Nature and Biodiversity

A historic tipping point for climate action

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Future of the Environment

The world’s nations have reached a historic international agreement on climate change in Paris. This represents a strong and unprecedented diplomatic outcome.

The new climate accord outlines, firstly, a global agreement to keep warming to 2° Celsius – and to strive to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°. Second, every country will implement its own climate action plan that will be reviewed in 2018 and then every five years to ratchet up ambition level. Third, there is a commitment to deliver significant flows of money and technical support to help poor countries cope with curbing their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

The Paris agreement sends a clear signal that the world is willing to act in a strong and coordinated manner to address climate change. Not once in Paris did any nation question the need for urgent action on climate change. Rather, the negotiations focused on the how: how quickly and how effectively can climate action be mobilised.

Paris COP21 has delivered a landmark global accord on climate change that is both “top-down” (an internationally agreed global target) and “bottom-up” (nationally driven climate investment plans). Taken together, they encourage businesses, investors, cities, states and provinces to help governments advance their plans and mobilise the investments required, offering partnership for climate action.

The Paris climate conference is unprecedented in another manner – that it recognises the key role of business, investors, cities and provinces in delivering climate action. Indeed, effective mobilisation of these constituencies has helped shape this new global agreement.

For example, the World Economic Forum, We Mean Business, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the UN Global Compact mobilized considerable business action on climate at COP21. This includes jointly identifying a list of partnerships that offer business and investors the greatest collective impact on climate action.

In addition, CEOs from 79 global companies and 20 economic sectors, with operations in over 150 countries and territories, and revenues of over $2.1 trillion, have formed an alliance of CEO Climate Leaders. This was presented to government leaders in Paris at the COP21 Caring for Climate Business Forum.

In the spirit of the World Economic Forum to foster public-private cooperation, there is readiness among these leading businesses and investors to now deliver on the Paris agreement – to work together with governments at national, province and city levels to help build and deliver practical climate solutions at scale. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create good jobs and resilient, low-carbon growth.

The new tone of climate partnership is already triggering unprecedented collaboration between government, business, investors and civil society on climate change. Much more is to come.

Governments have worked hard in Paris to agree a bold direction for addressing climate change. The Government of France and in particular Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of COP21, and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, are acknowledged for their diplomatic success today. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also to be praised for his unstinting focus on promoting new forms of partnership for climate action.

These efforts and many more have delivered a clear outcome from the COP21 Paris climate meeting. The world has agreed what is to be done. Now it is time for implementation.

This means that 2016 is the year to launch a new period of large-scale public-private action on climate. The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January stands ready to help turn the historic Paris outcome statement into a specific agenda for public-private action on climate change.

Author: Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnership, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum 

Image: The slogan “For the Planet” is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Paris, France, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

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