Paris Agreement on limiting Climate Change
12 December 2015
The first ever deal to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions has been agreed by the United Nations in Paris.
The Paris Agreement aims:
- to peak greenhouse gas emissions soon and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century
- to keep global temperature increase well below 2°C – and to try to limit it to 1.5°C
- to review progress every five years
- for $100bn a year in finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance.
French President François Hollande called the proposal unprecedented. "The decisive agreement for the planet is here and now,'' M Hollande said. "France calls upon you to adopt the first universal agreement on climate.''
And UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on world diplomats to "finish the job". "We must protect the planet that sustains us,'' he said. "We need all our hands on deck.''
Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, has hailed the deal as an "historic moment" for future generations: "The Paris Agreement is a turning point in the world's fight against unmanaged climate change, which threatens prosperity and well-being among both rich and poor countries. The Agreement creates enormous opportunities as countries begin to accelerate along the path towards low-carbon economic development and growth".
What is the significance of the Paris Agreement?
High levels of carbon emissions have led to the threat of uncontrolled climate change which could destabilise the current climate equilibrium.
It is in the interest of all nations for each to curb its own carbon emissions, but each nation hopes that the other nations will take steps to curb global emissions in the interests of the whole planet (particularly those island nations vulnerable to rising sea levels).
The significance of the Paris Agreement is that all 195 nations have recognised that each has to play its full part for an overall global reduction in carbon emissions to be achieved.
There is a similar issue within each nation – including the UK.
What should the UK Government do now?
Individuals – and individual companies – will not benefit directly from reducing their own carbon emissions – unless others do so too. Thus the responsibility for reducing the UK's carbon emissions rests squarely with the Government – because only a collective approach will make a difference.
It is the UK Government which has backed the Paris Agreement and it now needs to take real steps to reduce carbon emissions from the UK. The UK is very unlikely to reach its current carbon reduction targets.
Next steps for the Government
The pressing needs for the UK are to:
- decarbonise electricity generation
- and to decarbonise heating and cooling of buildings.
Does DECC yet recognise that ground source energy and recycling solar heat through the ground (from summer to winter) is the surest route to saving energy and reducing carbon emissions from heating?
Does DECC yet recognise that ground source energy and recycling cold through the ground (from winter to summer) is the surest route to saving energy and reducing carbon emissions from cooling?
DECC has a mechanism called the Renewable Heat Incentive to encourage the use of ground source heat pumps to reduce carbon emissions from heating non-domestic buildings and has so far spent just £2.5 million over three years across England, Scotland and Wales: less than £1 million a year.
Amber Rudd has suggested that subsidies for renewable energy should be reduced in times of austerity.
The subsidy on reduced VAT for domestic energy bills for gas, coal and oil in the UK was calculated at £3,971million for 2011 by the OECD.
Can we hope that DECC will see fit to begin to redress this balance in the light of the UK's support of the Paris Agreement?
See text of the Paris Agreement.