Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet Today
There is now little doubt that climate change is happening. It is seen as the biggest potential threat and environmental challenge of the 21st Century and it affects us all. The group of 1300 independent scientific experts from around the world concludes that there is more than 90% probability that greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, produced by human activity, have caused much of the observed escalation in Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years. Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate carrying out global warming research have recently predicted that average global temperatures could increase between 1.4 and 5.8 °C by the year 2100.
Adoption of Paris Climate Agreement to Roll Back Global Warming
The world needs “a global deal for climate” that keeps the rise of the global average temperature below 2°C. At Annual Conference of Parties (COP21) held in Paris last December 7th and 8th of 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) resolved to achieve for the first time, in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a legally binding universal agreement on climate from all nations of the world.
The Paris Agreement is intended to signal the beginning of the end of more than 100 years of fossil fuels serving as the prime engine of economic development and shows the governments from around the world take climate change seriously. The inclusion of both developed and developing countries, including those that depend on revenue from oil and gas production, demonstrate a unity never seen before on this issue.
The purpose is to hold global warming to below 2 °C degrees over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, and to strive for 1.5 °C if possible. Negotiators from nearly 200 countries reached the world’s most significant agreement to address climate change since the issue first emerged as a major political priority decades ago.
Paris Climate Agreement Key Elements
The Role of Business and Industry in COP21
Business has to play a part in the ongoing shift towards a carbon-clean global economic system. Some companies have already started to do so, either by changing their global strategy, investing in carbon-free energies or through innovations.
Paris Agreement encouraged businesses to commit and to publicly announce actions aiming at reducing emission, overall. Commitments can, for instance, take the form of:
Individual mitigation targets:
- GHG emission reduction
- GHG emission reduction in line with the 2°C objective
- Carbon neutrality
- Improved energy efficiency target
Targets related to specific themes:
- Increased produced renewable energy (low‐carbon energy)
- Increase consumed renewable energy
- Reduced deforestation
- Reduced emission from own property/buildings
- Reduced emission from own fleet
- Material use reduction
- Increase the share of recycling
- Carbon accounting implementation
- Carbon/climate risks assessments & stress testing generalization
- Green bounds development
- Portfolio decarbonization
- Funding into public and open scientific risk modelling facilities
- Efforts to adjust business models to minimize vulnerabilities and risks to climate hazards
After COP21: What Needs to Happen for the Paris Agreement to Take Effect?
What occurred on December 2015 at COP21 was the “adoption” of the Paris Agreement by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Countries still need to take steps so that it takes effect.
Countries must now actually join the Paris Agreement and become Parties to it. To do this, each country must now sign and indicate their consent to be bound by the Agreement. On April 22, 2016, all Heads of State can sign the Agreement at a high-level signing ceremony at the United Nations in New York. The Agreement will then be open for signature for one year, until April 21, 2017. After the one-year signing period, the Agreement will be open for what is called “accession” – a country becomes a Party to an international agreement that other countries have already signed.
Only after at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC representing at least 55 percent of total global greenhouse gases sign on and indicate their consent to be bound will the Agreement “enter into force” and will come into effect and be legally binding.
Our world is getting hotter, and we can see the evidence in loss of ice sea, accelerated sea level rises, warming oceans, more intense heat waves, and an increase in extreme events such as wildfires, drought, tropical storms and floods. The impact of global warming and climate change is already being felt across the planet.
Paris Agreement represents a huge leap forward in terms of reducing the effect of global warming. Taking the action needed to bring this deal into force is an essential next step for countries to build on the momentum from COP21. If they do so quickly, countries can ensure that the critically important provisions and requirements of the Paris Agreement are fully put into motion.