This weekend, world leaders signed on to a new climate deal that aims to limit global temperature rise to well below two degrees, continue $100 billion a year in climate finance, and ramp up action every five years.
I’ve been present at the climate negotiations since the beginning, and I will leave Paris tomorrow optimistic for the future, but not for the reasons you might expect.
While the deal itself is a big step forward, the larger leap has been the recognition, all over the world, that action on climate change and economic growth can – and should – go hand-in-hand. The Paris agreements have recognized that the substantial gaps between the costs of clean and fossil energy have collapsed, and that returns increase when we produce food by using less land better. The spread of market driven activities consistent with these realizations will provide the foundations on which the Paris commitments will deepen.
The deal this week wouldn’t have been possible if nations and businesses weren’t already moving in this direction. The plans for climate action that countries committed to ahead of Paris were already enough to cover a large portion of needed emissions reduction. And while analysts pointed out that the sum total of the plans pre-Paris wouldn’t be enough to limit warming from dangerous levels, they still show that there is significant momentum.
Businesses, too, stepped up this year. High-worth individuals, family offices, and foundations committed to financial support to help move new clean energy solutions to viability, and heads of large companies, including Richard Branson and Paul Polman, called for zero emissions by 2050.
Why have nations and businesses changed their tune?