The Paris Agreement is an unprecedented milestone – even if it is not perfect. For the first time, almost 200 countries have adopted a landmark deal on climate change action for all.
Today we have seen international consensus that we must keep global temperature rise to well below 2°C and ideally 1.5°C. The UK’s world-leading Climate Change Act and the UK government’s prior commitments on finance and adaptation are important contributions to this deal, and we must deliver them. The Paris deal is not just about emissions reduction, but also about protecting vulnerable places and people.
We know that climate change is already impacting on places like Bangladesh, the Marshall Islands, Africa, the Arctic, and even communities here in the UK. This is why countries need to support each other to protect our most precious habitats, from the Amazon rainforest to the chalk streams of South and East England. The Paris Deal is a deal for both people and planet.
Returning home after the climate talks in Paris, the government needs to focus on moving a sustainable economy from the periphery of politics to centre stage. The government could get back on the front foot by ending its support for oil and gas and recognising that renewables are the future technology of choice. Ministers could save bill-payers’ money and cut emissions with a national drive on energy efficiency in our homes and businesses.
The presence of the business community in Paris has shown that tackling climate change is an economic issue – and leading businesses want more ambition from governments. The green economy is worth more than £120bn per year to the UK, and 2014 was the first year in which emissions fell worldwide while the economy grew.
So it’s about time a minority stopped peddling the old world message that clean technologies are holding us back: They are the key to unlocking a better future. National fiscal and infrastructure policy needs to value natural capital – forests, seas, wetlands and other habitats – as crucial to a sustainable economy.
Paris was the starting gun – and now, we must race ahead towards a low-carbon future where people and nature thrive.
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