Assessing the Efficacy of the Paris Agreement: Goals, Challenges, and Global Climate Action Progress

In 2015, 195 countries agreed to endorse the Paris Agreement which sought to try and prevent the rising of the earth’s average temperature among the other effects of climate change. For the first time in history, nearly all the world’s nations committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to help combat this growing crisis. The agreement outlined three primary objectives: firstly, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent global temperatures from warming more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels; secondly, to review each country’s emission reduction commitments every 5 years; and thirdly, to ensure that developing nations (most often being the most affected by climate change) have access to climate finance to mitigate the effects of climate change. These goals, along with the ambition to achieve net zero emissions, set forth a historic moment for global politics as it was legally binding for all signatories and set forth a strong and unified goal to mitigate the harm of climate change.

The central goal of the Paris Agreement was to limit global warming to only 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, considered as a ‘long-term average’ or about 20 years. However, recent measurements have reported the global temperature average being 1.52°C higher than pre-industrial levels. While this does not currently constitute a violation of the Paris Agreement, it serves as a stark warning of what lies ahead without substantial action from all signatory nations.

Many experts have again reiterated that swift and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop increasing temperatures. Yet some governments seem to still be finding their footing with regard to the importance of implementing effective climate measures. For example, in the UK, where many green policies have been delayed. Countries like Canada and Germany have received an average rating on the Climate Action Trackers for their net-zero target design elements. This indicates that their current policies and strategies for achieving net zero lack critical components.

This is concerning, as many other signatories of the Paris Agreement are rated as average or poor in their climate action plans, missing up to seven of the nine essential practices for achieving net zero or reducing carbon emissions. Despite the initial surge in climate policy momentum in 2015, such efforts have dwindled and climate policy seems to not be developing at the rate it must to counteract global warming.

An assessment by the Climate Action Tracker of the current efforts being taken by the 195 countries suggests that the objectives of the Paris Agreement are unlikely to be met. Achieving these goals would require nearly halving greenhouse gas emissions, along with additional adjustments, a target that seems unrealistic given the current rate at which governments are implementing climate-focused legislation.

Although the Paris Agreement was a significant demonstration of global unity against climate change, the actions taken by individual countries have fallen short of the commitments made, underscoring the need for increased effort and cooperation to address the worsening climate crisis effectively. It is necessary for businesses in the UK to seek advice as to what steps they can take, not just to deal with scope emissions but also to deliver new circular economy frameworks for their sectors.

© Lawrence Power 2024

Who is the Climate Change Committee, and what do they do?

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) stands as an independent statutory entity body established by the Climate Change Act 2008. Its core function is to advise the UK and its devolved governments on setting emissions targets and to serve as an impartial advisor on mitigating climate change. The CCC reports to Parliament regarding progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in preparing for, as well as adapting to, the impacts of climate change. It offers a long-term perspective on UK climate policy.

The CCC functions as a non-departmental public body and is sponsored by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Despite being publicly funded, the CCC lacks budgetary independence, a situation it offsets with a commitment to transparency. It publishes reports, supporting data, and research in full. Moreover, under the Freedom of Information Act, the public has the right to request any recorded information held by the CCC on any subject that falls under their scope.

The advice of the CCC has been instrumental in shaping legislation and policies across the UK, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This expert technical advisory body’s recommendations have significantly influenced climate change and environmental legislation and policies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

A key aspect of the CCC’s work involves the reduction of the UK’s emissions through the assessment of the latest greenhouse gas emissions data. This is to determine whether the UK is on track to meet its carbon budget targets, which set limits on the amount of greenhouse gases in the UK over five years.

As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, the UK government is committed under the Climate Change Act to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. This Act has formalised the UK’s approach to combating climate change. It requires the UK government to establish legally binding carbon budgets, moving towards the 2050 target, with an emphasis on both mitigating emissions and adapting to increase resilience against climate change. The CCC plays a crucial role in maintaining the UK’s focus on achieving this long-term target.

The Adaptation Committee, a branch of the CCC, advises the government on the climate risks and opportunities for the UK. The committee leads the development of an independent evidence report, which informs the statutory UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, and biennially reports on England’s progress. The CCC’s methodologies have reached beyond the UK, with countries like New Zealand and Korea adopting elements of its framework for their climate risk assessments.

The CCC lacks ‘formal powers’ to alter the government’s climate change strategy and instead depends on the potential political embarrassment that its assessments may cause, alongside the threat of judicial review by environmental groups to enforce its statutory obligations under the Climate Change Act. This reliance on informal power has meant that some recommendations have been ignored, and the government has not always adopted the suggested policies. An example is the UK’s reluctance to reduce meat consumption, despite the CCC’s warnings that the government was not on track to meet its 2030 climate targets set before COP26 in Glasgow.

As a result of this noncompliance, the CCC’s progress assessments have become increasingly explicit, this evolution has made it easier for the public to judge the government’s response to the discrepancy between climate targets and the policies intended to achieve them.

Read the 2023 report.

© Lawrence Power 2024

How to Effectively Share Your Commitment to the UN’s Social Development Goals with Clients.

Final Part of the “Power” Guide Trilogy

As a business owner committed to social change, you will be already familiar with the term “Social Development Goals”, (SDGs), and are eager to contribute to their impact. The SDGs, established by the United Nations in 2015, consist of 17 global objectives. These goals are designed to address the world’s most pressing issues, such as poverty, inequality and climate change. They provide a blueprint for a more sustainable, fair and prosperous future for all, not just first-world countries. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved by 2030 and progress towards these targets is regularly monitored. While there’s still a long way to go, the SDGs arguably represent a beacon of hope for a better world. However, a significant challenge many organisations face is effectively communicating their dedication to these goals to their clients.

So, how can you confidently share your involvement with the SDGs in a genuine way that avoids the appearance of being insincere or opportunistic?

1. Understand Your Audience

Successful communication starts with knowing your audience. Identify who you are trying to reach, what motivates them, and their needs and preferences. This knowledge allows you to tailor your SDG messaging to resonate better, capture attention, and inspire them to take action. Think about who they are as people and what they care about.

2. Be Open About Progress & Challenges

Demonstrating sincerity involves honesty and transparency about your journey, both the successes and the setbacks. We are all human at our core. Sharing your challenges humanises your business, inviting support and constructive feedback instead of criticism. While vulnerability can be daunting, the benefits of openness outweigh the risks. Acknowledge mistakes and share your plans for improvement.

3. Highlight SDG-Aligned Projects and Initiatives

Collective actions from governments, civil society, and businesses are essential for achieving the SDGs. Highlight the projects and initiatives your business undertakes that align with these goals, whether it’s sustainable farming, improving healthcare access, or promoting gender equality. These efforts showcase your commitment to making a tangible difference.

4. Share Impact Data and Beneficiary Testimonials

Providing concrete examples of the positive impact of your efforts can be incredibly persuasive. Share impact data and testimonials from those you have helped to illustrate the significance of your work. Whether it is gratitude expressed in a thank-you letter or statistics demonstrating the community benefits, these stories underscore the value of your commitment.

5. Ensure Consistency with Your Values and Goals

All communications about your SDGs efforts should reflect your company’s values and goals. This coherence reinforces a unified message that resonates with your audience and clarifies your mission. Ultimately, aligning your SDG communications with your organisational ethos strengthens your brand identity.

6. Regularly Update Clients on Your Progress

Measuring and sharing progress is crucial. The SDG goals, specifically, are to help create a better world for everyone. That’s why it is important to demonstrate to your clients that you take your commitment to creating a better world seriously by regularly sharing both successes and areas for improvement. Share your progress (good and bad) with them. Transparency and ongoing communication are essential for building trust and keeping your clients engaged with your efforts.

Are you looking to achieve your sustainability goals with legal precision? I am available as a specialist legal counsel. I can ensure your business not only meets but exceeds its sustainability targets.

© Lawrence Power 2024