Business leaders hail Paris climate deal

Business leaders hail Paris climate deal

As the dust settles on the "historic" Paris Agreement secured at United Nations talks in the French capital, it is clear that tackling climate change is going to require much more than a piece of paper.

Scientists warn that meeting the target contained in the new climate change deal to keep temperature rises to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels - let alone the more stringent aim of curbing increases to 1.5C - will require keeping the majority of existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

It will require a transformation of the global economy to clean energy, greater efficiency, and more sustainable agriculture and forestry.

The pledges made by countries in the run-up to the talks on the action they would take to tackle the problem up to 2030 are not enough to meet the 2C goal

And despite a five-year review system which could see countries increase their ambition, a number of experts have warned the deal agreed on Saturday is not clear enough on how to meet the long term targets.

But a significant aim of the deal was to send a signal to business and investors that the world was now heading down a low carbon path.

Unlike six years ago, when countries tried and failed to get a global climate deal at talks in Copenhagen in the wake of the economic crash, companies are seeing the opportunities in low carbon innovation and investment, amid tumbling prices of clean technology, and it is hoped the deal will boost that further.

Major firms including Unilever, Mars, Ikea and Microsoft were among those who have welcomed the outcome from Paris.

Nigel Topping, chief executive of the We Mean Business coalition of organisations working with thousands of businesses on the move to a low carbon economy, said: "The world's governments have sent a decisive signal to businesses and investors that will accelerate the shift towards a thriving, clean global economy.

"The Paris Agreement will turn the billions of investment we've seen so far into the trillions the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all."

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said: "We have an opportunity to build a new economy, and business is poised to help make it happen. The 'Paris effect' will ensure the economy of the future is driven by clean energy."

Prof Simon Lewis, Professor of global change science, University College London, queried whether the deployment of renewable technologies would be quick enough and cheap enough to keep fossil fuels in the ground, adding "I hope so".

"The proof will be whether globally investors shun fossil fuels and we soon see coal companies going out of business while investments in renewable technologies skyrocket," he said.

Not all companies will do well from such a change, of course, with the coal industry already described by Goldman Sachs as in terminal decline.

The World Coal Association responded to the Paris Agreement by calling for support for "low emissions coal technologies" and the need to speed up efforts to deploy technology which captures emissions from power stations and industry and stores them permanently underground.