The Paris agreement gained prominence on the world stage after the US renounced the treaty. Although the world’s attention has turned towards global environmental and political consequences, how can each company contribute to meeting the targets set in the agreement?
Companies are directly connected to the rise in emissions of greenhouse gases. Leaders of all nations involved in the agreement, each one in its own pace, have created incentives for companies to become more sustainable through the use of cleaner energy sources and also through energy efficiency.
What is the Paris Climate Agreement?
Studies show that the planet slowly heats up over time, a natural process, but human intervention has accelerated this process and caused critical consequences for the climate and the environment. The scientific community has associated this phenomenon with the rise of greenhouse gas emissions, especially after the industrial era. Due to this big transformation, nearly 200 countries united to create an agreement that helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2015 such agreement was signed, in Paris, resulting in the union of these countries to jointly adopt measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions until the year 2100. The main objective is to keep the average global temperature rise until 2100 under 2oC, that is, not letting it rise more than 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. The treaty also involves searching for less pollutant energy sources and an assistance agenda to help less developed countries reach these same efficiency levels.
The Paris Climate Agreement and Energy Efficiency
Today, more than 50% of all energy consumed in the world comes from fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Using this type of energy in large scale results in severe pollution, rising greenhouse gas emissions, and consequently global warming. It is estimated that until 2050 the demand for energy in the world will double today’s levels, while treaties related to greenhouse gas emissions aim at reducing emission levels by half. Reaching such results is certainly a great challenge, but the search for cleaner, renewable, and less pollutant energy sources is the first step for companies to contribute to reducing emissions.
Another important contribution is becoming more efficiency, consuming less energy, and therefore lowering greenhouse gas emissions. In that sense, investing in energy efficiency creates both economic and environmental results, simultaneously. To put the importance of energy efficiency into context, the European Union has adopted measures to reduce annual average energy consumption by 20% until the year 2020.
In addition, in a recent announcement, in November 2018 the European Parliament approved the increase in the energy efficiency target to 32.5% and the minimum use of 32% of renewable energy in the European Union, reflecting the Paris Agreement and the objectives set out in Agenda 2030.
The U.S. Leaving the Paris Agreement and Its Consequences
On June 1st, 2017, Donald Trump officially pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, with global repercussion. The United States is the second most polluting country on the planet and the consequences are being felt.
According to a significant scientific report released by 13 US federal agencies and presented by the White House at the end of November 2018, many warnings were be presentation about the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if measures are not taken to reduce global warming the damage will reach 10% of the size of the American economy by the end of this century.
According to the American president, the motivation for leaving is the internal economic expansion of the country along with the argument that the environmental impact will be minimal. However, the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) estimates that the U.S. alone may be responsible for up to 0,3oC of global warming until 2100 if new measures are not adopted.
The good news is that despite position of the Trump administration, many governors and other American authorities were against the U.S. leaving the treaty, and said they would still pursue the established targets. Other countries also criticized Washington and reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement.
Anticipating the likelihood of the U.S. pulling out, the EFE news agency announced in the end of April 2017 through the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), a poll showing that a majority of America’s 500 largest corporations do not intend to reduce efforts on becoming more efficient in fighting climate change, regardless of what happened in the political arena.
These manifestations against Trump, from business and other world leaders, give yet more credibility to the treaty and show the importance of a collective attitude to promote climate control.
The Paris Climate Agreement was a great achievement as an environmental policy to combat climate change. In addition to the political awareness, the subject became a frequent matter of discussion between leaders and society in general, resulting in public pressure towards fulfilling the objectives of the treaty.
The world must mobilize if we are to stop, and perhaps even repair, the damage to the environment and to our atmosphere. Each country, city, and company must therefore understand that each one’s individual contribution is crucial to reaching the objectives of the treaty and to securing a more sustainable future for our planet.
Would you like to understand how your company could treat environmental, economical, and social aspects simultaneously? Read the article Triple Bottom Line: Sustainability and Energy Efficiency.