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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


2 June 2017 – Eliot Whittington, Deputy Director, Policy, and Deputy Director, Corporate Leaders Group, discusses how the Paris Climate Agreement, and the overall commitment to address climate change it represents, is still alive and well, despite US withdrawal from the Agreement.

The US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement represents a disappointing setback, but the agreement, and the overall commitment to address climate change it represents, is still alive and well. The direction of travel for the global economy is already shifting and while the US pulls back, others are accelerating.

There are strong signals that demonstrate this momentum. Of the $11.4 trillion set to be invested in power generation globally by 2040, $7.8 trillion – over two-thirds – will go to renewable energy. In the past month we have seen ever more companies including eBay, LEGO and Corporate Leaders Group member Tesco committing to 100 per cent renewable power.

The clean energy transformation is embedded in economic, social and technological trends that are bigger than any one country. It is clear that forward looking businesses understand that future economic prosperity is supported, not threatened, by climate action.

Leadership from governments worldwide, including emerging economies, is setting the pace and ambition needed to reach the Paris goals. For example new analysis from Climate Action Tracker shows that China and India are on track to exceed their Paris Agreement climate pledges, thanks to the closure of coal power plants and the steep uptake of renewable energy sources.

In recent years China’s investment in renewable energy has equalled and exceeded Europe’s, while India is committed to a solar revolution. Both countries have high ambitions for electric vehicles, with India contemplating a target of 100 per cent electric by 2030.

Shortly China and the EU are expected to announce an alliance to take a leading role in tackling climate change – a move welcomed by The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.

The alliance is a strong affirmation of the commitment from Europe and China to lead the energy transition toward a low carbon economy. It is also an important reminder to other global leaders to respect the commitments made under the Paris climate deal.

The role of the EU and European leadership on climate action is important to remember. Europe was supporting climate action earlier and more significantly than elsewhere, and EU ambition and diplomacy was crucial to achieving the Paris Agreement. As others show what they can achieve on climate change, the EU should not surrender its leadership role, but build on it – embracing the opportunities that continued leadership in the climate change arena offers in order to promote economic growth, jobs and prosperity in the EU economy.

The transition to a low carbon economy will not be smooth or straightforward. But it is necessary, it is inevitable, and it brings with it significant economic opportunities. Those countries and regions, like the EU, China and India that work to seize the opportunities of this transition will be best positioned for a brighter future.


Articles on the blog written by employees of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the Institute or the wider University of Cambridge.

About the author

Eliot Whittington

Eliot leads a body of work to support business and policy action on climate change.

Eliot has over 15 years’ experience in working to unlock systemic change, including providing policy analysis around climate action for Save the Children and Christian Aid, leading Christian Aid’s UK lobbying work with parliamentarians and political parties, and working on mobilising grassroots campaigning in locations from Addis Ababa to Birmingham.



Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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