The Paris Agreement and beyond: How renewable power can help ensure we meet global targets

Airsynergy Managing Director Jim Smyth gives the low-down on the Paris Agreement and how it will affect the renewable energy sector.

November 4th 2016 is a date that will go down in history. It was on this date that the Paris Agreement – a legally binding treaty on climate change – came into force. It is impossible for this momentous global commitment to be overstated. But importantly, how much do you know about the agreement, and the impact it is likely to have?

The Paris Agreement was the outcome of the 21st session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP21) in December 2015. A legally binding document, it contains emission reduction commitments from 187 countries which will come into play from 2020. This agreement became formalised on November 4th, when 55 countries covering 55% of global emissions committed to the agreement. Their aim – to limit the rise in global temperature to below two degrees. The United States of America are set to make one of the largest emission cuts , as they have set a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050 and 100% by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels.

How is this different to any other global treaty?

One of the major changes that have arisen from this agreement is that the new treaty ends the strict differentiation between developed and developing countries when it comes to their emission reduction efforts, and instead there is now a common framework that commits every country to put forward their best efforts, and to strengthen these where possible in the years ahead. Additionally, for the first time, all parties must regularly report on their emissions and implementation efforts, and undergo international review every five years in order to meet the long term goal of greenhouse gas neutrality by the second half of the century. This neutrality would effectively phase out fossil fuels and make way for renewable energy generation.

The Paris Agreement must also work in line with the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, some of which include creating sustainable cities and communities, providing clean water and sanitation, and generating affordable, clean energy. Ultimately, a majority of these goals can be reached by investing in renewable energy technology. Renewable energy has made remarkable progress in the last decade, transforming from something which is almost attainable, to a solution which is economically preferable. Renewable energy provides an immediate, viable and cost-effective solution to the challenge that climate change presents.

The dominance of wind power

Wind power in particular is proving promising. According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), wind power will supply as much as 20% of the world’s electricity by 2030. Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General is an agreement: “Meeting the Paris targets means a completely decarbonised electrical supply well before 2050, and wind power will play a major role in getting us there.” By reaching the predicted wind power capacity of 2,110GW by 2030, this has the potential to create an extra 2.4 million jobs, reduce CO2 emissions by more than 3.3 billion tonnes each year, and attract annual investment in excess of €200billion.

Renewable energy, and the ways in which it can be generated has varied considerably in the last few years. The industry isn’t just reliant on solar panels and large wind turbines to combat climate change. Now, small-scale duct augmented wind turbines have been designed and produced to provide clean energy in almost any location possible, providing there are no large obstructions. Furthermore, hybrid wind and solar powered streetlights are also entering the market as viable, cost-effective, renewable lighting solutions, which also produce excess renewable power. Wind power has now entered the mainstream.

As we celebrate the growth of the global renewable market and the adoption of the Paris Agreement, it is critical that this momentum of change is carried to COP22 and beyond. COP22 is set to take place this month, from the 7th-18th November in Marrakesh, Morocco, and has been tipped as the ‘COP for Action’. It is hoped that this conference will focus on the action items in order to achieve the priorities of the Paris Agreement, and tackle issues related to adaptation, transparency, technology transfer and mitigation.

The Paris Agreement has set the bar high as to what the world can achieve. At COP22 and beyond, the hard work can really begin to ensure that we move towards a zero-carbon, sustainable future.


**This blog is part 1 of 2. The second instalment is set to go live following COP22, where Jim Smyth will provide a round-up of the highly-anticipated conference.

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