As the world tries to stay below that two degree Celsius target, what are the specifics for technology’s role in the process?
The weekend’s UN climate agreement in Paris (called The Paris Agreement) has been hailed as a major step forward for a world grappling with the impact of global warming.
The most important outcome of the summit is an international arrangement to keep 2030 global temperatures below two degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) increase from pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Furthermore, it made a pledge to attempt to keep global temperatures at around a 1.5 degree Celsius rise (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Two degrees Celsius is the number tabbed by scientists as the point at which the planet will find itself on a potentially irreversible track towards severe global environmental impacts.
Is there a way for startups to help? Of course!
A major hope for international leadership is somehow a silver bullet technology is discovered — a problem entrepreneurs very much can help solve.
Because major media outlets have wide audiences, their front-page headlines are broad. Considering our audience, let’s get into the weeds.
The following are highlights of specific tech-related paragraphs from The Paris Agreement and how it may help startups leverage governments and finance to solve one of the biggest problems facing the international community.
Paragraph 25 — A government plan
The paragraph says governments must submit proposals to the secretariat between nine months and a year ahead of Conference of Parties (the governing body of an international convention).
Basically it is the logistical backbone for Article Four.
Article Four expresses that parties lay out a global peak for greenhouse gas emissions. A good example is the agreement last year made between the United States and China in which the Asian giant targetted 2030 as the year its CO2 output would decline.
Paragraph 25 expressly states that countries must make similar targets ahead of each Conference of Parties.
For companies, it may be difficult in a country like India, China or Japan to influence the national proposals. But if a startup’s technology in a small country becomes a game-changer, the company could become a piece of evidence used to support an administration’s peak greenhouse gas proposal.
That would be a huge boon for both stability and financing.
Paragraph 39 through 41 — Advice for Science and Technology
The three paragraphs introduces the Advice for Science and Technology committee and lay out the agency’s guidelines.
In general, the body will set up rules that, through following the directions laid out in the document, support sustainable development while keeping the climate propositions intact.
In a paragraph above it (number 38), the UN Climate Council essentially empowers the Conference of Parties to adapt policies according to the environmental situation at the time of the summit.
Advice for Science and Technology is focussed entirely on its namesake and will be in charge of proposing adaptations in accordance to Paragraph 38.
In paragraph 40, the body is tasked to “undertake a work programme under the framework for non-market approaches to sustainable development” and to figure out how these non-market approaches can be used to protect the environment.
Paragraph 41 is very similar to paragraph 25 (submitting proposals for climate change) except directed specifically at tech.
If the Subsidiary Body for Science and Technology Advice proposes new rules and mechanisms applicable to startups, it would be wise to understand how they impact the your company.
Paragraph 58 — Financing for Tech
The most important paragraph because it covers money.
At this point, it is a logistical statement, but in the years to come, it will be the guideline for the process of delegating finance.
The paragraph stipulates the Subsidiary Body for Science and Technology Advice must build a plan to distribute funds for technological advancement.
It says the financial resources must be “provided and mobilised through public interventions” in accordance with a later Article stipulating the need for transparency.
How the UN Climate Changes will finance its agenda is the most important question for the deal’s success or failure, and Paragraph 58 puts the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice in charge of the money for the tech industry.
Paragraphs 66 through 71 — Technology Development and Transfer
The value of these five paragraphs is that they hold such a prominent place in the agreement.
World leaders are sending a message that they consider technology as the key to a sustainable future and have cordoned off a large chunk of the agreement to achieve those ends.
Notable highlights include emphasis on research and development and how tech gets implemented into the organic world.
It also brings into the picture two other agencies — Technology Executive Committee and the Climate Technology Centre and Network — which will have a role to play as climate change moves forward.
Expected governmental policies include regular check-ups, needs assessments and finding barriers to development.
Paragraph 95 – Section D — Transparency and reporting in tech
The Paris Agreement establishes a system for transparency that includes regular reporting with high standards.
What is interesting about this section is the phrase:
“enhancing the reporting by developing countries on support received, including the use, impact and estimated results thereof;”
If the phrase is successfully implemented, it could go a long way to understanding the tech development and financial situations in the opaque parts of the world.
Article 10 — Highlighting the importance of technology
Six paragraphs long, the Article is the motivations and justifications behind the logistical paragraphs. It speaks in broad strokes and emphasises cooperation.
Plus, it places authority on the guidelines, development and deployment of techniques agreed upon.
One quote nicely encapsulates the reasoning why tech-related content held such prominence in the agreement:
“Parties share a long-term vision on the importance of fully realising technology development and transfer in order to improve resilience to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The agreement is focussed on future development and financing. It does not delve into how specific technologies, like solar or nuclear, can, or should, be implemented in the future.
As the agreement has a very long-term focus, this is both practical and smart, but its forward-looking approach puts a lot of pressure on the technology sector to produce a solution.
On a micro-level, it presents an immense opportunity. For companies or government agencies to have United Nations support to put time and money into solving climate change is a big deal.
In places like Silicon Valley, startups are already reaping benefits from society’s shift towards finding alternative energy and The Paris Agreement will only strengthen the reality.
However, it also places a burden on technology to find the magic potion to cure environmental woes — something, as of the present, it has not achieved.
The Paris Agreement will officially be open for signature starting April 22, 2015 in New York City. The UN will allow a year for other countries to sign the agreement.
To read the full agreement. Click here.
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