‘Turning point for our planet’: Green economy reacts to Paris Agreement ratification

The Paris Agreement, which will enter into force on 4 November, has been hailed by global businesses and political leaders as a "truly historic moment" in the fight against climate change, which could eventually go down in history as "the most impactful multilateral treaty of all time".

The green economy rejoiced yesterday (5 October) as the United Nations (UN) announced that the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement had been achieved, with ratification approved by 74 Governments representing 58.82% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

US President Barack Obama called Wednesday “a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations” as a host of European nations, Canada, Bolivia and Nepal provided the significant commitments necessary to trigger the deal.

The European Parliament’s fast-track ratification approval on Tuesday (4 October) means that the agreement will now enter into force before the first session of the COP22 climate change meeting in Marrakech in November.

Unstoppable force

Such rapid action seemed barely conceivable ten months ago when world leaders descended upon the COP21 climate change conference in Paris, to agree an “ambitious and balanced” final deal, including a “legally-binding” agreement to keep global warming “well below 2C”.

But expectations for an early arrangement were raised in April when former Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres stated her belief that a deal would be “in effect by 2018”.

Pressure began to build ahead of the G20 summit in China last month, when a range of non-state actors including an investment group controlling $13trn called for leaders of the global institution to ratify the Paris Agreement this year.

A major breakthrough was made when the US and China – responsible for around 40% of global emissions – both officially ratified on the eve of the summit.

The commitment from the world’s two largest emitters, regarded by commentators as “the moment we decided to save our planet”, set in motion a quick-fire flood of ratification approvals from a range of nations, culminating in the EU’s approval earlier this week.

On a domestic level, Prime Minister Theresa May’s vow that the UK will have officially ratified the Paris Agreement by the end of 2016 has been welcomed as a “strong signal” to business and investment prospects in the UK.

While 5 November will go down in history as the day the Houses of Parliament were almost destroyed, 4 November could soon be remembered as the day we decided to stop destroying the planet.

Paris ratification: The green business reaction

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC

“This is a truly historic moment for people everywhere. The two key thresholds needed for the Paris Climate Change Agreement to become legal reality have now been met.

“The speed at which countries have made the Paris’s Agreement’s entry into force possible is unprecedented in recent experience of international agreements and is a powerful confirmation of the importance nations attach to combating climate change and realising the multitude of opportunities inherent in the Paris Agreement.”

Ban Ki-moon, outgoing UN Secretary General

“Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation is essential to meet the climate challenge.”

US President Barack Obama

“Today is a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations. Today, the world meets the moment. And if we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge as a turning point for our planet.

“The Paris agreement alone will not solve the climate crisis. Even if we meet every target embodied in the agreement, we’ll only get to part of where we need to go. But make no mistake, this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. This gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.”

Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever and chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development

“The entry into force of the Paris Agreement just ten months after COP21 is a defining moment for the global economy. It sends an unmistakable signal to business and investors that the global transition to a low-carbon economy is urgent, inevitable, and accelerating faster than we ever believed possible.”

Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development

“There is the world before Paris and the world after Paris. We are entering an era of system transfor-mation. Business is already playing a leadership role through global collaboration and low carbon partner-ship initiatives to drive innovation and structural change. We now need to scale up and speed up the im-plementation of the Paris Agreement through more ambitious NDCs supported by leveraged financial re-sources.”

Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer, IKEA Group

“The Paris agreement represents a turning point for business. The certainty of ever stronger policies to re-duce emissions creates clarity and unlocks opportunities for developing products, services and operations for a low-carbon economy. We are only at the beginning, but the pace at which countries have been ratify-ing the agreement shows that the policy leadership is there to achieve real change. Now we need to work together for a rapid transition to a future built on clean, renewable energy.”

Nick Molho, executive director, the Aldersgate Group

“The unprecedented speed by which the Paris Agreement will have entered into force is a significant achievement for international climate diplomacy. It confirms global political support for the transition to a low carbon economy, something which the world economy has already embarked on with a record $285bn invested in renewable energy last year. As the international low carbon economy continues to grow, the most competitive countries will be those that lead the development and export of energy efficient and low carbon goods and services.”

Keith Tuffley, chief executive, The B Team

“The Earth’s ecosystems don’t have time for politics – only science. Today, the nations of the world said they agree. With surprising speed, they have ensured that the Paris Agreement will enter into force this year. It’s an historic moment – but our work must now accelerate. Now is the time for businesses to seize the economic opportunity before them, and shift rapidly toward zero greenhouse-gas emissions to create a sustainable, clean energy economy. And to do so in a just manner that respects human rights, creates millions of new jobs, lifts millions out of poverty and reduces inequality in all its forms.”

Svein Tore Holsether, chief executive and president of Yara and member of WBCSD Executive Committee

“I want to congratulate the world leaders. This ratification of the Paris agreement is critical to safeguard fture growth and stability. As a business leader, I welcome an upcoming market where climate perfor-mance becomes part of the competition.”

Richard Lancaster, chief executive of CLP

“Successful ratification of the Paris Agreement demonstrates clearly the political will of the signatories. Now businesses are enabled to work together with governments and communities to shape the policies and take the actions necessary to transition to a low carbon future.”

Jean-pascal Tricoire, chief executive Schneider-Electric

“Schneider Electric welcomes and supports the efforts from governments to ratify the Paris agreement before COP 22. What is good for climate is good for economy and every steps to reach the 2°C target and to strive for 1,5°C is essential. COP 22 will be the COP of action to move toward a low carbon economy and develop a universal access to clean, affordable and reliable energy and we are proud to be a part of it. Life is One.”

Neil McArthur, chief executive Arcadis

“This milestone agreement is an important step in ensuring we can maintain quality of life on our planet for future generations. Arcadis is eager to collaborate with its clients across the public and private sectors to support them in achieving the targets set out in this agreement. We can bring the detailed business and technological insights and innovative prowess to make it real.”

Mr. Jorge Mario Velásquez Jaramillo, chief executive of Grupo Argos

“The entry into force of the Paris agreement sets the framework for private companies, governments and civil society to collaborate and scale up their efforts. Building on our strategic approach undertaken over the past few years individually and through the WBCSD’s Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI), Grupo Ar-gos welcomes this key milestone and reaffirms that we will keep committing to low-carbon solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

Feike Sijbesma, chief executive and chairman of the managing board, Royal DSM

“With the ratification of the COP21 – Paris Treaty, the world leaders collectively embraced an accelerated transition to a low-carbon economy. For business, there is only one viable option: to co-lead this transition. Royal DSM is deeply committed to continue to combat climate change: by reducing the impact of our own operations, by enabling our customers through providing low-carbon products and solutions and by advo-cating and raising our voice on, among other, renewable energy and carbon pricing.”

Damian Ryan, Acting chief executive, The Climate Group

“Much like the adoption of the Paris Agreement itself in December last year, the entry into force of the treaty today is a truly historic moment. Few international agreements have entered into force at such speed and arguably none have been so important to our common future as the Paris Agreement. The de-cision by many world leaders to act quickly and boldly over the past 10 months is to be applauded. Thanks should also go to the business leaders and politicians in state and regional governments whose actions and policies, such as committing to 100% renewable power, have helped create the momentum and political belief that a better, safer and more prosperous world can be created through bold climate action.”

Jill Duggan, director of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG)

“The unprecedented speed which is driving an early entry into force of the Paris Agreement shows the huge significance of the climate challenge for governments worldwide, in spite of the political turmoil emerging across many economies.

By fast tracking its ratification of the Agreement, the EU has been pivotal to this great momentum, taking its rightful position at the forefront of climate action.

The significance of the Paris Agreement and its universal impact cannot be underestimated. The transition to a zero carbon economy is inevitable. Now is the time for companies to start preparing for a zero carbon future.”

Nigel Topping, chief executive, We Mean Business

“The Paris Agreement could go down in history as the most impactful multilateral treaty of all time. By act-ing with unprecedented speed to bring the agreement into force, the world’s governments have given global business a powerful signal to drive investment, innovation and growth in the zero carbon economy. And this signal will only get stronger over the next four years as countries take note of technology trends and corporate action in revising their national plans as required by the agreement.”

Mohamed Adow, senior climate advisor, Christian Aid

“The speed at which the Paris Agreement has come into force has been remarkable. But we now need to see tangible actions to follow just as quickly.  As Hurricane Matthew leaves destruction across the Caribbean we’re reminded that our climate continues to undergo rapid change and we are continuing to pollute it.

“The Paris Agreement is a triumph of global cooperation. It just shows that when faced with a threat like climate change the world is able to come together and respond quickly.  But the hard part is yet to come, behaviour change is always difficult but if we don’t change ourselves then the climate will force it on us.”

Bill Hare, Climate Analytics 

“It is a very positive signal that the world’s governments are bringing the Paris Agreement into force so quickly.  Now the world needs these same governments to change the policies that are heading towards well over 3°C warming, more than twice the 1.5˚C warming limit set out in this Agreement. 1.5°C-compatible climate policies would benefit both developed and developing countries, bringing substantial gains to their economies, development and public health.”
Prof Niklas Höhne, NewClimate Institute 

“That the Paris Agreement has been ratified with record speed is a sign that governments are taking it seriously.  But this is just the first step.  Governments must implement their pledges, increase them, and do all of this as soon as possible – the window is closing.” 

George Ogleby

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