After taking over two weeks and involving almost two hundred countries, the COP21 agreement boils down to four key points:
• Achieve peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and then to reach a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.
• Keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C and to “endeavour to limit” it to 1.5C
• Establish at minimum a $100 billion a year climate finance fund for developing countries by 2020.
• Review progress every five years
We should all welcome the agreement, even if mainly for the clear signals it sends. One of the strongest of those signals is that 187 counties have already posted national climate plans. There can be no doubt now that the world is taking climate change seriously and is looking to cooperate globally to minimise its impact, especially on developing countries. The agreement also encourages more and more countries to take on cuts to their emissions in a way tailored to their circumstances. This is summarised in what must be the mother of all acronyms – CBDRRCILNDC, otherwise known as “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities, In the Light of Different National Circumstances”.
The COP21 aspirations give us all a sustainable long-term vision. It is the best news I’ve heard about the future of our planet for a long time, maybe ever. One challenge is to not let the long-term vision be forgotten and allow politicians to forget their commitments as they focus on electoral cycles. I hope that the signals made by business will help with this. It will become second nature not only for responsible businesses to consider business decisions in the context of climate impact, but for proactive businesses to take advantage of the new opportunities arising from increased climate focus.
The journey towards free of subsidy electricity will mean that investing in renewables will make sense to those looking for short-term monetary returns as well as those looking for long-term real returns both, both for their bottom line and for the environment.
The renewables sector is already very close to providing the cheapest as well as the most sustainable electricity. It must continue to focus on driving down core costs for electricity generation, but needs to widen its horizons by helping to address the challenges of sustainable transport and heat solutions as well.