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Monday 30 November, 2015

COP21: A new journey will begin at the Paris conference

Between 30 November and 11 December, Paris will host the latest - and arguably most important - UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21). The conference, which brings together policy makers, business leaders and NGOs, will aim to achieve an international agreement on climate change to keep global temperature increase to no more than 2oC. 

Much has changed since Copenhagen hosted the last set of significant global climate negotiations in 2009. Whilst the majority of observers deemed the Copenhagen talks to have failed there is significant optimism around COP21. So what’s different this time around? 

First and most importantly the process is entirely different. Whilst previous efforts have aimed to deliver a top-down global agreement, this time the UN has opted for a bottom-up approach, inviting countries to submit voluntary national carbon reduction targets. The approach has already been a success with over 160 Countries and regions - including the European Union - submitting ambitious targets. 

While the combined total of national targets does not yet meet the desired 2 degree goal, there is significant optimism that the momentum from COP21 will deliver a step-change in national climate policies and climate related investments which will keep this goal “within reach”. 

Secondly non-state actors, including the business community in Europe and beyond, have played an important role in the run-up to COP21 by setting ambitious carbon reduction targets and by supporting calls for policy makers to do the same. 

At CCE we are clear on the risks that continued climate change has on our business. We play an active role in the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change and we’ve signed a number of the high profile Road to Paris climate commitments. Significantly, our commitment to ‘halve the carbon footprint of our core business operations’ by 2020 has been externally recognized as being fully aligned with the needs of climate science – one of just six companies to do so. 

So will COP21 deliver a meaningful international climate agreement which accelerates the transition to a low carbon economy?  There is much for policy makers to discuss in the coming days but the following issues will be key: 

Firstly, how do we keep 2oC within reach? Whilst we know that the sum-total of current carbon reduction pledges don’t go far enough, a successful agreement will require Governments to “regularly review” and strengthen commitments on a regular basis, possibly every five years. Key to the negotiations will be the setting of a clear and credible long-term carbon reduction goal and a clear timetable for review. 

Secondly we’ll see significant focus on clean energy, carbon pricing & fossil fuels. Transition to a low-carbon economy will depend on effective national policies and mechanisms, which support renewable energy, create a robust price for carbon and eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels. Businesses are playing their part, and at CCE we’ve committed to ensuring that at least 40% of all of the energy we use is from renewable or low-carbon sources.

Thirdly we’ll see considerable focus on climate solutions – a topic backed by the French Government to focus on the many different solutions which already exist and can to help the transition to a low carbon economy. CCE will be part of SolutionsCOP21, a major public-facing exhibition dedicated to climate solutions. We’ll showcase our efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of our packaging. 

As always, significant finance - including an annual $100bn climate finance fund by 2020 - will be required to support countries in the developing world to contribute in a meaningful way and to adapt to climate change. 

These topics and the wider role of business in tackling climate change will be central to a business roundtable which CCE will host in Paris during COP21 in partnership with the Financial Times.

Having signed the UN Global Compact Caring for Climate Business Statement, we will also be attending the Caring for Climate Business Forum where businesses and investors will meet with governments, civil society and the UN to advance the climate agenda. 

It all adds up to a landmark moment in the fight against climate change. The “We Mean Business” Coalition (which includes the Climate Leaders Group) has set out its expectations of a successful COP21 agreement. Going into the next fortnight everything points in the right direction. Yet we need the world’s policy makers to listen to the clear ‘fix climate change’ message delivered by business leaders, the scientific community and civil society and enshrined recently in the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Joe Franses

Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Director

Joe is Director of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability at Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). His role is to continually evolve CCE’s sustainability strategy and to advise CCE on how to put sustainability at the heart of day to day business. You can also follow him on Twitter at @JoeFranses

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