On Saturday night, December 12, 2015, an air of optimism surrounded the topic of climate change after 190 countries unanimously agreed on a unified effort to strategically address this challenge, forming the Paris climate agreement. This United Nations event, COP21, was attended by over 40,000 participants at the host location in Paris. Over 3,000 journalists reporting on the event ensured that the content and messages from COP21 were heard around the globe.
Receiving a unanimous agreement of a global warming temperature limit was the broader, long-term goal. Remarkably, what began as a 2 degree Celsius consensus global warming temperature limit, progressed to a 1.5 degree Celsius consensus limit. This ambitious goal is attainable, but emphasizes the need to implement significant efforts immediately.
The Paris climate agreement is just that, an agreement, and not a legally binding treaty. While this limits enforcement of the content, it allowed the process to be expedited, and not held up in legislation, as it would have been in the United States if presented as a treaty. An accountability system to review country progress every five years will be the alternative form of enforcement.
This agreement is unique in that it encompasses both developing and developed countries, holding them all to emissions reductions targets. Angst did surround the potential roadblocks that the role of developing countries could have posed at the event. One such concern being the cooperation of China and India, as both countries have significant development goals and outlooks. It was noted that the Obama administration played an important role in reaching out to these countries to shift their outlooks. An extra incentive for China was its realization of the opportunity that lies in the manufacture and production of renewables and energy efficient goods.
To support success of the event, despite the challenges mentioned, four pillars were established to guide the negotiations, including,
- Climate action plans or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s) were required from each country prior to COP21,
- A strategy for financing the transition to disrupting the global carbon addiction would be developed,
- Engagement of civil society including cities, regions, farmers, energy providers, and energy users must be considered as vital to implementation; and
- Outreach to engage the creative community to deliver the positive message that this change is possible must be encouraged.
The agreement is not perfect, and certain timelines and specifics have yet to be sorted. Viewpoints from the scientific community span from full support to harsh critique, some calling the effort ‘too little too late’. However, with creative solutions and innovation as drivers of the movement, as opposed to pessimistic outlooks, the Paris climate agreement has succeeded in establishing worldwide awareness and action on the issue.
Greenhouse gas accountability is the focus in all participating countries, the U.S. being one of those key participants. As a result, tracking and reporting on this topic is very likely to increase in both the private and public sectors. Whether you are required to comply with annual greenhouse gas reporting, attempting to complete a Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) questionnaire, or would like to be proactive and take steps to evaluate and enhance your company’s sustainability program, we are here to help you on this journey by offering all of these services, and more. For more information, please contact Cristina Mendoza at 508-970-0033 ext.128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.