Climate protection after the Paris Agreement
November 11, 2016 | Reutlingen
Stefan Baumeister, CEO of myclimate Germany, was one of the many business leaders present at the COP21 climate summit in Paris. In his view, the global climate treaty that emerged from that summit, and which came into force this year on November 4th, can be seen as a major breakthrough and a step towards the end of the fossil fuel era. He believes the common objective of “net-zero emissions” enables the realization of the agreed climate targets on a global scale. Sustain Europe managed to catch up with Stefan to ask him a few questions about what kind of role businesses will be able to play in all this, and what sort of opportunities might be on offer.
SE: myclimate strives towards a vision of a “low-carbon-society“. This objective has now been commonly agreed on by 195 nations at the COP21 conference in Paris. How can countries be obliged to meet the agreed targets of the new climate treaty?
SB: With the national climate plans that have been submitted in Paris, we are looking at a global temperature increase of 2.5°C to 3°C. In order to reduce this number to 1.5°C to 2°C, the national plans must become more ambitious.
With the global climate treaty, the countries have entered into a commitment and will have to monitor their objectives closely and adjust them every five years.
Up until now, sanctions are not regularised, but the international ambitions and the increasing pressure will have a significant impact. This has already come true after Paris, as the ratification of the agreement has already been fast-tracked by more than one hundred countries, and has thereby officially entered into force. This stands in no comparison to its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol.
Moreover, it contains supportive tools such as financial assistance. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will verify on a continuous basis if the countries fulfil their objectives and will subsequently report any deviations.
I am very optimistic, that we will already be seeing the first concrete measures for an improved implementation of the treaty in Marrakech.
SE: Which of these measures would you say are most pressing?
SB: The challenge to attain global climate neutrality is enormous. In order to completely substitute fossil energies with renewable energies until 2050 research and development of new technologies are essential.
Furthermore, we will need to continuously keep the focus on forestry and land use projects which will absorb carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.
But the means, the knowledge, and the possibilities to achieve a “net-zero-society“ are clearly available. On our way towards this goal, we need to follow the three principles of “avoid-reduce-offset“ on not just a global, but also on a communal level. Technological innovations in particular will contribute to the first two measures, but each individual also can, and must, contribute to the progress of a sustainable future.
In doing so, we should not neglect the component of offsetting. Innovation needs time, but we only have a limited amount of time available. On the other hand, there are massive opportunities for us as individuals to bear the responsibility of our CO2 emissions and find new ways of mitigating them. Climate protection projects have an incredibly big and an immediately tangible effect. It is worth remembering that many climate mitigation projects are currently not able to get off the ground due to a lack of funding; and here we really need to take our foot off the brake.
SE: In your opinion, what will the climate treaty mean for the European economy?
SB: Ambitious reduction targets are getting a lot of tailwind in Europe. The focus clearly lies on ending the era of fossil fuels. In order to achieve this, a precise framework is needed. Every emission will need a price, just as is already the case in many countries for garbage and waste water. The process of this transformation will come at a cost, but the era of free disposal of greenhouse gases that has been going on unabated for decades is definitely over.
At the same time, the world is crying out for Cleantech technologies. This is where Europe can capitalise on its advantages it can bring to the world stage. For strong and innovative European businesses, as well as for the internationally-leading European research and development centres, remarkably large markets and opportunities are opening up right now.
I would even say that Europe is still holding pole position in this field. Out of this position of strength, the European economy now has to develop and offer solutions that will lead to global success. The importance of decarbonisation is comparable to that of digitalisation. You know, where businesses today risk joining those companies that refused to adapt to the digital age (or at least those businesses that are still around). Nor should we forget that other regions such as China are catching up rapidly. This is a great sign for climate protection on an international level, as well as a challenge for European businesses.
SE: What role should businesses play in implementing the climate targets and if they asked you for advice what tips would you offer them?
SB: Besides the economic focus, businesses also have a moral, ethical and social duty to uphold, and indeed have to be a part of the driving force in the transformation process. In order to fulfil this role, I see four steps that each business, no matter if big or small, will have to undertake:
As a first step, every company, if they do not already do it, should prepare a carbon footprint analysis of their activities and monitor the numbers; true to the old adage: “you can only manage what you measure”. Many companies are already implementing this, but in the future; carbon accounting is expected to become just as commonplace a framework in a business as financial accounting.
Based on those numbers, companies have to develop their own CO2 reduction strategy. The related activities and measures need to be firmly rooted in the business operations, which will also have the added advantage of creating a positive impact on the employees and their ability and motivation to fight climate change.
As an immediate measure, it is also necessary to compensate the remaining inevitable emissions with climate protection projects of the highest quality. This is the way how businesses can immediately initiate climate protection. Offsetting will also function as a driver for their own CO2 reduction strategy, which will be gradually taking effect, so that over time there will be less of a need to offset.
This process needs to be accompanied by a credible and transparent means of communication. In this way, important stakeholders can also be brought on board. The halo effect and reputation of the company can only benefit from this.
SE: As a European-based company, would it not be simply easier and more cost-effective to outsource your climate protection measures abroad, where CO2 compensation projects are far cheaper?
SB: This is a fatal misunderstanding: Climate protection and emissions reduction are always seen strictly as a cost centre. The enormous economic opportunities are completely withheld, even at the risk of being able to keep up with innovative businesses on an international level.
“Avoid-reduce-offset” is not a question of “Either-Or “. We have to invest now in emission reduction on-site as well as abroad. Emissions have to be reduced on both a local and global scale as part of an ongoing energy efficiency and renewable energy development strategy until such time that the climate goals are accomplished. Until then we need to avoid, reduce and offset locally as well as globally.
Even today over 50% of the global CO2 emissions accumulate in developing and emerging nations. Meanwhile especially people in poorer countries suffer a lot under the impacts of climate change. In these countries, funds of high quality compensation projects can provide an exceptionally efficient means of avoiding the effects of greenhouse gases. At the same time, these projects are within themselves a positive means of reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals; to sustainably improve the living conditions of the local population.
SE: Where do you see your organisation’s role in this process?
SB: myclimate is a climate protection partner for businesses. We cover the complete range of “avoid – reduce – offset“ services. From our very own educational projects to a huge variety of consultancy services, we have readily provided accessible and individualised accounting tools to more than 80 international climate protection projects, with at least as many in the pipeline.
As project developers, we track all our climate protection projects, carefully document their values (including their ecological and social impact) with maximum transparency in order to provide our partners with this information for their own communication purposes.
We always approach potential clients/partners with their objectives in mind and with pragmatic solutions. The way we see it, when you’re faced with one of life’s many challenges, you might prefer to seek the advice of close friends instead of tackling it alone, especially when they’ve got the skillset you need. With our experience and expertise and our attention to client needs, we like to see ourselves as that kind of friend.
Stefan Baumeister studied International Management and Economics and held a number of leading executive positions at various IT corporations before founding myclimate Deutschland gGmbH; a branch of the Swiss foundation myclimate, in 2009.
myclimate is a partner for effective climate protection – both locally and globally. Together with partners from the economic sector as well as individuals it wants to shape the future of the world through consultation, education and climate protection projects. myclimate pursues this as a market-oriented and customer-focussed non-profit organisation.
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