The Paris Climate Change Agreement took a huge leap forward on 3 September when the world's two biggest economies and emitters of greenhouse gases – the USA and China – announced that they would formally ratify the accord.
This brings hope that the deal will be concluded this year. It also piles pressure on the UK to swiftly formalise its commitment to a contract it shaped and take its place among the 55 countries (representing 55% of global emissions) required to bring the Paris agreement into force.
The Paris agreement obligates countries to deliver on emissions-cutting pledges made before the deal in 2015. This would commit the EU to reducing emissions by 40% by 2030 on 1990 levels, and the US by up to 28% by 2025 compared with 2005. Countries would also share an aspiration to keep temperatures below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
It remains to be seen what any post Brexit commitment of the UK will look like, although the UK government has already committed to slashing CO2 emissions by 57 per cent between 2028 and 2032, against 1990 levels. This ambition was set out in the fifth carbon budget, which passed into law in July.
It also remains to be seen how binding the Paris agreement will be in delivering the targeted emissions reductions, but it is a giant step forward in the battle against global warming.
It is encouraging that the G20 has signalled its backing to green finance reforms and confirmed plans to explore greater international co-operation to promote energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency is key to global decarbonisation and is the simple step that organisations can take immediately to improve energy and carbon management while the policymakers get their plans together. Despite the truth that the greenest unit of energy is the one that's not used, and that organisations can make low and zero cost savings of up to 20% by embracing energy efficiency, many are reluctant to do so.
In its energy efficiency strategy, the government estimated that with appropriate policy support business and public sector energy use could be cost effectively reduced by 9 TWh annually between 2012 and 2020, saving these customers more than £570 million in energy costs, in addition to carbon and competitiveness benefits.
While there's a political vacuum, it's vital that organisations turn aggressively to energy demand reduction to mitigate environmental impact.
From hundreds of energy audits completed by Inprova Energy, our assessors have identified energy savings opportunities ranging from 5 to 20%. But the difficulty is transforming these audits into action.
The benefits are obvious, but the difficult job is in shaking off the 'Cinderella' status of energy efficiency and shifting it up the corporate agenda from plant room to board room.
If this can be achieved, we can make a positive start on translating political intent on climate change into reality, and save money while we're at it!