UN Climate Change Conference: Global Commitment Signals Promise
The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), held in Paris, France, concluded on December 12th with a progressive agreement amongst the 195 participating nations to work towards reducing the negative impacts of climate change. The resulting Paris Agreement is a pact to reduce global carbon emissions and to keep global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius. This agreement undoubtedly marks a positive step forward and signifies an international recognition that climate change is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
Legally binding agreements to reduce global carbon emissions have always been difficult to achieve. Although issues like air pollution or sea level rise are acknowledged and dealt with on an individual basis, implementing strategies to curb them is often challenging. However, COP21 has proven that global attitudes about investment in climate change research and alternative energy development are shifting. Both the private and public sectors are showing willingness and an urgency to tackle these issues through investing in innovative technology. In addition to the collective pledge of $100 billion by 2020 by participating parties to help developing nations mitigate climate change, major financial initiatives were undertaken by developed nations and the private sector to invest in clean energy.
Mission Innovation, for instance, is an agreement amongst 20 governments to double their investments in clean energy research and development (R&D) over the next five years. The coalition includes the five most populated countries (China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil) that together emit 75 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from electricity. This equates to around $20 billion pledged by these countries to be invested in wind, solar, geothermal, and hydrogen energy R&D.
As Mission Innovation exemplifies the steps be taken by international governments to address investments in clean energy development, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, formed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, represents the steps taken by private investors to invest in similar progress. The Coalition’s goal is to speed up the development of technologies to improve reliable, affordable, non-carbon producing energy. To do this, investors from around the world have come together to make significant financial commitments to a public research pipeline linked to substantial private investment
The Agreement reached at COP21 is certainly promising and the emergence of an international commitment from both the public and private sectors to invest in affordable clean energy is equally encouraging. Technological innovation is paramount to combatting the issue of climate change, and the multi-billion dollar pledges made at COP21 represent a global readiness to work together in taking a positive step forward. As we begin the New Year, I look forward to watching these partnerships cultivate the clean energy technologies of the future.