RE100 Campaign Director Emily Farnworth blogs on the role RE100 played in pushing for a strong climate deal at COP21 - and what the Paris Agreement now means for business.
It was an incredible moment when, on Saturday December 12, COP President Laurent Fabius brought down the gavel on an unprecedented global climate agreement. There had been a collaborative atmosphere at Le Bourget the whole two weeks and it was palpable in the final session.
The commitments of companies, cities and regions to go 100% renewable was not insignificant in the context of the negotiations. Renewables were a beacon for what is possible.
Civil society had the same message for governments. Yellow ‘eco paint’ was poured around the famous roundabout circling the Arc de Triomphe, sending a dial of rays down streets and forming a huge yellow sun. The message? We need solar power to play a critical role in our future.
Renewables were at the heart of conversations throughout COP, as one good news story followed another.
On COP Action Day, Saturday December 5, RE100 was showcased at a high level event at Google, with RE100 speakers including Marks & Spencer’s CEO Marc Bolland and senior representatives from Philips, IKEA and Unilever. Google’s Vice President for Energy was interviewed for Climate TV.
The next day, at IRENA’s REenergizing the Future event in central Paris, Marks & Spencer and Unilever presented Collectively’s ‘We Got Power’ campaign aimed at engaging millennials in building a 100% renewable future.
It didn’t stop there. RE100’s biggest moment came on Monday December 7, ‘Lima Paris Action Agenda’ Energy Day, when IKEA’s CEO Peter Agnefjäll took to the stage to announce a further six companies joining RE100. Amongst them, the German car manufacturer BMW – the first, but unlikely to be the last in its sector to commit to 100% renewable power.
Meanwhile, we released new figures showing that a private sector switch to 100% renewable power could cut global carbon emissions by nearly 15% – a huge contribution to tackling climate change.
On the same day, WWF and the World Resources Institute announced that there were now 49 signatories to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, which seek simplified access to renewable electricity for large energy buyers.
And then on Tuesday, just as talks started to intensify, 20 institutional investors with assets of £352 billion in assets under management joined forces to call on more of the world’s largest companies to commit to 100% renewable power. Many investors have committed to decarbonising their own portfolios, and having credit worthy customers ready to buy renewable power means reduced risks for new projects – a critical piece of the jigsaw.
On Friday December 11 and Saturday December 12, right at crunch point in the talks, RE100 companies united in a call for a long term goal on cutting and neutralising emissions. The positive business voice was heard, and the private sector got the green light for driving a low carbon economy.
The Paris Agreement provides policy certainty, a level playing field around the world, and the confidence to make long term low carbon investments – recognised by RE100 corporate partners.
So what now?
RE100 will play a critical role in delivering pre-2020 action – businesses acting now can help achieve carbon cuts ahead of national plans officially coming into play in 2020.
And with current pledges by national governments too little to limit warming to the agreed goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius, greater business action will also be needed in the years beyond, to ensure that we all stay on track.
Heading into 2016, we will grow the group of companies making a commitment to 100% renewable power as part of RE100. We will expand into new geographies, partner with others to address policy and financing barriers, build new alliances across sectors and supply chains, and connect with like-minded initiatives working with cities, sub-national governments and civil society.
We will showcase the progress companies are making towards their 100% renewable power goals because it makes business sense. And we will demonstrate how the private sector is working alongside governments to ‘get the job done’ on renewable energy.
The future looked bright for renewables without a global deal. With one – and increasing efforts from business to switch to renewable power – the low carbon economy is unstoppable.
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