COP21: Historic climate deal announced in Paris, major success for EU

The European Union has played a key role in brokering today’s historic agreement in Paris, where 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal.

What is being described as an ambitious and balanced agreement is the first major multilateral deal of the 21st century. It sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

The deal is the culmination of years of efforts by the international community to bring about a universal multilateral agreement on climate change.

Following limited participation in the Kyoto Protocol and the lack of agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, the European Union has been building a broad coalition of developed and developing countries in favour of high ambition that shaped the successful outcome of the Paris summit.

Clear signal

The Paris Agreement sends a clear signal to investors, businesses, and policy-makers that the global transition to clean energy is here to stay and resources have to shift away from polluting fossil fuels.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Today the world is united in the fight against climate change. Today the world gets a lifeline, a last chance to hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies.”

Bertrand van Ee, CEO of Climate-KIC, the EU’s main climate innovation initiative, said: “President Obama ended his speech at the opening of the COP21 climate change summit with ‘Let’s get to work.’ I would now like to recall those words on the day of the historic Paris Agreement. Business faces the choice, either to shape the needs and impacts of a zero carbon future, or to be shaped by it.”

“The deal struck in Paris today has unlocked a blue ocean of uncontested opportunities for business. The trajectory of staying well below two degrees warming is achievable, but achieving it requires a major shift in the global economy. That shift represents a highly lucrative economic opportunity. Already, there’s a $5.5 trillion market for low carbon technologies and products. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said van Ee.

An armoury of silver bullets

Van Ee added: “A single silver bullet will not be sufficient to bring about the systemic change required. We need an armoury of silver bullets to transform how we live, what we consume, and how we do business.”

Climate-KIC has already spawned a range of those cutting-edge innovations, from climate change mitigation technologies, such as carbon negative power technology Cogent Heat Energy Storage Systems (CHESS), through to Aqysta, a hydro-powered irrigation pump that can double crop yields in developing countries, without using any fuel or electricity. Last year 40 Climate-KIC start-ups won funding of over €1 million, with one entrepreneur, tado°, winning €10 million.

EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said:  “This agreement is a major win for Europe. But more importantly, it is a major win for the global community. Europe has led the efforts in Paris to get an ambitious and legally binding global climate deal.”

“We succeeded. Now, what has been promised must be delivered. Europe will continue to lead the global low-carbon transition we have agreed,” Cañete said.

Last week, newly released research from Climate-KIC revealed that most European business leaders have prepared strategies to respond to climate change, but with a lack of focus on innovation. As a result, those strategies are likely to be ineffective for a 2°C trajectory.

The Paris climate deal

The Paris climate change agreement is a bridge between today’s policies and climate-neutrality before the end of the century. In Paris, governments agreed on ambition, commitment, and solidarity.

Ambition: Governments agreed a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change. The agreement calls for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.

Before and during the Paris conference, countries submitted comprehensive national climate action plans to reduce their emissions. The sum total of the 185 intended nationally determined contributions prepared in advance of the Paris conference are not yet enough to keep the world below 2°C by the end of the century. However, the agreement traces the way to achieving this target.

Commitment:  To achieve this common ambition, governments agreed to come together every 5 years to set more ambitious targets as required by science. They also accepted to report to each other and the public on how well they are doing to implement their targets, to ensure transparency and oversight. A global stocktake will take place every five years. A robust transparency and accountability system will track progress towards the long-term goal.

Solidarity: The EU and other developed countries will continue to support climate action to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change impacts in developing countries. Other countries are encouraged to provide or continue to provide such support voluntarily. Continued and enhanced international support for adaptation will be provided to developing countries.  Developed countries intend to continue their existing collective goal to mobilise USD 100 billion per year until 2025 when a new collective goal will be set.

Loss and Damage

The Paris Agreement also features a standalone article dealing with the issue of loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change. Countries also acknowledge the need to cooperate and enhance the understanding, action and support in different areas such as early warning systems, emergency preparedness and risk insurance.

Lima-Paris Action Agenda

The Lima-Paris Action Agenda, an initiative of the Peruvian and French COP Presidencies aimed at catalysing multi-stakeholder action, brought an unprecedented number of countries, cities, businesses and civil society members together on a global stage to accelerate cooperative climate action in support of the new agreement.

The initiative demonstrated that the world is ready to catalyse efforts into climate action even before the Paris agreement enters into force in 2020. A number of major announcements and ground breaking initiatives were presented during the two week conference.