UK signs Paris climate pact
Image credit: PA
The UK has officially ratified the Paris Agreement binding countries to strive towards limiting the increase of average global temperature to 1.5 °C compared with preindustrial times.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has signed the document, negotiated last year by 190 UN member states. The treaty, which entered into force earlier this month, has already been signed by more than 110 countries responsible for the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the future of the world’s efforts to tackle warming is facing a setback after insiders familiar with plans of US President elect Donald Trump hinted the oil-industry supporter would seek to take the US out of the deal as soon as possible.
“The UK is ratifying the historic Paris Agreement so that we can help to accelerate global action on climate change and deliver on our commitments to create a safer, more prosperous future for us all,” said Climate Change and Industry Minister Nick Hurd, who is currently attending the latest round of UN climate talks in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.
“We are going to use this positive momentum to grow the UK low-carbon sector, which is already worth over £46bn, as we continue to provide secure, affordable and clean energy to our families and businesses.”
Yesterday, the UN Development Programme released estimates of economic losses related to the world’s failure to meet the 1.5°C target. Staying on the current trajectory, which foresees the Earth’s atmosphere to warm up by at least 3°C by the end of the century, would cost the global economy some $12 trillion by 2050 of, or around 10 per cent of the world’s GDP.
While the UN believes achieving the target is feasible, it will require radical measures. According to the International Energy Agency, the world will have to completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector by 2040 if it wants to limit warming to 1.5°C. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the climate has already warmed up by 1.2°C since pre-industrial times.
The transition could have positive economic benefits, creating millions of clean energy-related jobs. A massive switch to electric vehicles will also be necessary and so will be substantial changes in agriculture.
“It has never been more important for the world to stand together on climate change, and the UK joining the Paris Agreement is a welcome signal,” said Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief adviser on climate at WWF-UK.
“This must be backed by urgent action to decarbonise our domestic economy and to help firms capitalise on huge and growing markets in low-carbon technology.”
According to Christian Aid’s international climate lead Mohamed Adow, several countries have ratified the treaty since the US Presidential election last week including oil-rich Saudi Arabia. The league of Arabian oil states was strongly opposing the strict targets during the negotiations last year.
“If a modern, post-Brexit Britain is to thrive, it needs to be at the forefront of the global clean energy transition, something the UK’s low-carbon sector is well placed to take advantage of,” Adow said.
“Market forces are clearly pointing towards the smart money being in clean tech.”
The Paris Agreement binds countries to keep global warming ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial times and strive for a lower limit of 1.5°C.
The UN Development Programme said that meeting the stricter target would reduce by a full month the length of extreme heat waves each year for most tropical regions by mid-century, compared with 2°C. Up to 10 per cent of coral reefs could be saved with the lesser warming while losses of key crops including wheat could be reduce by up to 15 per cent by 2050 for regions of Africa and Central America.
However, a separate climate-change performance index, released on Wednesday, showed that no major emitter is yet on track to meet the 1.5 to 2 degree limit, according to think tank Germanwatch.