The 2015 international Paris Agreement sets out aims, but is not legally binding. Perhaps as a result, we have some relatively ambitious targets in the UK but few policies to deliver the action needed. The science has also moved on considerably since 2015. It’s now clearer than ever how important it is to try to keep the global average temperature rise within 1.5ºC. UN scientists have written an entire report on the importance of not crossing that threshold. 

By passing the CEE Bill, the Government would be making a legally-binding commitment to follow the science and do what is necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C. This will provide the certainty needed for businesses to invest in solutions to the climate crisis. It will send a clear message that the Government is serious about protecting our environment and our way of life. The UK will then be set to lead the way for the world as we host the COP26 climate talks this November.

Answer

The Paris Agreement is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—an international treaty on climate change. It was signed and incorporated into the UNFCCC on 12 December 2015 with 191 member states ratifying it. 

The Paris Agreement sets out an aim to limit global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to ‘well below 2°C’ whilst ‘pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C’. But this is not legally-binding. Each member state has to provide National Determined Contributions (‘NDC’s) pledging emissions reductions, but only every five years - which encourages delay and prevarication.

The CEE Bill would see the most ambitious end of the Paris Agreement - 1.5°C - placed into UK law. A focus on global temperature rather than a net zero date (see [link to FAQ2.4]) will ensure we do not get bogged down with debate over what is politically viable, and instead focus on delivering what is scientifically necessary. The CEE Bill also sets annual climate targets (instead of our current five-yearly ones), with annual targets for restoring and protecting nature too. 

The CEE Bill will set into UK law the Paris Agreement principles of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ and ‘respective capabilities’ (CbDR & RC’ principles). These principles establish that wealthier, higher polluting countries with far greater responsibility for the climate crisis, must go further and faster than others. Developed nations will also provide technological and financial support to help poorer nations in their transition. Yet under the Paris Agreement, there is no obligation on countries to keep to their word, which is why the UK has been able to ignore these principles in its current climate legislation. 

In what way has the UK ignored the CbDR & RC principles? MORE [the inset bit below]

Our Net Zero by 2050 legislation is based on advice from the Climate Change Committee. The CCC says that our plan is sufficient to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C but it is based on the unrealistic expectation that all countries will cut emissions as quickly as the UK. Here is the key excerpt from the CCC’s May 2019 report.

If replicated across the world, and coupled with ambitious near-term reductions in emissions, it would deliver a greater than 50% chance of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C.‘

We know that even if less developed continents like Africa reduce emissions per person, expected population growth along with industrial development will cause overall emissions to rise, not fall. So in order for the world to cut emissions fast enough to stay within its carbon budget, more developed countries like ours will need to cut emissions faster than the average to compensate. The CEE Bill would ensure that the UK makes a realistic plan consistent with the CbDR & RC principles that we have already signed up to.

The Bill would make the UK a world leader in the race to cut emissions, driving major investment in areas like renewable energy and home retrofit, creating huge numbers of jobs, as well as cleaning our air and protecting and restoring nature.