France has submitted its long-term climate action plan to the UN in which it sets the target of a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 and a 75% reduction by 2050, both compared to a 1990 baseline. High levels of nuclear and hydro generation in France mean that it already has a low level of CO2 per capita compared to other developed nations , with energy production only contributing to 12% of all greenhouse gases in France. Therefore, to obtain its longterm goals, particular focus will be given to the two highest emitting activities: transport, and the buildings sector. An objective of a 54% reduction in emissions from buildings has been set for the third carbon budget period (20242028), to be achieved through measures such as thermal regulation and eco-design.
The action plan is in line with guidance under the Paris Agreement, which invites the 125 signatory countries to develop “mid-century, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies” by 2020. These strategies are intended to go further than the shorterterm targets already in place, estimated to collectively achieve a limit to global warming of 2.7°C above pre-industrial levels. Under the Paris Agreement, the aim is to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change, underpinning the requirement for more stringent and clear goals going forward. Long-term strategies include the use of measures such as carbon sinks and sequestration, with detailed plans having so far been submitted by France, the United States, Mexico, Germany, and Canada.
The United States set its short-term targets at a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 26-28 % in 2025, compared to 2005 levels. It is currently on track to achieve its 2020 target and has laid the foundation for achieving its 2025 target, although the pace of emissions reductions will need to double after 2020. The US mid-century strategy envisions an economy-wide net greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 80% or more below 2005 levels by 2050. The three courses of action to achieve these goals are specified as:
There is speculation that the change of administration in the US could jeopardise its inclusion in the global climate agreement, possibly presenting a risk to the whole agreement, but policy direction is as yet unknown. The Paris Agreement obtained enough signatories to enter into force in November 2016, and the first meeting of its parties was held in Marrakech at the end of November, demonstrating that cooperation continues and that implementation is underway.
Alongside action to reduce emissions, importance is also being given to adaptation. With the average temperature in 2015 being recorded as 1.3C above pre-industrial levels, countries must consider how their populations will prepare for further warming. Recently released data shows that 2016 was hotter still, although it should be noted it was a year of a strong El Niño. A new national adaptation plan is due to be published in the UK in 2018 in response to the risks of flooding and water shortages and risks to both domestic and international food production.
The continuation of the Paris Agreement and setting of long-term targets will continue to influence the direction of government’s energy policy and support the development of clean energy. While financial support for renewable generation is still required in the short term, indications are that the costs of wind and solar are falling sharply, with Bloomberg’s 2016 New Energy Outlook predicting that by 2040 the cost of onshore wind generation will fall by 41% and solar PV by 60%. Bloomberg expects that “these two technologies become the cheapest ways of producing electricity in many countries during the 2020s and in most of the world in the 2030s”.
Written By – Nikki Wilson