A Renewed Outlook on Emissions
Posted by: Westcor International

By Matthew Andrews, Underwriter, Titlesolv


In accordance with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, industrialised nations pledged to cut their yearly carbon emissions, as measured in six greenhouse gases, by an average of 5.2% by 2012 as compared to 1990. 


The agreement was a legally binding measure and came into effect in 2005. By that point however, global emissions had risen rather than fallen meaning that most industrialised nations had fallen woefully short of their targets. In fact the two biggest emitters – the United States and China – had increased their emissions so much during this period that it almost erased the reductions made by other countries.


In addition to these shortcomings the United States and Australia never ratified the agreement whilst not all countries around the world, most notably Japan, ever signed it.


The US argued that its unwillingness to do so was due to the lack of involvement of developing countries, whilst some countries would be reducing emissions in accordance with the targets set out in Kyoto, developing countries would simply be ‘topping these up’.


The targets set in Kyoto expired in 2012.


Over a decade later the Copenhagen Accord, signed by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa in 2009 attempted to take the baton from Kyoto and improve on it.


Despite much promise however it failed to do so. The Accord did not spell out any penalties for countries that did not comply and the targets themselves were vaguely worded - they merely ‘recognised’ the ‘scientific view’ that temperatures should not rise more than 2C. Also the agreement was not legally binding and did not contain a provision as to when it had to be so. Therefore meaning that the provisions were not enforceable.


Following these rather lacklustre summits international diplomats were under mounting pressure to produce clear and universal targets to tackle climate change.


The Paris Climate Conference (COP21) was seen as a chance to succeed where many others had failed and was hailed as a major success upon its completion. The conference took place in December 2015 and saw 195 countries adopt the first-ever universal global climate deal.


The main points of the deal were:


  • To keep global temperatures "well below" a 2C (3.6F) increase from pre-industrial levels and "endeavour to limit" them to 1.5C
  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100
  • To review each country's contribution to emissions cuts every five years in order for them to meet the challenge
  • For rich countries to help poorer nations meet their targets by providing "climate finance" to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy


The deal is not entirely legally binding but the significant progress it represents can be seen in the language used and the commitments made to reconvene every five years and to switch to renewable energy. In addition the increased knowledge of renewable energy and the pressure to utilise it will go a long way to ensure that promises will be kept this time around.


The true effect of COP21 on the UK is yet to be seen - the Climate Change Committee is due this year to give advice on whether domestic carbon targets need to be more rigorous following the targets outlined in Paris.


It can justifiably be argued that the extent of political pressure on the Conservative Government led to solar subsidies being cut by less than expected in 2015 as it was widely considered that without the Liberal Democrats in government; the sector was going to be hit far harder. This shows the force behind renewable energy and the governments backtracking shows an encouraging sign for the sector as a whole.


Renewable energy projects inevitably play an important role in reducing emissions and greenhouse gas levels as shown in the recently released statistics for energy-related global carbon emissions. The level was the same for a second consecutive year in 2015 even though the global economy has grown. This is widely considered to be as a result of a record $328.9 billion global investment in clean power.


The renewables revolution is well under way and we intend to continue our support for the industry by strategically and systematically tracking market trends and creating new products to enable deal completion. Title insurance assists by mitigating risks discovered during standard diligence on large projects; it is fundamental to securing funding where injunctive relief and legal costs exposures can significantly impact on project bankability. The product can also help investors in energy saving installations reduce costs via reduced title diligence. A wide array of bespoke policies for a range of transactions within the sector from single assets to portfolios of partly consented and existing projects are now available and have already played an important part in supporting the transformation of the renewables sector.

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