A Historic Agreement Signed and Soon to be Ratified
In November 2015 at the COP21, after a long period of behind-the-curtain negotiations, the historic Paris agreement was signed. We hear that it has been a success. The agreement, however, should not be seen as the completion of a process but rather, the beginning. What the Paris agreement represents is a long awaited collective commitment to achieve common goals. While this is significant, it is not enough.
On the 22nd April 2016, heads of state came together at the United Nations headquarters to sign the agreement that was negotiated 5 months prior. 175 countries signed that day, including the largest emitters of CO2. This was a new record in the history of international agreements, which Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN, did not hesitate to underscore.
But now what? Each signatory needs to ratify the agreement into their domestic legislation and turn the environmental objectives outlined into political decisions. This step is key: to come into force, the Paris agreement needs to be ratified by at least 55 countries that represent 55% of global CO2 emissions. According to the NGO World Resources Institute, the US and China alone account for 38% of these emissions. Add the European Union, Russia or India (3 of the other largest polluters) and the 55% threshold is easily reached.
Financing the Transition to Renewable Energy
By signing the agreements, countries committed themselves to limiting their green house gas emissions (in order to avoid a rise in global temperature of more than 2°C, or even 1.5°C as recommended by the ICPP) but also to pooling together funding to assist the transition to renewables in the least developed countries. This is the famous 100 billion USD objective that needs to be reached by 2020.
Over the last few years, investments in renewables have increased significantly. According to the UNEP, despite a reduction in 2012, investments have grown since 2013 and reached 286 billion USD in 2015. Furthermore, for the first time, investments in renewables from emerging and developing countries surpassed those of developed countries. China is notably the leading investor in wind power and solar energy, with its investment representing a third of global spending on renewables (102 Billion USD).
Subsequently, each country is developing innovative financing programs. In France, for example, ADEME, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, is piloting what it calls PIA, (The Investment Program for the Future) in order to finance the transition towards a more sustainable future. The program, with funds of up to 3.3 billion Euros, will finance the transition to renewables, ecological improvement and sustainable transport. This is an important initiative, as the need for funding is a very real concern for the numerous actors who are testing, prototyping and developing innovative solutions to climate change.
The Emergence of Solutions
Innovative solutions for tackling climate issues are emerging rapidly. Entrepreneurs, municipalities, businesses, civil society groups and universities are among those coming up with solutions in the fields of energy, water, circular economy, mobility, agriculture, etc. These solutions should be developed and supported but they also need to prove that their impact is sustainable in the long term. The issue is scale. Expectations are so high that it is important not to give false hopes with ideas that are not as promising as they seem at first, or by building enthusiasm for anecdotal solutions that will never see the light of day. But it is through supporting the greatest number of initiatives that we will be able to identify and amplify the most promising. It is inevitable that some fail so that others may succeed in their place.
Many actors, such as Climate KIC, Echoing Green, Sustainia, State of Green, and the Rockefeller Foundation, which launched the 100 Resilient Cities campaign, or even the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, which has a focus on the circular economy, are contributing to the emergence of solutions. Today, through its Solutions&Co media operation, Sparknews and its twenty media partners, all of which are quality business newspapers, are searching for the best business solutions to climate change and ideas for more sustainable cities. Together, they have launched an international call for projects to identify the innovative solutions that could shape our future. On November 4th, in the lead up to COP22, these newspapers will publish supplements that highlight the selected projects and make them known to important political and economic players. Do you have a business solution that deserves international recognition? Apply here!