The COP 21 negotiations concluded in December in Paris with an un-paralleled global deal to tackle climate change. As well as clearly setting out a limit to the planet’s temperature rise, it has also set a pathway to achieve this, including money for poorer countries to adapt.
The deal signifies a new way for the world to achieve progress, with a renewed recognition that emissions and economic growth can be decoupled. The move away from fossil fuels to the low carbon economy signals a global shift that has the potential to change the world for the better.
After two weeks of intense negotiations, the deal limits the rise in global temperatures to less than 2°C. This is the first to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions.
Nearly 200 countries took part in the negotiations to strike the first climate deal committing all countries to cut emissions, which will come into force in 2020. The G77 group of developing countries, and nations such as China and India have declared their support for the proposals.
The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary in an acknowledgement that previous talks such as Copenhagen 2009 failed due to the attempt to impose emissions targets on countries. China, India and South Africa were, at the time, unwilling to sign up to commitments that they felt may inhibit their economic growth.
The COP 21 deal was welcomed by representatives of the world’s least developed countries, as well as leaders such as Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping.
Minor metals are essential for a range of renewable energy technologies that will need to be developed in order for the world to move away from fossil fuels and keep the global temperature increase to ‘well below’ 2°C. Shares in renewable energy companies rose slightly on the news of this deal, whereas those of fossil fuel providers dropped.
The contribution of minor metals to renewable energy technologies is detailed further in the document ‘Minor Metals: Renewable Energy Technologies’ written by the MMTA’s Sustainability Working Group. Needless to say minor metals are of paramount importance from solar panels to electric vehicles. If countries are serious about their commitment to this deal then there must be investment in developing technologies that will not contribute to further global temperature rises. In theory, this agreement should provide a great opportunity for the minor metals industry supplying these essential innovations.
There are, of course, weaknesses in the deal. It has been criticised for its lack of legally binding targets, and has also been accused of being just promises rather than concrete actions. A crucial point that needs to be considered is that the countries need to still ratify the agreement, so at the moment they have decided what they ought to be doing but haven’t committed to actually take the steps necessary. It will require serious political will to deliver on this.
- China saw by far the biggest renewable energy investments in 2014 — a record $83.3 billion, up 39% from 2013. The US was second at $38.3 billion, up 7% on the year but well below its all-time high reached in 2011. Third came Japan, at $35.7 billion, 10% higher than in 2013 and its biggest total ever.
- A key feature of the 2014 result was the rapid expansion of renewables into new markets in developing countries. Investment in developing countries, at $131.3 billion, was up 36% on the previous year and came the closest ever to overhauling the total for developed economies, at $138.9 billion, up just 3% on the year. Additional to China, Brazil ($7.6 billion), India ($7.4 billion) and South Africa ($5.5 billion) were all in the top 10 of investing countries while more than $1 billion was invested in Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Kenya and Turkey.
- Wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-power, geothermal, small hydro and marine power contributed an estimated 9.1% of world electricity generation in 2014, compared to 8.5% in 2013. This would be equivalent to a saving of 1.3 gigatonnes of CO2 taking place as a result of the installed capacity of those renewable sources.
- 2014 was dominated by record investments in solar and wind, which accounted for 92% of overall investment in renewable power and fuels. Investment in solar jumped 29% to $149.6 billion, the second highest figure ever, while wind investment increased 11% to a record $99.5 billion. These expenditures added 49GW of wind capacity and 46GW of solar PV, both records.
- Investment in Europe advanced less than 1% to $57.5 billion. There were seven billion-dollar-plus financings of offshore wind projects, boosting the investment totals for the Netherlands, the UK and Germany. These included, at the euro equivalent of $3.8 billion, the largest single renewable energy asset finance deal ever, outside large hydro – that of the 600MW Gemini project in Dutch waters.