Industries, Governments, and the Implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement

Clare Richardson-Barlow

This is part of a series from our Young Professionals Summit, a side event of Brussels Forum.

Recognition of the disastrous effects of manmade climate change has led to increased organized, global action to reduce carbon emissions in the 21st century. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the subsequent Kyoto Protocol, progress in the World Trade Organization’s Environmental Goods Agreement, and the recent 2015 COP21 Paris Agreement are among the many significant movements to engage some of the World’s largest greenhouse gas emitters in reducing their carbon footprint.

In 2015 195 economies from around the world approved the Paris Climate Agreement following weeks of negotiations at COP21. The largest climate agreement of its kind and the most comprehensive agreement to date, the Paris Climate Agreement is a seminal development in the global fight against climate change. Technological innovation, creative policy solutions and public-private partnerships are an important part of achieving the benchmarks set out in the Paris Agreement, in particular the ambitious goal of zero anthropomorphic greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 21st century. This goal, while timely and necessary, is quite difficult, requiring a level of global cooperation on climate change that has been difficult to imagine up until now.

The third day of the German Marshall Fund’s Young Professionals Summit saw participants join the ongoing Brussels Forum. One particular discussion on the Paris Agreement and the role of governments and industries in achieving these landmark goals was particularly insightful, and in some ways one of the largest, most daunting issues to be covered at the Brussels Forum.

The transatlantic communities’ own contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of the environment on its economic success and public health have, in part, driven a surge in climate policy commitments, but also placed increased attention on international climate action, pledges and results. Global awareness of environmental challenges are, undoubtedly, having a profound impact on international climate agreements and sparking government interest in improving action and accountability in climate policy.

As climate agreements become further widespread, internationally recognized, and more comprehensive, the intersection of climate policy, economics, and industry interests becomes more apparent. Private investment and innovation, creative funding mechanisms, and ground breaking project proposals must increase in both scope and frequency in order for the Paris goals to be reached. Many of the innovative solutions needed for reaching the Paris goals require industry support and breakthroughs, both in terms of lowering global emissions but also in terms of realizing accomplishments that countries can point to as in line with their climate goals. Clarity of government regulatory policy is one way to assist industries, as is acknowledgment of their role in this global fight. A balance must be struck between lowering industry emissions and economic stability, as many of the largest industry emitters (transportation, agriculture, and energy) are also the backbones of economies throughout the transatlantic community and the developing world.

Economic and policy solutions to reaching the Paris goals are coming from a variety of places: A number of the world’s largest companies, including financial services products, chemical companies, and beauty products and self care companies have long been making efforts towards reducing waste and emissions. Traditional, hydrocarbon energy producers are investing a lot of time, money, and expertise in finding energy solutions to climate challenges, including some of the largest, joint R&D programs in the world. National governments are investing in localized energy solutions, including physical energy storage and production, as well as public education programs, often with the support of national industries. The private sector is also working on addressing the economic challenges of climate change adaptation, including distinguishing the fiscal and logistical challenges of incorporating their companies into the global response.

The major takeaway of the Brussels Forum discussion is that continued and new coalitions of private sector leaders and forward thinking policy makers will be a key part of achieving the Paris Agreement goals. Such private-public partnerships are a necessary component of the transatlantic communities’ realistic and attainable fight against global climate change.

A nonpartisan policy institute devoted to strengthening transatlantic relations. Offices in DC, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, & Warsaw.

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