UK Ratifies Paris Climate Agreement

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24 November 2016

  • The UK have ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, but what does this actually mean?

Last week (17th November) the UK became the 111th country to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Agreement is a landmark deal aimed at tackling climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global temperatures “well below” below 2 °C.


Although the Paris Agreement entered into force earlier this month, ratification by the UK signals major commitment to being part of a global effort to curb the effects of climate change.

We take a look at what this all means and why this historic agreement is so important. 


What it all means


The first thing to consider is that the Paris Agreement has now been signed by nearly 200 countries and ratified by 111 (including China, India and the US). In comparison to previous attempts at setting global emission targets, such as the Kyoto Protocol, a consensus on the threats of climate change on this scale could almost be seen as a victory in itself.

The cuts to emissions that have been promised under the agreement are ambitious, but drastic action is needed, and urgently, if we are to limit global warming to safe levels. As Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo commented after the agreement was made last year in Paris “This deal alone won't dig us out the hole we're in, but it makes the sides less steep."


Why is climate change an issue?


Scientists have already reported that the planet has heated up by 1.0 °C above the pre-industrial benchmark, and that we could see this rise to 1.5 °C within a decade. Separate studies have shown that a rise in the earth’s temperature by 2 °C would have a range of disastrous consequences, including drought, sea level rises, loss of habitat and species extinction as well as reduced crop yield.

We are already seeing the effects of climate change in some areas, such as the Solomon Islands, where rising sea levels have resulted in some land loss. Countries like the Solomon Islands are often the least wealthy and contribute the least to global climate change (the Solomon Islands are ranked as contributing 0% of global emissions) but they are the ones already coping with the costs.


The terms of the Paris Agreement


The Paris Agreement acknowledges that climate change is a global issue, and it puts obligations on developed countries to provide $100bn a year of public and private finance (originally agreed at the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference) to help developing countries with the costs of coping with the effects of climate change until at least 2025.  


Why the UK’s ratification of the Paris Agreement is significant


Ratification of the Paris Agreement shows that the UK is committed to play its part in global action on climate change, but this also signals a commitment on a more domestic level.

Jill Duggan, the director of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), was quoted as saying “The UK government’s ratification of the agreement today sends an important signal to international allies, businesses and investors about the inevitable transition towards a zero carbon economy.” 

This in turn would lead to more jobs, more efficient energy infrastructure, cheaper bills and a safer future for us all.


What the critics say


The Paris Agreement is not without its critics and it is not the deal that everyone wanted. Many believe the emissions targets that have been set are not enough, and tougher targets are needed to curb the effects of climate change. There is also concern that some of the obligations in the agreement are not legally binding and, more recently, the US president elect has fuelled concerns by promising to withdraw the US (responsible for 17.8% of global emissions) from the agreement.

Ultimately the Paris Agreement will be judged on what it is able to achieve, and focus should now be on what actions are being taken. In a period where politics has been so divisive, it is encouraging to see the international community united on such an important issue.


What Bristol Energy is doing to help


Bristol Energy is contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, by continuing to support UK renewables and making sure that customers have access to renewable electricity tariffs, and the support they need to help them to reduce their energy consumption. 

By helping to clean up the grid and replace it with electricity that doesn’t pollute the atmosphere, going green also helps reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, improving our energy security, and supporting UK based renewable generators.


Simon Proctor, Origination Manager