COP21: Climate Change Victory or Failure Déjà Vu?

COP21: Climate Change Victory or Failure Déjà Vu?

Global leaders are converged in Paris. Is climate action actually here?
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Green Builder Media CEO, Sara Gutterman

Green Builder Media

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 6:00am

CAMPAIGN: Ethical and Sustainable Living


The world has waited with bated breath to see what, if anything, would come out of the United Nation’s COP21 climate summit this week. Some have been overjoyed with the outcome, citing groundbreaking commitments and a final agreement that may reach beyond initial expectations.

Others claim defeat, asserting that the lack of binding commitments will cause Paris to be a repeat of Copenhagen—a set of empty promises that have no real method of enforcement. Critics state that the lack of real accountability will likely lead to widespread reneging, alluding to the Kyoto Protocol, which was not ratified by the U.S. Senate specifically because of the lack of enforceability. They also point out that in order to take real action and spend money, the President will need agreement from Congress, which has become more unlikely than flying pigs these days.

In my opinion, the Paris talks are a far cry from Copenhagen, namely because these meetings brought a tour de force of corporate commitments to climate action. In a dizzying display, company after company, industry after industry threw bold commitments into the ring, showing unprecedented support for a transition to a low carbon economy and a clear understanding of how a changing climate will negatively impact businesses of all kinds. I believe that the private sector’s acute pressure on world leaders to agree on and execute a global climate deal that mitigates global warming, dramatically reduces emissions, and expedites a low-carbon economy will be the thing that turns the tide in the climate action battle.

As one example, apparel companies including Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., VF Corporation, H&M, Eileen Fisher, Adidas Group and Burton Snowboards pledged to work together to reduce the textile industry’s environmental impact. In a joint statement, the companies affirmed that, “Drought, changing temperatures and extreme weather will make the production of apparel more difficult and costly. Climate change mitigation and technological innovation are vital to the health and well-being of those who make and use our products, as well as the future supply of materials needed to make those products.”

In the construction industry, the hubbub was around the launch of a new Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, comprised of governments and organizations from across the globe vested in green building (including multinational giants GlaxoSmithKline, Interface, Lloyds Banking Group, Philips, and Tesco), focused on making all new facilities net zero energy by 2030 and all existing buildings net zero by 2050.


CATEGORY: Environment