5 key points from One Planet Climate Change Summit, Paris 2017

In case you missed it the 12th December 2017 saw business and political leaders gather in Paris for a follow-up summit to the 2015 Paris Climate Summit where the Paris Agreement was reached setting international targets to help fight climate change.

The event was hosted by France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, who took several clear swipes at US President, Donald Trump, who was not in attendance, including a placard that read; “Make Our Planet Great Again”. Macron was also more than happy to call Trump out for walking away from the 2015 agreement.

Top 5 points from One Planet, Paris, 2017:

  • It was widely acknowledged that not enough action has taken place since the original Paris Climate Conference in 2015 to reduce climate change and mitigate its impacts.
  • Despite the withdrawal by US president from the 2015 Paris agreement the US was very well represented at the summit by business and political leaders. The conference was positive in encouraging action through action.
  • The dire global social and economic impacts of climate change were recognised by the political and business community, there was no longer any sense of ambiguity or denial of the consequences of inaction.
  • The responsibility and interconnection between business risk due to climate change, availability of financing and investment potential were clearly drawn.
  • Many pledges of additional action, funding and legislation were made indicating a potential for a further upswing in efforts to de-carbonise the economy.

President Macron made a passionate speech to the conference delegates pointing out that the 2 years since the original Paris agreement was reached have seen little real progress made to reduce emissions of CO2. He said the world is “losing the battle” against climate change, “We’re not moving quick enough. We all need to act.” The figures show that the current rate of increase in emissions would lead to over a 4°C mean temperature rise by 2100, a situation so dire that insurance giant AXA described as being completely un-insurable.

Despite the US President not being in attendance, and despite their federal government’s withdrawal, the U.S.A. was well represented by business leaders and regional politicians who have made commitments to stick by the Paris agreement. In addition, the EU announced a new 3-pillar approach to tackling the effects of climate change and to achieve the goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 40% in all sectors of our economy by 2030, this includes action on:

  • Renewable energy, including green transport
  • Sustainable cities
  • Sustainable agriculture

This will see 10 initiatives that double down efforts on renewable energy and clean transport through billions of Euros in increased public investment in research and development, incentives for private investment and regulations. In addition to renewable energy and transport, it was good to see sustainable agriculture included being an often-missed element but critical due to the level of emissions that intensive agriculture generates.

In the wake of record-breaking wildfires, storm seasons and rising temperatures which saw a record summer heat wave in Europe, it was pointed out that many global financial institutions are now beginning to recognise the potentially catastrophic risks associated with runaway climate change. These are no longer abstract scenarios that can be ignored and this was one of the first times I have seen these connections made repeatedly and consistently in such a high profile public event.

Over 200 institutional financial investors, responsible for over $26 trillion in funds said they would step up pressure on the world’s biggest corporate greenhouse gas emitters. In addition, the World Bank pledged to pull out of funding oil and gas exploration entirely within the next two years. The Bank has, since 2010, ceased lending for coal-fired power stations but has been under pressure from lobby groups also to halt the $1 billion a year it has been lending for oil and gas in developing countries.

The international shipping industry also came under the spotlight, despite having so far managing to avoid mandatory CO2 reductions due to its international nature. A declaration was made that urgent action was needed including pushing the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to develop a strategic plan for de-carbonising the shipping industry, this is seen as a huge challenge due to the extensive use of heavy fuel engines in the industry and requirement for huge energy storage to deliver the range required for ocean-going vessels. Improving engine efficiency in the short term with technologies such as Waste Heat Recovery and longer-term moving to electric propulsion and hydrogen fuel cells being key technologies will be important steps.

All in all this summit seems to have been a success, drawing together business and political leaders with a clear and honest appraisal of the negative impacts of failing to take action, and an urgent call to do more to de-carbonise our global economy, AVID strongly welcomes this new sense of urgency to tackle the biggest challenge of our time, lets get on with making our planet great again.