The EU has approved the ratification of the landmark international Paris Agreement on climate change, while new guidance has been published to explain the implications for businesses.
The move means that the historic treaty, agreed in principle by 195 countries in December 2015, will officially enter into force before the end of the year.
The deal will for the first time see all countries commit to reducing their emissions to tackle climate change.
Core elements of the treaty include a legal requirement on every country to review and strengthen their commitments every five years, and a collective agreement to reach a ‘carbon neutral’ global economy during this century.
For it to come into force, the agreement required at least 55 countries responsible for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions to legally ratify it.
The US and China, the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, have already ratified the deal along with 60 other countries.
On 4 October, the European Parliament voted to approve ratification on behalf of its 28 member states.
Each member state also needs to ratify the agreement individually to bring it into their own domestic law, and Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that the UK will do so before the end of 2016.
What does it mean?
The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) has published a guide to explain the major implications of the Paris Agreement for UK businesses of all sectors and sizes, and how they should respond.
The briefing includes a range of questions businesses should consider and a list of recommended resources.
James Cole, director of corporate relations and communications at CISL, said: “The private sector has a crucial role to play in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and we are already seeing great progress by leading businesses that are increasingly aware of the climate challenge and its associated risks and opportunities.
“This awareness is catalysing real innovation and changes in the way companies operate to secure economic growth alongside social and environmental wellbeing.
“It is crucial that this momentum continues and that all businesses, regardless of size, sector or geography wake up to the changes ahead and plan accordingly.”
Low carbon economy
Lord Deben, chair of the government’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), said the Paris Agreement “will focus attention on how the government plans to deliver the fourth and fifth carbon budgets – the domestic mechanism for reducing UK emissions.
“There is now a unique opportunity for UK business to play a leading role in delivering Britain’s low carbon economy.”
The CCC is set to publish new analysis on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK later in October. The government is then expected to launch a ‘Carbon Plan’ in 2017 that will set out its strategy.