COP21 debrief - outcomes and opportunities

COP21 debrief - outcomes and opportunities

By this stage we should all have acknowledged the resounding success of COP21 in Paris and the significance of the global agreement to take action against climate change.

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COP21 debrief - outcomes and opportunities

What was said?

By this stage we should all have acknowledged the resounding success of COP21 in Paris and the significance of the global agreement to take action against climate change.
 
Beyond the ambitious goal of keeping global temperatures well below 2 degrees and aiming for 1.5 degrees, there were many other significant results from COP21. In simple terms the Paris Agreement is driving focus on four key areas: 

  1. Technology innovation – achieving the 2 degree goal will require a total transformation of global power production, transport and industrial processes over the next few decades. This has provided a huge signal to business that the low-carbon revolution has begun. 
  2. Capacity building – the transfer of knowledge and skills to developing countries is paramount to the shared responsibility in tackling climate change and ensuring less developed nations are on a robust, low carbon pathway. 
  3. Finance – both public and private financial support has been significant. Investor confidence to spend on low carbon infrastructure improved significantly, but this is likely to result in increased investor scrutiny of companies’ climate and broader ESG risks. 
  4. Reporting – the current Nationally Determined Contributions are not enough to achieve the overall 2degree goal, but agreement includes a regular (five year) review process to strengthen commitments over time. Significantly, 450 CEOs from 65 countries committed to set targets, report on progress and work with policymakers to drive climate action in pursuit of more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions.

What does this mean for business in Ireland?

It’s time to get smart! In order to benefit from the momentum of COP21 companies need to shift the carbon/sustainability conversation from a compliance topic to a fundamental strand of their long-term business strategy – whether it’s focused on cost, reputation, differentiation or eventual compliance, this shift is inevitable. The Energy White Paper has been launched today with Minister White asking business and civil society to ‘think big, think longer term’.

Some real opportunities?

  • Forestry – the importance of conserving and enhancing carbon sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases (e.g. Forests) is a core element of the Agreement. Ireland has extensive forestry and natural capital which, if preserved as a carbon sink, can become immeasurably valuable. 
  • Solar – the International Solar Energy Alliance was formed by President Modi of India. The coalition of 120 nations aims to make solar more affordable and accessible, particularly in developing countries. 
  • Agriculture – although the challenging sector for Ireland, initiatives have been set up under the Lima-Paris-Action-Accord (LPAA) for urgent action to protect farmer livelihoods and reduce GHG emissions. Within Ireland numerous Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives are in development and gaining traction. 
  • Green Bonds – announcements from Climate Bonds Initiative, Johannesburg Stock Exchange and 27 global investors, representing over US$11.2 trillion, committed to drive the development of long term, sustainable global markets in green bonds.

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