The Paris Agreement: promises, policies, plans and promotions. What about the people power?

As India now joins with China, the US and another 59 countries to ratify the agreement made last December in Paris, the agreement edges closer to entering into force.

Posted on 03 October 2016.

The total emissions of the 62 countries combined represents 52.1% of the global total.  The Paris Agreement will only enter into force when countries that produce at least 55% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions ratify the agreement.  It now just needs a few more of the 191 United Nations Framework Convention countries that signed the treaty to ratify it for all to be obliged to implement it.

Basically, the aim of the agreement is to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, limit the impacts of climate change and financially support activities to lower greenhouse gas emissions and promote climate-resilient development.

It’s commendable that, for once, the UK is seemingly ahead of the game.  The UK government’s 2008 Climate Change Act established the world’s first legally binding climate change target, aiming to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% (from the 1990 baseline) by 2050.  Plans have been made, initiatives launched, promotions undertaken and promises made.

So how are we doing?

The Committee on Climate Changes’ 2016 Progress Report confirms that the UK has made significant progress with its decarbonisation efforts in recent years, cutting carbon emissions by an average of 4.5 per cent a year over the past three years to ensure emissions are now 38 per cent below 1990 levels.  However, the report notes that the emissions reductions have been achieved almost entirely through the power sector, thanks to record investment in renewables and a reduction in coal use. It warns that progress on other fronts, including low carbon heat, energy efficiency and transport, has "stalled".

Meeting future carbon budgets and the UK’s 80% target for 2050 will require reducing domestic emissions by at least 3% a year. This will require existing progress to be supplemented by more challenging measures.  

So what more can be done?  Plenty!  Because for all that Paris promises and the policies, plans and promotions undertaken, what about the people?    There are over 65 million people in the UK who individually every day have the power to save energy in their homes and their daily lives.  Of these, 38 million people are also in a position to save energy in their place of work. If we could get these individuals engaged in the energy saving, carbon reduction agenda, surely they can have a massive impact on the outcome?  

Some responsible organisations provide their employees with energy awareness training.  How about making ALL organisations provide energy training for staff?  If the training includes awareness of energy saving in the home environment, the trainee can then take that message home and become an energy champion in the home.  Health and Safety in the workplace is now standard – let’s make energy awareness training standard too!

In the words of Helen Keller. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”


Jes Rutter, Managing Director, JRP Solutions.