The Paris Agreement, December 2015

COP21Nearly 200 countries, developing and developed, and including oil and gas producers, reached agreement at the COP21 conference in Paris to address climate change. This looks like the beginning of the end for fossil fuels.

The deal requires that countries should stem greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of peaking emissions as soon as possible and continuing the reductions as the century progresses. The aim is to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C by 2100, ideally keeping the rise below 1.5°C.

The deal will encourage trillions of dollars to be spent adapting to the effects of climate change – including of course flooding – and developing renewable energy. Developed countries are to send at least $100 billion each year to developing countries beginning in 2020.

The agreement gives countries leeway in determining how to cut their emissions but they must report how they are doing. Progress will be reviewed every five years.

Some elements, like reporting requirements, are legally binding, others, such as the setting of emissions targets for individual countries, are non-binding.

This is potentially a game-changing agreement and has been widely welcomed. Hopefully the catastrophic possibility of irreversible and escalating change can be averted. Nevertheless, climate change is here with us and we can expect to see its effects on weather patterns continuing for the foreseeable future, with increased flooding a prominent result.

Let us hope that the implementation of the Paris agreement is as good as promised.

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Climate change – Paris 2015

COP21There is lots of attention on climate change just now with the United Nations conference COP21* coming up next week. Whether governments will agree enough, and then do enough, to hold any increase in global warming to 2˚C remains to be seen. Limiting the average global surface temperature increase to 2°C over the pre-industrial average has generally been regarded as an adequate means of avoiding dangerous climate change – though there is some doubt about whether this is sufficiently stringent.

Whatever happens, we can expect an increasing frequency of extreme weather and we need to be investing in ways of mitigating the impact. As far as Oxford and the threat of flooding is concerned that, in our view, means the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (Oxford FAS). See too a previous post on Oxford FAS and climate change .

* COP21 is the 21st Conference of the Parties, i.e. the annual meeting of all countries which want to take action for the climate. It will be held in France, from 30 November to 11 December http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/.