BBC News: It’s been reported this morning that China has announced that it will formally ratify the Paris Climate Change Agreement, paving the way for a joint US / China statement on global warming later today. The country is the largest emitter of harmful C02 emissions. To discuss this we are joined from our London Studio by Tom Burke, from the Environmental Think Tank E3G.
Morning, It’s difficult to know where to start on this isn’t it, because there is so much for them to get through, and certainly at this point, there are several people on the global stage trying to put their name against this aren’t they? President Obama, for example, is one of them.
Tom Burke: That’s right, but it’s important to remember that the agreement that we got in Paris was better than most people expected, partly following a joint initiative by Obama and Xi in the middle of last year, and I think that’s what they are planning to do again this afternoon. So I don’t think it should be seen it as a misalignment between the Chinese and the Americans. I think that there is a real sense that if they speak together on this issue they are going to add real momentum to the process of getting ratification to complete.
BBC News: So the significance of the Paris agreement was “to keep any temperature increase globally to below 2 degrees” how are they suggesting that can be achieved?
Tom Burke: What is really important about the Paris agreement is that it didn’t only set that goal, but it also set up a mechanism to keep countries rolling forward towards achieving it. In a sense, Paris represents the turning point. We are moving from a situation in which all the focus was on how dealing with climate change would constrain your economy, to a situation in which we are increasingly focused on how dealing with climate change creates amazing opportunities to kick your economy back to life. We are seeing also that the political risks of not doing something about climate change are growing. This year will be the hottest year ever for the third consecutive year. Whereas the political risks of actually dealing with climate change are falling very rapidly as the costs of renewables, and the costs of all the alternatives, of a low-carbon economy, go through the floor.
BBC News: How easy will it be to police this agreement? And how legally binding might it be?
Tom Burke: I think people are concerned about whether other countries will perform their part of the role. There is no international police force in the way that there is an international court that can force you to do things, in that sense, you can’t put a gun to people’s head and force them to do it. But what you are seeing in the Paris Agreement is that you can create real transparency, and reporting on what people are actually doing. So that you have a very transparent process and everybody can see what everybody else is doing, and you have a ratchet mechanism, for every few years, lifting up the targets that people have set. But if you only think about this as people being forced to do something that they don’t want to do, you are missing the trick about the extent to which this is now increasingly opportunity driven, rather than constraint driven.
Sky News: Tom Burke, thank you very much.