|Dec 18th, 2015
PARIS TO WORLD: AN END TO THE FOSSIL FUEL ERA
"1.5 degrees" projected on the Eiffel Tower on December 11, 2015. Photo: Shun Kambe.
Last week, the world came together in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), and signed a historic agreement. At the heart of the Paris Agreement is the “long-term goal” committing almost 200 countries – including the U.S., China, India, and the EU nations – to keep the global average temperature increase to:
To meet this target, the world must reach zero fossil fuel CO2 emissions in the urban built environment by about 2050, and zero total global greenhouse gas emissions by 2060 to 2080.
What’s in the Agreement
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.
These initial INDCs admittedly do not go far enough to meet the 1.5°C target, but each country is required to renew its pledge with increasingly stringent targets every five years. The current U.S. INDC pledge is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
The Agreement and the Built Environment
Another historic event at COP21 was the first ever UNFCCC Buildings Day - an entire day devoted to the building sector in recognition of the important role it must play in ensuring that countries meet their emissions reduction obligations.
Ed Mazria presenting the China Accord at the UNFCCC COP21 Buildings Day
Architecture 2030 helped organize Buildings Day, and Ed Mazria, Architecture 2030 Founder and CEO, delivered the opening presentation titled “Road to Zero”, which successfully set the tone for the remainder of the day. Referencing Architecture 2030’s submission to the UNFCCC – the Roadmap to Zero Emissions: The Built Environment in a Global Transformation to Zero Emissions report – he demonstrated how a combination of reducing the built environment's demand for fossil fuel energy while increasing the world's supply of renewable energy sources will meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term 1.5°C goal.
In addition, Mazria presented the China Accord for the first time to the UNFCCC and the international audience in attendance, illustrating how the architecture, planning, and building design community in China will play a key role in making the agreement’s targets a reality.
At COP21, bold actions such as the China Accord underlined the importance of cities and the built environment in combatting climate change, giving nations the confidence to take dramatic steps in Paris.
Cities consume nearly 75% of global energy production and are responsible for a similar percentage of global GHG emission. Tokyo, for example, is responsible for the same amount of GHG emissions as the 37 least polluting African countries.
In addition to the China Accord and the local government pledges, many other initiatives were announced during COP21, including:
2016 and Beyond
The Paris Agreement introduces a new world, one that envisions an end to fossil fuel emissions and secures a strong mechanism to address climate change.
As Architecture 2030's senior consultant Farhana Yamin (also CEO of Track 0 and advisor to the Marshall Islands) put it:
So open your champagne bottles, and toast the promise of not just another New Year, but also a new era of international collaboration in creating a sustainable, resilient, and highly livable planet.