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Global agreements

This section provides an overview of global agreements on climate change.
Paris Climate Agreement - in the hand of a politician on a yellow background

Only with a coordinated approach and action at the global, regional, national and local levels, can climate change mitigation be achieved. There are a few global agreements on climate change that are relevant for the built environment, the most famous being The UN Conference of the Parties (or COP) Climate Change Conference. We explore these here.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference

The UN Climate Change Conference, or the Conference of the Parties (also known as COP) is an annual conference where member countries  meet to assess progress in tackling climate change. It started in the mid-1990s in order to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol (a commitment that industrialised countries transition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions).

A landmark year was the 2015 COP (COP21) in Paris, which negotiated what is now known as the ‘Paris Agreement’. This agreement saw 196 countries commit to the goal to take action to limit temperature rises to ‘well below 2 degrees and pursue efforts to limit rises below 1.5 degrees’. As mentioned previously, the 1.5 degree threshold is extremely important, to avoid the most catastrophic impacts and extreme weather events that climate change will bring. This will involve achieving net zero emissions for the global economy by the second half of the century.

Paris Climate Agreement photo of leaders holding their hands in the air The Paris Climate Agreement (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

The most recent COP was COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt) in November 2022. During this COP countries provided updates on their progressions towards the agreements set the prior year in the COP held in Glasgow (United Kingdom). Examples of the agreements included 190 nations pledging to cut investment in coal, 100 agree to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030 and included a greater focus on global climate justice and the voices of indigenous communities. The UK Government partnered with those of India, Germany and Canada to pledge that it will prioritise the procurement of low carbon steel and concrete in public construction projects including a requirement for these to disclose embodied carbon impacts by 2025. There was also a strong emphasis on steering private financial capital towards low-carbon investment, with new domestic disclosure and transition plan requirements coming alongside international-level work on standards and monitoring key pledges.

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An Introduction to Climate Change and Carbon Reduction in the Built Environment

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