The good news is that after 14 days of discussion in Paris the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) agreed to a roadmap to tackle climate change.
All 196 participating countries have agreed on a deal that will set the world on a cleaner energy path and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The deal will hold temperature rises well below 2oC and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5oC. Countries have individually committed to reduce emissions and global emissions will need to fall 40-70% by 2050. This will require them all to revisit previous pledges that would have seen global temperatures rise by as much as 2.7C.
Other measures in the agreement include:
As positive as this outcome is, after decades of failed attempts, scientists point out that the Paris Accord must be acted on immediately if it is to have any chance of curbing climate change.
So what does this mean for New Zealand?
Climate Change Minister Tim Groser, who led the New Zealand delegation to Paris, warns the agreement will result in some tightening of New Zealand's ETS and that in time higher carbon charges will be felt by consumers. He does not, however, think the accord will lead to any significant change in energy policy and has no plans to bring agriculture into the ETS as a result of the COP21 agreement.
Given these caveats, it will be hard for Government to deliver on a pledge of a decrease. New Zealand's gross greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from the major fossil fuels and agriculture sectors) have increased 42%
between 1990 and 2013 and show no real sign of stabilising.
Businesses in New Zealand have a very important role to play. It begins with measurement and understanding the 'hot spots' in the business, and then a strategy to monitor and reduce these. Many top companies in New Zealand are already doing this well. In agriculture, our largest emitting industry, Landcorp lead the way by committing to be carbon neutral by 2025. After the Paris accord more companies must follow this lead.
For access to the full Paris agreement document click here
A more graphic presentation of the agreement can be viewed here