COP 22 & the Paris Agreement: What You Need to Know


In the run up to the next international climate conference, we look at COP 22, the Paris Agreement and the crucial role of energy efficiency in combating climate change.

What is COP 22?

COP stands for Conference of the Parties. It’s the annual meeting of the The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to check its progress in combating climate change. COP 22 is the 22nd session of the COP, to be held in November 2016.

UNFCCC is an international treaty with the aim of tackling climate change by reducing GHG emissions. It is made up of 197 Parties:

Annex I: OECD members with economies in transition (the EIT Parties)

Annex II: OECD members, but not EIT Parties

Non-Annex I: mostly developing countries

COP 22, the next United Nations climate conference, will be held in Marrakesh, Morocco from 7-18 November 2016. With the impending risks posed by climate change, the international community is finally taking notice and, most importantly, taking action.

The private sector plays a crucial role in achieving global emissions targets. Regardless of the industry we work in, we all need to know what’s going on and how it affects us. International climate action will mean major changes for the global energy sector, representing a particular opportunity to harness energy efficiency and clean energy to work towards a low carbon economy.

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What happened last year at COP 21?

At last year’s COP 21 in Paris, 195 countries reached a historic agreement – the first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. This was a big achievement, as climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio stressed in his speech at the signing ceremony: “more countries have come together to sign this agreement than for any other cause in the history of humankind.

What was agreed in Paris?

The parties agreed to the following:

  • A goal of limiting global temperatures to “well below” 2°C above preindustrial levels (means a 40% -70% reduction in emissions) and work towards limiting to 1.5°C (70% – 95% reduction). As “working towards” is not enough of a commitment for those who are most affected by climate change, we are seeing a global movement campaigning for a 1.5°C  limit.
  • Global emissions should peak as soon as possible and undertake rapid reductions thereafter, reaching zero emissions sometime this century.
  • All parties must make nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and pursue measures to achieve them. There will be reviews of countries’ progress every 5 years, with a first interim review due in 2018.
  • Developed countries must provide at least $100 billion per year in climate aid to developing nations by 2020, and developing countries are encouraged to make their own climate pledges if they can afford it.
  • Loss and damage: approaches need to be developed to help vulnerable countries cope with the adverse effects of climate change.
  •  There are calls for a new mechanism similar to the Clean Development Mechanism, enabling emission reductions in one country to be counted toward another country’s NDC.

What needs to happen now?

The Paris Agreement has to go through three stages before becoming coming into effect: adoption, signing and joining (by “ratification, acceptance or approval”) by a minimum of 55 countries representing 55% of global GHG emissions.

In April this year, 175 countries signed the Paris climate accord. This number has risen to 180 and of these, 27 have ratified the agreement (as of writing this article, you can follow the latest numbers on the Paris Agreement Tracker). A major breakthrough was reached as the United States and China – the world’s biggest carbon emitters – agreed to ratify the climate deal on 3rd September 2016.

If you look at the map of countries on the Paris Agreement Tracker, before the United States and China joined the countries who had ratified were mainly small nations most affected by the impacts of climate change – island states such as Fiji, the Maldives, Samoa, representing only 1.1% of global emissions. With the world’s two biggest emitters, United States on board, the percentage has risen to 39%, leaving only 16% remaining to bring the agreement into force.

Paris Agreement Tracker


There is pressure on the G20 to formally approve the agreement and a big push by climate activists to get it into force before the end of 2016. It’s one of the
goals of Ban Ki-moon as he nears the end of his term as UN Secretary General.

Climate talks & U.S. elections

The upcoming U.S. elections also increase the urgency with which climate activists want to get the agreement into place. Hillary Clinton supports the agreement, but Donald Trump has openly pledged to “save the coal industry” and “cancel the Paris Agreement. In the case that Trump came to power, if the agreement is ratified by the U.S. beforehand it will be more difficult to pull out, and politically harmful on the international stage. Although having a climate denier in charge of the 2nd biggest emitting nation would nonetheless surely harm international climate action…

What’s happening in the EU?

In the eyes of UNFCCC, the European Union is seen as one party and all member states must work jointly to fulfill its emissions commitments. Although the EU could go ahead and complete the process itself, in the interests of unity it proposes joint ratification so that each of the 28 member states and the EU formally join the Paris Agreement at the same time. This obviously implies a more lengthy process of coordination to get each member state on board, but the EU says it is working towards a swift implementation.

Looking towards COP 22 and beyond: the implications for the private sector

The main focus of the COP 22 will be building on the Paris Agreement and discussions around how to implement it. There will also be talks on climate finance, technology transfer and gender and climate change. At last year’s climate talks the private sector had a big presence, with representatives from the energy, transport and other industries, and we can expect the same turn out this year.

It’s a big achievement to have the world’s nations officially acknowledge the need to take action against climate change. The big next step is that “action”. What will each nation need to do to meet its 40-70% emissions reductions target? What will that look like at a national and local level?

A consolidated effort across all sectors is needed and a combination of approaches – investment in renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, protecting forests and moving towards a low-carbon society.

The Paris Agreement will have a direct impact on national energy policy and industry-specific regulations. The private sector plays a crucial role in achieving these climate targets in terms of reducing its own emissions, mobilising investment and innovation in technology.

Is your business climate ready?

Business leaders across all sectors are realising the magnitude of climate change and are taking steps towards long-term low-carbon strategies (including Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg as part of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition). But much more effort is needed. 80% of the world’s 500 largest companies reported emissions targets in 2014 but most of them are not good enough to keep warming below 2°C.

Every company needs to seriously consider how they can continue to operate and grow a successful business while at the same time cutting their impact on the climate. Energy efficiency isn’t a choice, but rather an obligation. The International Energy Agency highlights the importance of increasing energy efficiency in industry, building and transport sectors as one of five key measures needed to keep temperatures below 2°C.

It’s more important than ever before that businesses reduce their environmental impact and comply with emissions requirements. Are you updated with latest trends to achieve it? Do you know where to find the best resources to evolve as energy professional? 

You can get a free copy of The Alpha Energy Manager guide with more than 40 pages with best practices, links and ideas to stay updated with COP 22 and other key business topics.

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