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Outcome in Paris is genuine step forward for climate diplomacy

12th December 2015

The positive conclusion of the climate change negotiations in Paris is a fitting reflection of the unprecedented political and business momentum witnessed at the summit, which marks the start of increased global efforts to tackle climate change. The UK government, which should be given credit for its impactful climate diplomacy in recent years, must now rapidly address the incoherence of its domestic energy policy and follow the positive outcome in Paris with a clear plan to meet the UK’s own carbon budgets.

The Aldersgate Group welcomed today the progress achieved at the climate change summit in Paris. As was to be expected, the Paris summit has not delivered a deal that will immediately prevent warming of more than 2°C and there are still some important issues that will need to be worked on in months to come. But it provides a very important step forward in international climate policy, by delivering an international political agreement to tackle climate change, which can be made more ambitious over time. 

Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group said: “Businesses have been very vocal throughout the summit about the need for a strong climate deal. They are fully aware of both the high costs of inaction on their bottom lines but also the huge opportunities on offer in the transition to a low carbon economy. Businesses want to be at the forefront of tackling climate change, develop much needed low carbon infrastructure, continue to reduce the cost of new technologies and create new jobs.

“The Paris summit provides a comprehensive framework that can now be built on and represents a genuine step forward for international climate diplomacy. The inclusion of a review mechanism that will allow countries to increase their emission cut pledges in the near future, the provision of more finance to support developing countries’ efforts to adapt to climate change and cut their own emissions and the reference to a long term goal for slashing carbon emissions in the world economy are key to supporting long lasting action on climate change. Business will now expect national governments to put in place credible plans to deliver on their pledges and continue diplomatic efforts to ensure ambition is ramped up in the future.”

Nick Molho added: “The UK’s efforts on climate diplomacy over several years have helped influence other large emitting countries to take action on climate change. If the UK wants its weight to continue to be felt on the international stage, it needs to ensure that policies are put in place to deliver on its own domestic climate targets. The government should now act swiftly to deliver a plan for meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.”

A range of Aldersgate Group business members welcomed the final deal and progress on climate change action reached in Paris.

Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business at Marks and Spencer said: “COP21 has crystallised the enormous potential of business to help create a low carbon future. Its ability to innovate, scale solutions and engage people can complement the hard work of policy makers and other stakeholders globally. The UK must seize the opportunity to be at the centre of this global low carbon business revolution which is creating markets, growth and jobs.”

Dax Lovegrove, Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Kingfisher plc said: “The COP 21 deal is a pivotal step forward. We look forward to future UK policies flowing out of this international agreement to decarbonise the UK economy at the required pace, to drive greater consumer demand for low carbon goods and services, and to improve the energy use across the country's housing stock.”

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors said: "The outcome of the Paris climate summit is a genuine step forward. The quantity, quality, and ambition of the debate on sustainable finance was hugely improved on previous COPs. There was much greater recognition of the trillion dollar scale of impact of the market failure; a grown up discussion on legal or fiduciary duties of investors, and genuine recognition that we need a material carbon price. COP21 will not solve all these issues, but it would have been unreasonable to expect it to do so. Perhaps the most exciting concrete development is that internationally comparable, consistent and complete carbon data took a huge step forward with the unveiling of the FSB industry led task force on carbon disclosure.

“We believe that the political conditions are now there to change the policy environment and redouble global efforts to tackle climate change. For this summit to be a lasting success, it will need to be followed however by continued efforts to increase international ambition and real action on the ground to cut emissions domestically. In the UK in particular, the government will have to rapidly provide a credible plan for meeting its carbon budgets and ensure that it continues to encourage major companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and then encourage investors to report transparently on the greenhouse gas emissions of the companies in their portfolios.”

Matthew Knight, Director of Strategy and Government Affairs at Siemens Plc said: “The Paris agreement is unprecedented; never before have so many countries agreed to take such a level of action on a common issue.

Siemens has long recognised the seriousness of climate change and is committed to working with other businesses and countries, to minimise and manage effects on the climate. That’s why Siemens engaged in the Paris conference and recently announced our own commitment to decarbonise fully by 2030.

Lessons from the previous conference in Copenhagen have been learnt; government and businesses worked in advance of the summit to clarify our positions, to maximise the chance for agreement.  There is still a long way to go. The governments need to deliver on their promises and will need to go further to meet the 1.5 degree target.

But, national governments have been joined by cities and businesses, each making their own commitments. And each will be held to account by future generations. Therefore, the progress made at COP 21 Paris has been a great step forward.”

Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer at BT Group said: “At BT, we’re delighted that the negotiations at COP21 have achieved this agreement and significant step towards a sustainable future. We hope that the spirit of collaboration that has been centre stage these last few weeks is continued as governments, business and civil society identify actionable ways to implement the details of the agreement. 

As a net positive company, BT along with our suppliers and customers around the world, knows that the business case for a low carbon economy is clear and we’ll continue to innovate, collaborate and scale up to use the power of communications to make a better world.”

David Symons, Environmental Director at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff said: “It’s strong testimony to the global process that 187 countries from the UK to the USA, from Canada to China have committed to manage their greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Paris process. Business, cities and governments now need to play their part to both implement these plans, and also to get ready for the weather extremes that will still happen. 

"A hot day in London will be up to 10°C hotter than today by the end of the century, sea levels 1m higher and rainfall much heavier. Getting our buildings, transport networks and business supply chains ready for the future is a huge challenge – and is one which needs action and investment now.”

Sue Riddlestone OBE, CEO & co-founder of Bioregional said: “An outstanding outcome of COP21 is that more than 180 countries have committed to plans (INDCs) to reduce their carbon emissions. This will feed through into national strategic plans and policies which will give business the framework we need to work with Governments to deliver on what the whole world wants, a stable climate.”

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