In December, the world changed. Our low carbon future became inevitable, irresistible and irreversible.
In the closing days of 2015, Paris hosted a landmark event in the series of annual United Nations Summits on Climate Change. The 21st Conference of Parties, or “COP21” in UN-speak, was billed by many as the world’s last chance to secure a meaningful, truly international agreement to act on climate change before our time runs out.
In a strong show of solidarity for the climate and for France in the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks just 17 days earlier, the largest ever gathering of Heads of State descended on the Le Bourget conference center on the outskirts of Paris for the opening days of the negotiations.
Importantly, they were joined by leaders from some of the world’s most influential businesses and sub-national governments, the overwhelming majority of whom were pledging support for a catalytic climate deal, and bringing to the table their own commitments to bold action.
COP21’s final agreement two weeks later did not disappoint. I and my colleagues from The Climate Group and the wider We Mean Business Coalition were delighted to be in Paris to witness this pivotal moment in history on 12th December – a deal between 194 countries to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
The agreement capped a decade of extremely challenging negotiations, and is testament to the diplomacy skills of the hosting French government and the UN secretariat tasked with co-ordination. It is the most important international agreement since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, and it will profoundly shape the pace of sustainable development over the course of this century.
Critical elements include a goal that effectively commits the world’s nations to net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of this century. This is backed by a process that will enable countries to increase their ambition over time, anticipating that technology will advance faster than political ambition. In combination, these measures send a clear signal to investors and businesses to accelerate solutions.
In many ways, Paris is just the beginning.
Governments must now implement their contributions to the deal at home. And leading states, cities, investors and businesses will be critical in keeping progress on track until 2020 when the new agreement comes in to force.
I believe that this brings even greater importance to the Green Challenge and the wider community of innovators and disruptors. Paris creates new momentum for products, services and business models that are better for people today, and for our climate tomorrow. Its message is loud and clear – we are on an inevitable journey towards a zero carbon economy. And everyone is on board.
Jim Walker, jurymember of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge and Co-Founder, The Climate Group, and Director, Climate Mobilization Fund (on secondment)
The Climate Group is an international network of states, cities and companies committed to a prosperous, low carbon future. It is a core partner in the We Mean Business Coalition. A beneficiary of the Dutch Postcode Lottery, The Climate Group receives annual support as well as support for the ‘Bijli – Clean Energy for All’ project that connected over 65,000 rural villagers in India to clean, affordable energy.