10/04/16 : Karen Hughes

Paris Agreement: It’s Time to Put Energy Efficiency to Work!

Photo credit: Marcela Gara, Resource Media

In an historic accomplishment, the European Parliament on Tuesday approved the European Union’s ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement. The decision ensures that the world’s first comprehensive global climate agreement will enter into force far earlier than any of us imagined when we celebrated the negotiation of a successful deal in Paris this past December.

It took long, arduous and complex international negotiations to get to this point, and global leaders should be proud of this accomplishment. For the rest of us, it’s time to get to work!

Achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global temperature change to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius will require a massive economic shift. While this is a daunting task, there is enormous opportunity for households, companies and governments alike to help shape the transition and to ensure that we come out of it with a stronger economy, a healthier environment and greater global energy security.

Each national government signing on to the Paris Agreement has voluntarily committed to undertake specific actions – called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – to help reach the Paris goal. The NDCs set a variety of climate-related goals and offer varying levels of specificity in how they intend to meet those goals. There is an important role for citizens, civil society, advocates and companies around the world to ensure that not only do governments fulfill these commitments, but that they do so in a way that delivers real benefits to the rest of society. 

It’s no secret that we at the Alliance to Save Energy think energy efficiency policy should be the No. 1 priority for governments around the world. What may not be as well known is that a global consensus is growing around the fact that energy efficiency is the single most effective way to meet our climate goals. In fact, according to the IEA, energy efficiency is half of the solution, and is more impactful than any other greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan.

Not only that, but by investing first in energy efficient technologies and practices, a Fraunhofer Institute study estimates that we could save up to $2.8 trillion (yes, with a “T”!) in the clean energy transition.  That money saved translates directly back to lower energy bills for consumers, more money in business coffers and lower government spending on energy costs. It will also help us to double global energy productivity faster – making sure that we get twice as much economic benefit from the energy we consume. This means not having to choose between climate action and development goals.

The implementation of the Paris Agreement is only the beginning for national and subnational leaders in government, academia, civil society and the private sector. Our international negotiators have set the target, and now it’s up to us to hit it dead-center. Energy efficiency is the first, and most effective, arrow in our quiver.