COP21 Delivers on Measurable Climate Change Goals

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The Conference of Parties (COP) met in Paris last month for the 21st time but this time they were able to agree on some deliverables that will truly make a difference in our efforts to control global warming.

Coming out of the COP21 agreement are two collective expressions of individual perspectives that I haven’t ever seen before and I think they are game changers:

  • First, is the concept of coming into balance with nature’s budget. It’s not just about how much CO2 equivalents you can or can’t produce, it’s also about how much you can sequester. It introduces the functionality that if you can bring yourself back into budget –you may not even have to cut your emissions.  If you have technologies or are planting forests or you are doing other things that will sequester the CO2 you produce, then your net impact is eliminated and that after all is the goal.  It’s not about stopping people from producing greenhouse gases; it’s about not producing them at a rate that planet can’t handle. So by introducing the concept of bringing yourself into balance with nature’s budget –which is critical to the entire concept of sustainability – a more complex perspective is revealed and the goal is kept in sight.  It enables an entrepreneurial drive and creates a tremendous potential for the development of an innovative solution that is not on the table today.  Nice adjustment!
  • The second is that they set down actual temperature goals to keep global temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C which is recognized as the target we really need to hit. Again, it’s not about reducing CO2 equivalents, it’s about reducing warming.  Sometimes we focus so much on an individual metric that it derails us from our true goal.  Frankly, there is little consensus on how to get to the 1.5 degree limit but by putting the stake in the ground innovators will have a target and venture capital will have a whole new sandbox to play in.

So congratulations to COP21 on making significant progress.  To get 200 people to agree to anything is an amazing achievement especially with the spectrum of where countries are on the road to industrialization as well as countries that have no desire to become industrialized.

This represents a huge global win!

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Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

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