In December 2015, an historic agreement was reached among 195 nations in Paris at the the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to combat climate change and work towards a low carbon, resilient future, calling to keep global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees C, and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Ed Mazria presenting the China Accord at the UNFCCC COP21 Buildings Day
According the CEO and founder of Architecture 2030, Edward Mazria, who attended the conference, “it was incredible. For the first time governments came together to agree on a long term goal committed to keep global average temperature increase ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.’ What that means is we have to essentially end the fossil fuel era. We have to phase out all fossil fuel CO2 emissions by about 2050 and total emission by 2060-2080. We need to phase out CO2 emissions from power and industrial sectors by about 2050. There’s some leeway on each side of that depending upon the science and then during our total agreements emissions 2080.”
The agreement also aims to strengthen the ability to deal with the impacts of climate change, such as shorelines, melting polar ice, and health hazards, to name a few.
“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and group of countries to go back home with their heads held high,” said Laurent Fabius, president of COP21 UN Climate Change Conference and French Foreign Minister.
French President Francois Hollande told the assembled delegates: “You’ve done it, reached an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud to stand before your children and grandchildren.”
According to a conference press release, the agreement commits all countries to “aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible . . . and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter.” It includes 188 national government submissions – Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – containing the actions each country intends to take to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Mazria says that these initial INDCs submit to the UNFCC, what they are going to do to lower their emissions and reduce GHG. Given their particular circumstances. In the agreement, they have all agreed to a review every five years and to increase their targets and the reduction targets. The current U.S. INDC pledge is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
“Right now if you add up all the INDCs it doesn’t limit the global temperatures by 2 degrees. The idea was to start out with the first INDCs commitment pledge and then to review those pledges every five years and increase the reductions,” says Mazria. “It’s now verified reductions and its all made public. There will be a lot of pressure on the countries to not only meet their commitments but increase their obligations in time.”
The most important thing this agreement does is 1) it lays out publicly what each country is going to do and 2) it sends a message to the markets that this is where the world is headed, Mazria points out. This will shape how building and developing take place and also what kind of power will be used if all emissions must be phased out by the middle of the second half of the century, CO2 emissions by about 2050.
Chen Zhen, Secretary General of CEDAAB (left) and Leon Qiu, Vice Secretary General of CEDAAB and Principal at DLR Group
Both developed and developing nations signed on. China has huge problems with pollution and a huge energy demand as a result of their fast infrastructure growth.