Reflections on the 5th Anniversary of the Paris Agreement

There is no vaccine for the planet,” UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres reminded us during his speech on the general state of the planet on December 2nd 2020. And yet, faced with the proliferation of extreme weather events and the increasing risk of a biodiversity loss, it has never been so urgent to find global remedies to combat global warming. Last month we celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement, where the goal set was to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius. Recent data from the World Meteorological Organization notes we are not headed in the right direction with carbon dioxide levels set to continue at record numbers. Guterres urged us all to adopt a decisive collective and individual action plan to achieve carbon neutrality within 30 years, while aligning global finance with the Paris Agreement and adapting our actions to the climate.

Define an ambitious plan to achieve neutrality, what to do and where to start?

For the built environment, analysis, and more particularly life cycle analysis, is the first step to take to measure the carbon impact of an activity and understand where to act, greenhouse gases (GHGs) being the main cause of global warming. Once the results are known, developing an ambitious action plan will reduce our footprint to strive for neutrality. This will involve finding solutions to reduce GHG emissions, and, for uncontrolled emissions, to raise awareness, support and involve stakeholders (suppliers, installers, users, etc. etc.) in the accomplishment of our approach towards zero. Finally, to achieve carbon neutrality, it is possible to offset emissions not avoided over the entire life cycle, by purchasing certified carbon credits, which guarantee full offset of emissions. In this regard, Guterres praised the action of the UN working group to develop a large-scale private carbon offset program. But he also wished to stress the importance of adaptation as a factor in the success of the transition.

Adaptation as a key element of climate action!

Achieving carbon neutrality will not be enough. Now nations, businesses and individuals alike must adapt their actions to promote a quicker return to balance. Each year the costs generated by natural disasters increase. In the first half of 2020, Swiss Re Institute estimates the global economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters at USD 75 billion The impact of this loss has been several major financial institutions are mobilizing to align with the Paris Agreement and foster preventive investments that promote resilience and adaptation to climate change.

Like many global companies including, Dell, Patagonia and Ikea, Interface has set ambitious goal to combat the climate emergency. Through its Climate Take Back™ programme, Interface is focused on reversing global warming and has committed to be a carbon negative enterprise by 2040. Setting ambitious goals is not scary. For 27 years Interface has pioneered a new pathway in commercial flooring and altered the way floor manufacturing to focus on creating something perfect without compromising the climate. It’s possible. As a reward for Interface’s commitment to climate recovery, the company was recently awarded by the UN Award for its climate action in the Carbon Neutral Now category.

One of the development approaches mentioned by Guterres is to reduce our dependence on oil and therefore our carbon footprint, by finding solutions based on nature. This is exactly Interface’s ambition: to offer products that act as carbon store and that get closer to turning off the tap to oil.

The year 2021 could be key for sustainable construction, indeed the World Green Building Council recently announced that it is working with the COP26 President-Designate and UNEP’s Global Alliance for Buildings Construction, to organize a day dedicated to sustainable construction during the COP26.

This type of initiative gives hope that 2021 will turn theory and commitments into urgent action…

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