Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Paris Agreement On Climate Change Calls For Action By Non-National Entities

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

Eiffel_tower_2.jpgLast December, representatives of 195 countries agreed to continue to expand global efforts to combat climate change. The new Paris Agreement breaks a longstanding impasse with a clever mixture of multinational agreements and agreements-to-agree. I summarized its provisions (and the history of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Framework Convention) it modifies) here.

Since it’s the United Nations (UN), the direct focus actions is on governments, leaving each signatory country free to design and implement appropriate programs. However, the Paris Agreement also expands explicit expectations that sub-national governments, businesses and other organizations will respond with new and expanded efforts. These efforts include not just response to expected national mandates, but also voluntary efforts to achieve greater greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions more quickly.In December 2014, the UN established an institutional umbrella for these non-national efforts, dubbed the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA). As its name suggests, LPAA was launched at the December 2014 meetings in Lima, in anticipation that a formal international agreement could be reached a year later in Paris. The UN also sponsors the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) portal, as a mechanism to register and publicize these commitments. The remainder of this blog summarizes information gathered by the LPAA and reflected on the NAZCA portal; I’ll discuss some major business initiatives in more detail in a subsequent blog.

Lima-Paris Action Agenda

The Lima-Paris Action Agenda was launched at the December 2014 UN conference in Lima, as a joint undertaking by the Peruvian and French COP (Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention) presidencies, the UN Office of the Secretary-General and the UNFCCC Secretariat. Its official aims are to strengthen climate action by:

  • Mobilizing robust global action towards low carbon and resilient societies

  • Providing enhanced support to existing initiatives.

  • Mobilizing new partners and providing a platform for the visibility of their actions, commitments and results in the run up to the Paris meetings.

The Action Agenda provides general policy-level guidance to each of its target groups. For example, the UN offers three principal ways for businesses to engage:

“1 - Cooperative Action. This includes joining partnerships or cooperative initiatives. Several major organizations and coalitions are working to structure and promote large multi-stakeholder initiatives aimed at augmenting and encouraging climate action. … Cooperative action can be:

  • Action-oriented

  • Industry-orientated

  • Technology-oriented

“2 - Individual Action. This involves setting individual targets. Large-scale transformation will only happen if businesses systematically integrate climate action into strategy-building and investment decision-making processes. In order to create an upward spiral of ambition, these objectives must be publicly announced and attached to quantified and time-bound reporting process. Key areas are:

  • Mitigation: reduce emissions, improve efficiency, shift to renewable energies, etc.

  • Resilience: adaptation measures, risk assessment, etc.

  • Finance: ESG [environmental, social, and governance] and climate risks integration, carbon accounting, etc.

“3 - Public Policy Action. To encourage governments to increase their commitments and make ambitious decisions in Paris, it is essential that businesses actively advocate to the governments of the countries in which they are operating to develop public policies which encourage emissions reductions, notably policies related to carbon pricing.”

The LPAA organizers identify procedures for businesses to follow to join these efforts:

  • Commit to industry or sector wide collaboration and plans, such as:

  • Greening their manufacturing, production and/or supply chains;

  • Large‐scale cooperative and multi‐stakeholder initiatives;

  • Define and pursue sectoral 2050 roadmap

  • Take individual corporate commitments to increase efficiency, reduce GHG emissions or increase resilience; and mainstream climate change in their strategies and governance;

  • Actively support implementation of internal and public policies for combating climate change and developing low‐carbon economies.

Similar guidance appears for sub-national governments and other organizations.

NAZCA Portal

The NAZCA portal was launched at the UN climate change conference in Lima in December 2014, to provide the online focus for activities undertaken pursuant to the LPAA (and now, the Paris Agreement).

As of June 2016, the NAZCA portal identifies 11,615 commitments from:

  • 2,090 companies

  • 2,364 cities

  • 167 regions (including US states and Canadian provinces)

  • 448 investors (primarily investment funds and institutional investors)

  • 236 “civil society organizations” (CSOs; including a variety of foundations and civic organizations)

  • 77 cooperative initiatives that include participants from more than one category

The NAZCA portal summarizes these commitments, as a way to memorialize individual actions and to provide examples and guidance to others. Many business commitments include items such as:

  • Set an internal “price for carbon” to use when making business decisions.

  • Reduce specified GHG emissions (CO2, methane, etc.) by X% by a target date.

  • Increase energy efficiency by X% by a target date.

  • Reduce per-unit energy use, water use, and/or other material use by X% by a target date.

  • Quantify and manage sourcing to reduce deforestation.

  • Become “carbon neutral” by a target date.

Other Information Sources

Readers will know, of course, that many organizations provide their own lists of projects, guidance towards activities, and advocacy for preferred solutions. The UN partners with a number of such organizations, as “core data partners” to the NAZCA effort – these consist of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Carbonn Climate Registry, The Climate Group, the Investors on Climate Change, the UN Global Compact, the Covenant of Mayors, and the Climate Bonds Initiative.

Self-Assessment Checklist

Has the organization identified activities that cause GHG emissions?

Does the organization compile this information:

  • For internal use in managing our activities?

  • For internal use in setting goals?

  • For external publication and/or reporting to specific third parties (such as customers or shareholders) and/or the general public?

Has the organization developed approaches to reducing its GHG emissions:

  • In response to governmental requirements?

  • In response to requests or requirements from customers?

  • In order to enhance its reputation among stakeholders and/or with the public?

Has the organization issued a formal public commitment to undertake specified activities to reduce GHG emissions?

If so, has the organization provide this commitment to the UN’s NAZCA portal?

Where Can I Go For More Information?

  • UN Framework Convention 

Specialty Technical Publishers (STP) provides a variety of single-law and multi-law services, intended to facilitate clients’ understanding of and compliance with requirements. These include:

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About the Author

jon_f_elliott.jpgJon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 25 years. He was involved in developing 12 existing products, including Environmental Compliance: A Simplified National Guide and The Complete Guide to Environmental Law.

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).

You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at: tei@ix.netcom.com.


 

photo credit: View of the Eiffel from the bridge via photopin (license)

Tags: EHS, Health & Safety, climate change, global, ghg, Greenhouse Gas