COP21: a summary of the Paris Agreement and the implications for BU

As we move into an era where the emphasis on carbon reduction will come to the fore, we are sharing with you a brief summary of the Paris Agreement and the implications for Bournemouth University. This is an extract from a longer paper that includes the implications for Industrialised and Developing Nations as well as  policy implications. Aplologies but it was just too long for a blog post.

At Bournemouth we have achieved much to reduce carbon and to develop iniatives to secure more sustainabel development. In the light of the Paris Agreement, we need to do more in 2016!

Main Points of the Paris Agreement:

  • The main difference between this treaty and others that have gone before it is its scope. In particular, the draft lays out plans to limit temperature rises until at least 2050 – this is much longer term than has ever been agreed before.
  • 187 countries have put forward plans to cut and curb carbon emissions to 2020, and beyond.
  • Within the agreement, the targets are known as Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs). All 187 countries have submitted their INDCs.
  • Developed and developing countries are required to set targets to limit their emissions to levels which would see warming of 2°C, with an aspiration of limiting warming to 1.5°C. Vulnerable countries – like the Marshall Islands in Micronesia – pushed for a 1.5°C limit but the draft deal only promises to make it a target rather than a pledge.
  • However, observers have calculated that all of the targets, if delivered, will not keep warming to 2°C but to 2.7°C above pre-industrial levels. Above this 2°C threshold, effects of climate change such as droughts, floods, heat waves and sea level rises are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.
  • Additionally, emissions targets are not legally binding and are determined by individual countries. However, it promises to hold countries to account if they fail to meet the targets they set out in their plans to reduce emissions during the 2020s.
  • Countries are required to review and submit their emissions targets every five years with the “first global stocktake in 2023 and every five years subsequently”. The review process is to ensure that targets are in line with the latest scientific advice. This review process is legally binding.
  • The agreement covers “loss and damage”: finance will be provided to poor nations to help them cut emissions and cope with the effects of extreme weather. The agreement makes some concessions to developing countries, acknowledging “urgent need to enhance the provision of finance, technology and capacity” and promote “universal access to sustainable energy” – particularly in Africa – with a focus on renewables. There will be a $100 billion fund from developed economies to help emerging and developing nations decarbonise their energy mix. Countries affected by climate-related disasters will gain urgent aid.
  • The agreement also requires a limit on the emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
  • In the aftermath of the Paris Agreement, it is more important than ever that BU makes a commitment to reduce its carbon emissions as much as possible, as quickly as possible. However, commitment alone is insufficient if it does not translate into effective action.
  • The EU is one of the top greenhouse gas emitters accounting for 9% of global emissions.
  • As a large organisation, we emitted 7,680 tonnes of carbon in 2014. BU needs to play its part in helping the UK meet its reduction targets.
  • With social and environmental responsibility at the heart of the BU ethos, we must take our role in curbing global warming seriously.
  • BU2018 states: “We will consider corporate social responsibility as we develop policies and procedures across all relevant areas for example corporate governance, environmental management, stakeholder engagement, employee and community relations, social equity, and responsible procurement.” This is directly in line with the Paris Agreement, with regards to ensuring the poorest people in developing nations are protected from the worst effects of climate change.
  • BU is committed to “ensuring we operate an affordable, sustainable and secure estate”. It is quite possible that in order to control UK greenhouse gas emissions, we will see higher energy prices and increased taxation on emissions in the future. From a financial standpoint, BU needs to do everything it possibly can to reduce its emissions as a business as usual scenario is likely to seeing spiralling costs over the coming years and reduce the competitiveness of the University as a whole.
  • Embedding sustainability into the culture of BU will be important to secure further reductions; technological solutions alone will not suffice.
  • BU aims to “ensure that graduates develop a global perspective and understand the need for sustainable development by seeking to embed sustainable development across the curriculum”. If sustainable development is more fully embedded within the curriculum and across the extra-curricular sphere the impact will be to reduce unsustainable behaviours (with reductions of carbon and utilities) but also BU graduates will be better prepared for an employability context where carbon reduction is a key focus.

Thanks to Victoria Penson (for starting the paper) and  Dr. Neil Smith for their contributions. Please contact me if you would like to read the other sections.



One Response to “COP21: a summary of the Paris Agreement and the implications for BU”

  1. Chris Shiel

    Sorry for the spelling error/typo. This published the draft rather than the edited version. Lesson to self: don’t rush a job after the Faculty Xmas lunch!