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  • Lee Calver
  • 6 January 2015
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2015 is the year for businesses to tackle climate change

Discussions around climate change continued in 2014, with the biggest news coming in November, when the US and China announced a bilateral agreement in which both countries committed to reducing their emissions.

China, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, has agreed to cap its output by 2030 or earlier if possible, while also promising to aim to produce 20% of its energy from low carbon sources by the same year. The US committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 levels by 2025.

The US-China deal shows the world's two largest emitters are willing to negotiate, and world leaders have set a deadline to meet at a conference to be held in Paris to agree a new global climate deal by the end of 2015.

This contrasts with a similar political moment five years ago where countries failed to agree a new deal at a similar summit in Copenhagen, partially due to China and US obstruction.

International climate talks have stalled since, with countries waiting to see whether the US and China would commit to taking action to curb emissions. With this historic agreement now in place, there is hope for further progress in 2015 that will affect businesses across the globe.

Commenting, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Chief Economist, Fatih Birol, said:

"I believe the main benefit of this commitment by US and China is creating political momentum for other countries as well. It will be very difficult, after this move by the US and China and Europe, not to be a part of finding a solution to one of the biggest problems of mankind."

Adding his views, International Workplace Environmental Consultant, Matthew Watkins, said:

“China has definitely got the better half of this deal on climate change; with emissions predicted to plateau around 2030 regardless of any actions taken to restrict CO2e output. This nevertheless is a historic deal as until now no one region has wanted to take unilateral action at the risk of economic harm in comparison to other jurisdictions.”

The EU announces targets

While the US and China committed to reducing their emissions, in October 2014 the European Commission also announced new climate and energy targets for the European Union.

This includes cutting EU emissions by at least 40% of 1990 levels by 2030, agreeing targets to get at least 27% of EU energy from renewable sources by 2030 and to cut energy use by at least 27% against business as usual.

 India

The world's third largest emitter saw a change of Government in 2014 with the election of Narendra Modi, who promised to revive India's economy and connect more than 300 million citizens to the electrical grid.

According to the IEA, this will mean India's electricity demand will more than triple in the next 30 years, meaning India's energy-related emissions could more than double by 2040.

Modi has however ordered a scientific review of how climate change may impact India and reports also suggest India is due to announce a joint agreement similar to the US and China's climate deal later this month.

Matthew Watkins commented:

“The US-China agreement will open the door to further climate change targets across the globe. India has allied itself with China at previous climate negotiations and it would not be at all surprising to see Indian emissions targets announced in Paris 2015 or sooner, especially considering the significant potential impacts of climate change on the Indian sub-continent including coastal flooding of Kolkata and Mumbai, changes in monsoon patterns and water security issues.”

Lima

A new 2015 agreement on climate change, that will harness action by all nations, took a further important step forward in Lima following two weeks of negotiations by over 190 countries in December of last year.

Lima has set the stage for what will follow over the next 12 months, with climate change on the agenda of many international meetings over the coming year as the deadline for a climate deal edges ever closer. Negotiators will meet again in Bonn in June, while in December 2015, the UN and Governments will meet in Paris to agree a global deal on climate change. Its success or otherwise will present challenges to Governments, business and society, but that shouldn’t stop organisations around the world from taking action now.

Offering his expert advice, Matthew Watkins stated:

“New Government targets likely mean taxes on energy and emissions and levies and subsidies for green energy, energy efficiency measures and energy use reduction. Companies operating in India and globally would be well placed to consider these impacts on their operations now, minimising any additional costs and exploiting the benefits of legislative changes."