Climate blog

COP21: How will we measure progress?

Published by Sam Page on 29 December 2015

Image On 12 December 2015, 188 governments signed up to the Paris Agreement to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and reduce global warming - but how will we measure their progress?

As a result of the Paris Agreement, each nation state is bound to prepare a new and more ambitious climate change action plan every five years.  These action plans - called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) will be assessed by United Nations scientists according to their ability to reduce greenhouse gases and keep global temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees centigrade.  Any short-comings will be made public and suggestions will be made on ways of making the action plans more credible.

The United Nations has also tasked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to prepare a series of technical reports on ways of cutting carbon emissions in each country and region of the world.  These reports will serve as a baseline, plus a 'to-do' list for the various governments in order to keep them on track.  In the meantime, a team of leading scientists from the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP), have already defined a pathway to a low-carbon economy for the UK, that respects the political economy and fulfills domestic development priorities.  This is a summary of their key recommendations:

  • Emissions from power stations must be reduced by 85-90% by 2030. This depends on the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to mitigate GHG emissions from fossil fuels, such as coal or methane gas.  
  • There needs to be pricing stability to encourage investment in the renewables sector.
  • Stronger policies are needed to deliver energy efficiency retrofits of existing buildings.
  • Low income groups must be protected from fuel poverty.
  • Airport expansion, other transport infrastructure (including urban development) and extractive industries need to take account of GHG reduction targets.

You can read the full 2015 report on Pathways to deep decarbonization in the United Kingdom, here...

Since the our government has recently back-tracked on or cut most of the policies, such as CCS research support, feed-in tariff, Green Deal, Energy Company Obligation, which are needed for decarbonising the economy and keeping below a 1.5 degree temperature rise, it is up to civil society to continue piling on the pressure.  This means more emailing, tweeting, petitioning and general campaigning to ensure that the UK has a credible climate change action plan by 2020...