Decarbonization in the Short Term with Christiana Figueres – California China Climate Institute

Audio by: Megan Bergeron | Writing by: Marie Hogan, Alexandra Jade Garcia, Callie Rhoades  | Socials by: Wangyuxuan Xu

Decarbonization in the Short Term

United States

As climate change impacts rapidly increase, global leaders are working to greatly accelerate their emission reductions by 2030. For example, in November 2021, the United States announced the Net Zero World Initiative, to be led by the U.S. Department of Energy.  DOE will work to establish investment plans that are focused on getting the United States to net-zero carbon emissions. The DOE’s press release describing the initiative states that, “the Net Zero World initiative signals America’s proactive stance in working with countries to lead a global transition to net zero emissions by 2050, and a commitment to working collaboratively with partners to replicate successes and inspire a race to the top across countries.” While this is a promising start, the U.S. will need to quickly work to implement these plans to swiftly meet these goals. 


Leaders around the world are also working to reach some short-term decarbonization solutions as quickly as possible. According to UNFCCC, in 2020, global commitments to net-zero strategies doubled in less than a year’s time. Global leaders are shifting their focus to cleaner energy and away from carbon-dependent energy. The World Resource Institute notes the challenge of this goal, finding that in order to achieve this, countries will have to substantially increase their investments in improved infrastructure and greener industries such as electric vehicles, energy-efficient buildings and renewable energies. WRI identifies  China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom as leading the way in the global work towards decarbonization, but that they, and many others, still have quite a long way to go. 


In 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills, SB 1477 and AB 3232, focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and utilities. Brown also signed an executive order B-55-18 to achieve carbon neutrality. This executive order calls for California to reach zero emissions and 100% clean energy by 2045. The goal for California is to then produce “negative emissions”, meaning that by 2046 California would capture and store more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere than it emits. B-55-18 also sets a goal to reduce petroleum use by 45% in 2030, and have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030, as well as expand the state’s cap-and-trade fund program. 

Christiana Figueres

Christiana Figueres is a Costa Rican diplomat who was appointed as the United Nations Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2010 and was reappointed for a second term in 2013. According to the UNFCCC Figueres “has been involved in climate change negotiations since 1995.” She is an internationally recognized leader on global climate and directed the 2015 Paris Agreement. Figueres is also an avid proponent of collaborative diplomacy and according to Figueres’ website she has “brought together national and sub-national governments, corporations and activists, financial institutions and communities of faith, think tanks and technology providers, NGOs and parliamentarians, to jointly deliver the unprecedented climate change agreement.” Along with her diplomacy work, Figueres is also an author and has written The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, hosts the weekly podcast, Outrage and Optimism, and co-founded the media platform Global Optimism

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Figueres: I do not think that there is much movement on climate change if the motivation is global stability. It is critical to understand that there is a total coincidence between national interests and the global interest.

Ethan: That’s Christiana Figueres [christee-AH-na Fig AIR-ez], who helped lead the 2015 Paris climate accord at the United Nations. She met with Former California Governor Jerry Brown to examine China and the US’s commitments to decarbonization at a recent California China Climate Institution discussion. 

Figueres: Moving toward a planet that is actually regenerated and regenerative is in our own interest as well. There is no better place than through a collaboration between China and the United States. The technologies are still nascent and still require government investment in order to get to market. China is feeling that heat, especially as financing of cold through the belt and road initiative is coming under more and more scrutiny, both internationally, but more importantly, domestically, 

Ethan: To hear more from Christiana Figueres and how investors and advocates can enhance scrutiny over international fossil fuel investments, visit, or wherever you get your podcast. I’m Ethan Elkind and this was Climate Break.

Decarbonization in the Short Term with Christiana Figueres – California China Climate Institute