The Paris Agreement and the Green Economy

imagesThe adverse impacts of climate change are no secret. We are constantly reminded of the gloomy consequences that will arise at our continued rate of consumption without significant intervention. It is predicted that growing wage gaps combined with climate change will cause over 100 million people to fall into poverty. Moreover, this alarming statistic could impact the well being of children in Africa and Asia, causing 120 million to suffer from malnourishment by 2030. Current projections indicate that our urban footprint will likely triple, demand for food will increase by 35%, and the world’s water needs are expected to rise by 40%.The adverse effects of climate change are not exclusive to impoverished and marginalized communities. By 2030 global economic loss is expected to reach 3.2%, indicating that even the private sector is not immune.

With the Paris Agreement, the paradigm shifted to place international focus on the transition from a traditional economy to a green economy ̶ meaning one that recognizes the relationship between environmental sustainability, economic development, and climate change. Under the Paris Agreement, countries must submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to mitigating global climate change while operating within their national environmental and economic objectives. These NDCs set national targets by utilizing mitigation and adaptation mechanisms. Cumulatively, the commitments established by each country aim to meet the Paris Agreement’s objective of holding the increase in global temperature to “well below 2⁰C.” The implementation of mitigation and adaptation mechanisms require funding and corporate involvement to perform the work. In this manner, the Paris Agreement has propelled the green economy forward. As United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently stated, “Those that will be betting on the implementation of the Paris Agreement, on the green economy, will be the ones that have a leading role in the economy of the 21st century.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) announced in its annual report, World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs, that 24 million new “green” jobs will be created globally by 2030. Likewise, within the same timeframe, the green economy is anticipated to offset predicted economic losses in traditional industries. The drastic advancements in renewable energy technology and innovation also support this assertion.  For instance, more development in solar and hydroelectric energy technology reduced the demand for coal-based energy in many countries. In addition to this, industry leaders such as Microsoft and Amazon developed cloud-based computing services that enable small companies to reduce 90% of their CO2 footprint. What is even more impressive is that the green economy’s net-worth now exceeds that of the fossil fuel sector (6% of the global stock market), according to a report by FTSE Russel. All of which lends credence to the words of ILO Deputy Director-General, Deborah Greenfield, who insisted that the green economy “can enable millions more people to overcome poverty and deliver improved livelihoods.”

Without a doubt, the green economy’s momentum shows no signs of stopping and has grown to exceed $1 trillion USD. However, this raises the question of how well-prepared are countries to handle the transition to a low-carbon economy. It is important to note even the green economy must be properly guided with the right policies.  The aggregate collaboration from countries committed to the Paris Agreement is promising, and could provide the impetus for such guidance and direction for a sustainable economic shift. Only time will tell.