During the G20 summit in Hangzhou, the world’s two largest economies and emitters of carbon (US and China) have announced that they plan to ratify the Paris Agreement. President Xi even went so far to vow that China would “unwaveringly pursue sustainable development”.
This is an unexpected yet welcome development for the Agreement – 12 months ago, even the possibility of an agreement being put in place was questioned. Now there is a highly ambitious framework that has been ratified by the world’s two biggest powerhouses, which had previously been less than accommodating to past attempts of a global climate pact.
The Paris Agreement commits countries to aspire to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. There have been a few criticisms around the voluntary nature of the framework, and how this may cause room for reneging, however, with such public ratifications and the importance of climate change on the global agenda, it’s extremely unlikely that major countries will backtrack.
In order for the Agreement to be formally completed it must be ratified by 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions. The US and China account for 38% of global emissions, therefore their support puts the Agreement on a very strong course to completion. Not only this, but their signing gives confidence to other large economies to follow suit; it is thought that high emitters like Brazil and India will soon follow by example.
The influence and confidence to businesses and investors will be enormous, especially when looking at alternatives to fossil fuels. As more influential countries have to adapt and amend legislation to accommodate and encourage alternative energy, the renewables industry could see another resurgence.
It is crucial that the UK follows suit and ratifies the agreement too. In light of the recent cuts, changes will have to be made to current legislation to encourage more investment in renewable energy. Lack of government support was a major factor in CleanEarth’s 2016 Energy Report as to why Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were not choosing to invest in renewables, despite a recognised obligation to help combat climate change. This would be helped with more clarity and direction from the Government, which ratification of the Paris Agreement would provide.