COP22 and the Fight Against Climate Change: Who Will Triumph?

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COP21 and CO22 sent loud messages to the market that policy continues to stand up to climate change. But with whom does the responsibility lie?

Last November,  the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22), and the first session of the Paris Agreement met in Marrakech, Morocco. As of mid-December, 118 Parties had ratified the Paris Agreement of the 197 Parties to the Convention. The ratification of the agreement set a new frontier in the climate adaptation and mitigation fight. For the first time, a global treaty has brought the international community together to undertake the ambitious efforts to combat climate change and attempt to reverse its affects.

The first of its kind, the Paris agreement took a bottom-up approach to emissions reductions; as opposed to earlier failed attempts;namely, the Kyoto Protocol. In the Paris Agreement, all countries proposed their own solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their National Determined Contributions. In LATAM, Brazil promised to protect the Amazon Rainforest from deforestation. Canada planned to achieve an economy-wide target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels. Japan pledged to reduce releases of methane from industrial waste and agriculture. Meanwhile, the central aim of the Paris Agreement is to maintain global temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels) and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees celsius. However, this is old news. Much of this information was the headlines in late 2015. So where did climate change efforts stand a year later?

Now that countries have come to the table, the next stage of the climate change fight is at the city and local level, argues the World Bank. Cities are responsible for two-thirds of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 70 percent of energy consumption. Buying cleaner energy or improving waste management practices are crucial actions that add up to a large emissions reduction when summed together. Furthermore, the World Bank writes, “unless there is significant investment to make cities more resilient, natural disasters may cost cities worldwide $314 billion a year and climate change may push up to 77 million more urban residents into poverty.” Cities have the power to act, or stand to bear the risks from inaction.

Meanwhile, others argue the burden now lies with the private sector, and that businesses mush step up and implement sustainability goals. Manufacturing and infrastructure is certainly not immune to the affects of climate change. Quoting from a dialogue between business leaders at COP22, the New York Times wrote “The rules governing emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for climate are going to get stricter. . . the only technology that will allow [industry] to continue to prosper is zero emissions or very low emissions.” Governments can pass laws and new regulations, if new technology isn’t built to replace dirty structures, emissions reductions efforts could go in vain. This was perhaps one of the loudest statements that punctuated 2015 for the political and private sectors alike.

While the Paris Agreement has largely been a success on paper, it’s clear the next step forward is implementation. For the power sector, this means that public financing and market reforms will support the growth of advanced energy technologies all over the world. Political commitments only highlight a competitive environment where advanced energy is re-configuring energy markets on its own. Investments into renewable energy are at an all-time high, as 60% of the $12 trillion of investment forecasted to meet electricity demand in the next 25 years comes from renewable energy. That being said, the clear message is that strategy and execution to align will be crucial on the political, municipal and private sides in order to realize global sustainability goals.

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