Paris Agreement – entering a low-carbon era

The Paris Climate Agreement is a landmark deal in the fight to mitigate the effects of climate change. The agreement crossed the threshold on 5 October 2016 after being ratified by over 55 countries and with over 55% of global emissions reached. The Paris Agreement, signed by 191 countries, will now enter into force in 30 days. With the key objective of limiting the gradual rise of global average temperature to below 2°C, countries now have an opportunity and support to take action to achieve their emissions targets as stated in their INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution). So what does this mean for the UK?

The Paris Agreement represents an opportunity for the UK, and for UK businesses, to become international leaders in a low-carbon economy, particularly in a post-Brexit world. Theresa May has already expressed the UK’s intentions to ratify the deal independently by the end of the year. At a Conservative Party Conference taken place on 5 Oct, May said: “It’s about doing what every other major and growing economy in the world does. Not just sitting back and seeing what happens – but putting in place a plan and getting on with the job.” UK businesses need to stay aware of the developing new low-carbon era and act as sustainability leaders.

It remains to be seen what emission reduction targets the UK government will set, but as part of the EU INDC, a 40% reduction in domestic emissions by 2030 across the bloc was agreed. The UK climate change act aims to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels. Regardless of the target, it will undoubtedly mean more regular changes to the UK’s environmental policy as it moves towards a low-carbon economy. This will help to develop circular economy and renewable energy in the UK as steps to achieving our emissions target. The best way for UK businesses to continue to grow and remain relevant in this envisaged low-carbon economy is to begin making changes to the way they operate today. By implementing a forward thinking approach today and making sustainability work, organisations can ensure they turn potential risks into opportunities.

The Paris climate agreement coming into effect represents the biggest international opportunity to combat climate change. The deal is the first of its kind and has passed through the legislative proceedings in a relatively short space of time, signalling a genuine desire to tackle climate change head on. Now is the time for governments and businesses to act. Understanding the impacts of climate change, developing a suitable roadmap, setting realistic goals, accelerating actions and investments and getting the required support – all are essential actions for securing a sustainable low-carbon future.

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