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 Businesses Can Align With The SDGs For Social Governance Success

Part Two of the “Power” Guide Trilogy

With escalating concerns regarding environmental degradation and social inequality, it has become imperative for corporations to prioritise Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within their social governance policies.

The question then arises for business leaders: how can you invest in these programmes to generate a positive impact?

Integrating SDG targets into corporate strategies can position your business and its employees as responsible global citizens, foster stronger relationships with stakeholders, and drive long-term success.

Social governance refers to the organisation of society to meet everyday needs and tackle shared problems, encompassing policymaking, regulation, service delivery, and participation. Investment in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is essential for achieving sustainable social governance. These programmes address a broad range of issues, including health, education, gender equality, and climate action. They promote holistic and inclusive development that benefits both humanity and the planet – leading to positive outcomes for individuals and communities.

For example, improving access to affordable healthcare prevents health issues and reduces medical expenses for families, while advancing gender equality enables women to fully participate in society. In short, investing in SDG programmes is not only ethically sound but also economically sensible.

By aligning your business objectives and values with these global initiatives, you can significantly contribute to creating a more just and equitable world. Whether it’s promoting responsible consumption and production or diminishing inequality and poverty, businesses of every size play a pivotal role in making the SDGs a reality.

How to Create a Successful Social Governance Policy:

1. Identify the SDGs that align with your company’s values and purpose:

It’s critical to align your company’s ethos and mission with corresponding SDG goals. Doing so not only contributes to a brighter future but also enhances your brand’s reputation among customers, employees, and stakeholders. Whether the focus is on alleviating poverty, protecting the environment, or fostering equitable economic growth, such alignment provides clear direction for your corporate social responsibility initiatives and facilitates a lasting impact on society. Embracing SDGs that resonate with your company’s ambitions, unlocks new avenues for opportunities, partnerships, and business models that propel innovation and growth.

2. Set measurable targets for each SDG

Establishing and monitoring progress towards specific targets is vital to achieving sustainable development. While the goals outline a blueprint for a better world, businesses require concrete targets to ensure they are contributing effectively. It is important to remember that while the SDGs may seem daunting, incremental progress towards these objectives can make a substantial impact. With a clear set of targets, we can better ensure that every individual, community, and nation is on the path towards a more sustainable future.

3. Incorporate employee involvement and engagement

It is universally acknowledged that employee involvement and engagement are essential elements of organisational success. One effective way to incorporate this into your company policy is to actively seek employee feedback and include their opinions in the decision-making process. This ensures commitment and alignment with organisational objectives. This approach cultivates a sense of ownership and pride among staff.

4. Partner with organisations that support specific SDGs

Maximising profits while positively impacting people and the planet can be achieved through partnerships with NGOs or charities that support specific SDGs. Collaborating with an organisation dedicated to eradicating poverty or enhancing education allows your business to align with these goals and play a crucial role in creating a better world. These partnerships not only benefit society but also offer opportunities to tap into new markets, enhance brand reputation, and boost employee engagement.

In Conclusion

Investing in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is both a moral imperative and makes excellent business sense. Various ways to invest in SDG programmes range from funding innovators and startups addressing global challenges to partnering with established organisations focused on specific SDGs. Another way is through supply chain management and sustainable sourcing by choosing suppliers who adhere to sustainability standards. To conclude, investing in SDGs is more than just an ethical decision – it has the potential to yield dividends in multiple ways.

© Lawrence Power 2024

A 3-Minute “Power” Guide to the 17 Social Development Goals Working Towards Sustainable Business Operations

Is addressing social and environmental issues a top business priority for you?

Many consumers now demand that companies actively engage in social and environmental causes. This shift in behaviour has led to the rise of sustainable and socially responsible businesses. However, identifying the most impactful areas for social development can be challenging.

The United Nations’ (UN) social development framework offers guidance in this regard. It provides a structured approach to channelling our efforts towards a more equitable and sustainable world. Whitestone is an expert in offering advice on the adoption and implementation of these guidelines.

What Are The Social Development Goals (SDGs)?

The UN Social Development Goals consist of 17 objectives that aim to create a better world by 2030, irrespective of one’s background, circumstance, or location. Endorsed by all 191 member states, these goals are an essential tool for improving the lives of people across the globe – representing a globally agreed-upon framework for driving positive change in areas that impact everyone.

In short, we have a set of targets to bring the world’s attention to the most pressing global issues: poverty, inequality, and climate change.

These goals evolved from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of goals established in 2000 to address similar issues.

While the MDGs primarily targeted developing countries, the SDGs are universal and reflect a bigger, more integrated vision for our planet’s future. Since 2015, the SDGs have evolved to become more encompassing, increasingly focusing on peace, justice, and human rights.

Each SDG has specific targets and key performance indicators to measure progress, making it easier for governments, organisations, and individuals to monitor their contributions towards a more sustainable and equitable world. At their heart, these goals underscore the belief that through collaboration, commitment, and willingness to adapt, we can construct a better, more sustainable future.

Read more about The 17 Goals.

The Social & Environment Impact So Far…

While some countries have made remarkable strides, others struggle to make progress. One of the reasons for the uneven progress is that the SDGs are complex, and success requires cooperation across sectors and borders. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified these challenges, necessitating a reassessment of priorities and the development of new strategies to address global issues.

Countries like Denmark and Costa Rica are playing pivotal roles in the success of the SDGs. Denmark has become a leader in clean energy promotion, steadily reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, which sets an excellent example for other developed countries. Moreover, Costa Rica has advanced in environmental conversation and sustainability, achieving 100% renewable energy sources in just a few years! These nations serve as inspirations, proving impactful change is possible with political determination, strategic policymaking, and effective execution.

For example, Goal 3, which focuses on health and well-being, has enabled better maternal health services for women in Ghana. Another example is that a community in India can now irrigate their crops more effectively due to innovations in water management systems, in line with Goal 6, which focuses on clean water and sanitation.

What About Your Employer?

It is simple: companies must act now. Integrating the UN SDGs into business strategies is essential for addressing sustainability and climate change. This is where Whitestone’s expertise can be invaluable.

The UN goals call on businesses and organisations to contribute to a better world. Collaboration transcends political boundaries, as the shared goal of sustainable development benefits all. From the vast halls of the United Nations to remote villages, the power of collaborative efforts is evident in forming the SDGs and the actions taken by countries to achieve these goals.

Sustainable development is a continuous journey that must start now, requiring persistent effort to preserve our planet for present and future generations. We must reverse the history of exploitation, and this transformation begins with our collective actions, starting in our workplaces.

© Lawrence Power 2024