Paris agreement defines the emissions challenge

climate change, COP21, Global warming

The pressure, or even incentive, on all countries throughout the world to reduce carbon emissions has taken a major step forward with the agreement of 195 countries at the recent COP21 conference to ‘pursue efforts to limit the [global] temperature increase to 1.5 K above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risk and impacts of climate change’. The more immediate agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris from 30 November to 11 December was ‘holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 K above pre-industrial levels’.

The agreement also includes a long-term goal of net zero carbon emissions by the end of the century.

The agreement calls for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best-available science.

A statement from the UK Government on the agreement says, ‘It marks a clear turning point towards a sustainable and low-carbon future. Countries will now have to come together regularly [every five years] to review their climate plans and collectively ensure that the necessary action is being taken to tackle climate change.’

Amber Rudd, Energy & Climate Change Secretary, said, ‘The long-term goal [net zero emissions] sends a strong signal to investors, businesses and policy makers about the shift to a low-carbon economy and provides confidence that will help drive the scale of investment needed.

Julia Evans, chief executive of BSRIA, comments, ‘The achievement of this broadly based agreement is a step forward in the drive towards climate control.

‘However, if businesses within the industry are expected to pick up the financial tab, we now need Government to set the direction to allow industry to play its part in leading this vital global challenge.

‘Recent Government announcements have identified a shrinking investment in renewables. Indeed, there is mounting political scepticism about the UK’s own commitment to standing behind these words, as a result of a series of policy U-turns on climate change by the Government — most of them in the built environment.’

Julia Evans concludes, ‘Global warming is a real problem. As an industry we have the skills, technology and the desire to make a difference, but the Government should do more to back clean technology. It must provide a stable environment that enables investment in cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy generation, including renewable technologies.’

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