world that is located in urban areas has jumped from 17% to 28% in the last 10 years. In eastern Asia, nearly half of all poverty is found in urban areas. The urban poor suffer the most from urban air pollution.
Growing car ownership in most places around the world.
Car ownership has been at the centre of urban culture in most parts of the world since the inception of car use in western cities at the end of the 19th century -although this is changing in some parts of the word driven by the millennia’s desire to live more sustainably. In many regions -such as India, China and across Latin America- economic growth is allowing a growing middle-class to buy private cars, as the preferred option to unreliable, overcrowded, unsafe and unsustainable public transportation. China’s car ownership rate is still a fraction of those in the US -58 vehicles per 1000 person, compared to 804 per 1000 person-, but the expected forecast is of
a 6-11% growth in the years to come. In India car ownership has tripled in the last decade.
The cost of clean technologies is still high.
Until now the cost of clean technologies is higher than carbon intensive technologies, especially in the transport sector. Simply, the cost of cars and buses running on fossil fuels is lower than the hybrids and those running on electricity. Also the infrastructure required for the use of electric cars is still very limited, a situation that is also a deterrent in the widespread use of electric cars. So, until the cost of alternative vehicles and energy systems falls, taxes and subsidies will be required, alongside greater investment in R&D throughout the world.