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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Paris Moves Nations Toward Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

February 24th, 2016 by Susan Smith

In December 2015, an historic agreement was reached among 195 nations in Paris at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to combat climate change and work towards a low carbon, resilient future, calling to keep global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees C, and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Ed Mazria presenting the China Accord at the UNFCCC COP21 Buildings Day

Ed Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, presenting the China Accord at the UNFCCC COP21 Buildings Day

According the CEO and founder of Architecture 2030, Edward Mazria, who attended the conference, “it was incredible. For the first time governments came together to agree on a long term goal committed to keep global average temperature increase ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.’ What that means is we have to essentially end the fossil fuel era. We have to phase out all fossil fuel CO2 emissions by about 2050 and total emission by 2060-2080. We need to phase out CO2 emissions from power and industrial sectors by about 2050. There’s some leeway on each side of that depending upon the science and then during our total agreements emissions 2080.”
The agreement also aims to strengthen the ability to deal with the impacts of climate change, such as shorelines, melting polar ice, and health hazards, to name a few.

“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and group of countries to go back home with their heads held high,” said Laurent Fabius, president of COP21 UN Climate Change Conference and French Foreign Minister.

French President Francois Hollande told the assembled delegates: “You’ve done it, reached an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud to stand before your children and grandchildren.”
According to a conference press release, the agreement commits all countries to “aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible . . . and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter.” It includes 188 national government submissions – Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – containing the actions each country intends to take to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Mazria says that these initial INDCs submit to the UNFCC, what they are going to do to lower their emissions and reduce GHG. Given their particular circumstances. In the agreement, they have all agreed to a review every five years and to increase their targets and the reduction targets. The current U.S. INDC pledge is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
“Right now if you add up all the INDCs it doesn’t limit the global temperatures by 2 degrees. The idea was to start out with the first INDCs commitment pledge and then to review those pledges every five years and increase the reductions,” says Mazria. “It’s now verified reductions and its all made public. There will be a lot of pressure on the countries to not only meet their commitments but increase their obligations in time.”

The most important thing this agreement does is 1) it lays out publicly what each country is going to do and 2) it sends a message to the markets that this is where the world is headed, Mazria points out. This will shape how building and developing take place and also what kind of power will be used if all emissions must be phased out by the middle of the second half of the century, CO2 emissions by about 2050.

 Chen Zhen, Secretary General of CEDAAB (left) and Leon Qiu, Vice Secretary General of CEDAAB and Principal at DLR Group

Chen Zhen, Secretary General of CEDAAB (left) and Leon Qiu, Vice Secretary General of CEDAAB and Principal at DLR Group

Both developed and developing nations signed on. China has huge problems with pollution and a huge energy demand as a result of their fast infrastructure growth.

They’ve embarked on a clean energy and sustainable energy pathway, and have signed agreements to that end. Just recently the China Accord was signed with 52 international architectural planning firms in China and the Chinese architectural planning firms signed an agreement to pursue zero carbon development, solidified and set out the roadmap. Mazria presented the China Accord on Buildings Day.
“The China Accord is a manifestation of the determination and moral obligations of planners and architects both in China and internationally, that we are taking huge strides to reduce carbon emissions and move towards zero carbon,” said Chen Zhen, Secretary General of the China Exploration & Design Association – Architecture Branch (CEDAAB), in a speech on Buildings day.
Mazria delivered the opening presentation on Buildings Day titled “Road to Zero”, which set the tone for the rest of the day. Referencing Architecture 2030’s submission to the UNFCCC – the Roadmap to Zero Emissions: The Built Environment in a Global Transformation to Zero Emissions report – he demonstrated how a combination of reducing the built environment’s demand for fossil fuel energy while increasing the world’s supply of renewable energy sources will meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term 1.5°C goal.

Many alliances were formed, with 1,000 representatives from local governments, and pledges by cities to reduce emissions. Most of the emissions — 75% — come from cities worldwide.

Many private sector companies are pledging emissions reductions also. 2255 cities and 2000 companies have made commitments.

There were separate agendas for cities and states at the conference. California has an agreement called Under2MOU between states and provinces and regions worldwide. It began with a few states in the U.S. and Canadian and Mexican provinces and states, and by the time they announced it in Paris, French provinces as well as others all over the world have signed onto this agreement to reduce emissions.

“Now we can put pressure on power companies as well globally which hasn’t been able to be done before,” says Mazria. “There’s been no been no clear path, people say why should we do something if the other countries aren’t going to do something. This eliminates all that kind of discussion and puts us on a path forward. This is the limit, everybody is going to figure out how they’re going to do it, we’ll continue to increase our ambitions. When you send that kind of message the wheels start turning and all kinds of possibilities open up.”

The technology is available and ready for reducing emissions. Collection of sunlight has been a big issue but now that is solved and the next issue is storage of power. These alternatives will be less expensive and less damaging than fossil fuels.

China’s enthusiasm is infectious. They produce most of the worlds GHG, and they are ready to take action with their five-year plan for sustainable development, lower emissions and getting their air quality under control. Once that happens we will most likely see India and other countries follow suit.

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Categories: 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11, 2D, 3D, 3D PDF, collaboration, construction, visualization

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