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Environmental optimism? 2016 was a big year in the global fight against climate change

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WATCH  | Here are five ways countries worked to make the world cleaner, greener, and a little bit cooler in 2016.

The climate fight heats up

For those working in the fight against human-caused climate change, the waning days of 2016 have likely looked pretty grim.

With President-elect Donald Trump's victory, several doubters of climate science have been appointed to serve as Cabinet members in the next administration. 

Trump himself has pledged to undo regulations and international agreements intended to slow greenhouse gas emissions. 


Cooperation on climate

There were major victories in 2016 for the global climate movement -- an international effort to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That's the limit most climate scientists say the Earth can warm before the damage is irreversible. 

Scientists say that can only happen with international cooperation and big pushes to deploy clean technologies, energy efficiency, and decrease fossil fuel consumption. 

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement was the pinnacle of international cooperation to fight climate change.

Four days before the U.S. presidential election, the agreement -- which aims to prevent the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius --  went into effect. 

It was signed by 197 countries representing 56 percent of the world's carbon polluters, including high-emitting countries like the United States, China, and India.

Obama Full Speech on Paris Climate Agreement

WATCH  | In October, President Obama said the agreement "gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we've got."

China decreased coal, increased renewables

In early February, the Chinese government released statistics showing the country's use of coal declined in the last year. That's important, because China is currently the largest emitter of carbon in the world, largely due to its use of coal. It was the second year running that China’s consumption of coal declined, Carbon Brief reported.

China also "led the world in expanding renewable energy capacity" in the last year, according to the International Energy Agency.

47 countries agreed to go 100 percent renewable

In November, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Costa Rica and 44 other poorer countries hit hard by climate impacts said they’d "strive to lead" the world in clean power deployment, and go 100 percent renewable and carbon neutral by 2050.

According to the BBC, the countries "also pledged to update their national climate-cutting plans before 2020 and to develop long-term plans as soon as possible."

Fossil fuel projects scrapped

Due to varying concerns over economic viability and threats to the environment, all of these fossil fuel projects were cancelled in 2016:

  • Otter Creek coal mine
  • Port of Oakland coal terminal
  • Northeast Direct natural gas pipeline
  • Constitution natural gas pipeline
  • Gateway Pacific coal export terminal
  • Shell Puget Sound oil-by-rail facility

Clean energy on pace for record growth

The future looks bright for clean energy deployment, too. In October,  the International Energy Agency significantly increased its five-year growth forecast for renewables, "thanks to strong policy support in key countries and sharp cost reductions," the organization said

The IEA said it "sees renewables growing 13 percent more between 2015 and 2021 than it did in last year’s forecast."

Projections could change

Of course, those projections could change. The IEA's growth forecast, for instance, specifically depends on "stronger policy backing" for renewables in the United States.  

With a change in the U.S. administration rapidly approaching, it remains to be seen if that growth forecast will hold up. President-elect Trump has pledged to make significant cuts to the EPA, pull out of the Paris Agreement, and boost coal and natural gas, among other things.

Environmentalists brace for a big reversal of climate gains under a Trump administration

WATCH  | With Trump's promises in mind, environmentalists in the United States are already mounting a fight against the incoming administration, looking to preserve the climate gains made in the last year. 

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