Wednesday, 23 December 2015

COP 21 – Success or Failure

By Christian Béaur, Director - Sustainable Development and Richard Hillyard, Senior Environmental Consultant, at CBRE

We have a climate change agreement for 2020 and beyond in the Paris Accord. Is this an adequate level of progress needed to seriously tackle the problem of climate change. Compared to 6 years ago and the abject failure in Copenhagen, first glance suggests yes, but is it perfect?

Earlier this month, leaders from around the world gathered for probably the most important and significant international government conferences of our time, COP21. Prior to these talks, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s), campaigning organisations, environmentalists and individuals from all over the world took to the streets to protest and generate an atmosphere of urgency for a strong positive agreement to be achieved.

Now, and for the time in history, delegations from 195 countries have committed to change. A core part of this is the commitment to limiting global warming to well below 2° C (above pre-industrial levels) and to pursue efforts further to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. This is a highly ambitious, yet committed unilateral agreed target. Today, the world is already heading to a 1°C degree increase in global temperature, limiting it by another half a degree is some target to have agreed.  

Nevertheless, this commitment will include:
  • A legally binding 5-year review of countries targets, and the ability for them to improve their objectives to work towards a low carbon future
  • National contributions by each country and respective engagement
  • A dedicated financial mechanism including an annual provision from developed countries of $100 billion, by 2020, to support actions particularly in developing and vulnerable countries
  • Strengthening engagement from civil society

There are a few challenges with this, namely that there are no real mechanisms agreed to ensure delivery of this target, just a promise.  But this is a start to seriously tackle climate change and, in theory, the beginning of releasing the world from its fossil fuel addiction.

Other key areas discussed:

  • Achieve a balance between greenhouse gases emitted by human activities and GHG stored by carbon sinks (forests, oceans) in the second half of the century. A review mechanism of the reported national contributions and GHG emissions will be established. Each country shall provide a national inventory of its GHG emissions to measure progress against its national engagement
  • National engagements to be reviewed every five years with a first “global stocktake” to be assessed in 2023
  • Developed countries should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emissions reduction targets.  Furthermore, they should communicate every two years re: qualitative and quantitative information
  • Creating an ad hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement and appointing two high-level champions to act on behalf of the President of the COP to facilitate and intensify action in the period between 2016-2020
  • The need to avoid and to minimide the losses and damages associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather effects by implementing early warning systems and a financial provision mechanism
  • The agreement shall be opened for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017. For its entry to come into force in 2020 - as an extension of the Kyoto Protocol - the agreement must be ratified, accepted or approved by at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions of greenhouse gases

With its Law on the Energy Transition and Green Growth of August 17, 2015, alongside its National Strategy for Low Carbon (SNBC) of 19 November 2015, and in view of the COP 21, France has anticipated and set several national commitments: 

  • Reduce  GHG emissions by 40% by 2030,  compared to the 1990 level, and by a further 75% by 2050
  • Aim at a price for carbon of €56 per ton in 2020 and €100 per ton in 2030
  • Bring the share of renewable energy consumption in 2030 to 32%
  • Reduce the overall energy consumption by 50% in 2050
  • Reduce the GHG emissions in the building sector by 54% between the years 2025-2028. This will be achieved through the deployment of buildings with very low consumption or positive energy, and through the acceleration of energy-efficient renovations i.e. eco-design, etc
  • Reduce the GHG emissions in the transport sector by 29% in the years 2025 to 2028. Likewise, by 12% in agriculture, 24% in industry and 33% in the waste management sector
  • Remove export credits for all new coal power plant projects that are not equipped with carbon capture and sequestration devices

It is evident that Paris and COP 21 is not the end of the road when it comes to climate change. It is the beginning of the next part of our worlds environmental and climate journey.  The targets are in place, the leadership of the world is agreed that limiting GHG emissions is critical to success.  In fact just 24 hours after COP 21, the UK governments energy policy is already being scrutinised by politicians and media, an early indication of positivity from the Paris talks.

It is now up to us as property professionals, not just the environmentalists, the activists and the sustainability focussed to continue to drive for delivery against promises, hold those who fail to account and keep the pressure on those who stand in the way of climate revolution. At the same time, we need to applaud and celebrate where there have been successes and victories. So let’s embrace Paris and COP 21 to make it work for our future and the planet.

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