Fiona Harvey in Paris
Tuesday 12 December 2017 11.04 GMT
The Paris agreement on climate change, ratified by world governments a year ago, has failed to ensure major investors are moving away from fossil fuels with the urgency required to safeguard the planet, civil society groups have said.
Large companies, investors and national and local governments met in Paris on Tuesday to celebrate the second anniversary of the signing of the landmark 2015 agreement, which bound nearly all developed and developing countries for the first time to keep global temperatures below 2C, the threshold scientists regard as the limit of safety.
Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, arranged the One Planet conference to bring together governments, businesses and others to help find ways to meet the Paris goals. It followed a meeting of governments in Bonn, Germany, last month under the auspices of the UN, aimed at fleshing out the technicalities of the Paris agreement.
Donald Trump, president of the US, has vowed to withdraw his country from the agreement, but this action cannot take effect until November 2020, the day after that year’s US presidential election.
The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change said its members and related groups, with more than $26tn under management in total, would work with companies to help them reduce emissions over the next five years, in accordance with the Paris goals. This would not include divesting from companies with large fossil fuel holdings, however.
Companies also made pledges: for instance, the French insurer Axa, the world’s third-largest insurance company, said it would divest €2.4bn in coal assets and €700m in tar sands assets, and put in place a new policy of not investing in companies with more than 30% of their power or revenues from coal, or planning to build more than 3,000MW of coal-fired electricity generation.
Local governments signed the One Planet charter, which requires cities and their mayors to use their public procurement and policy decisions to promote green technology, including renewable energy and zero-emissions buildings, as well as better arrangements for waste and recycling.
Nearly 200 civil society organisations, from nearly 60 countries, called on governments at the meeting to end subsidies and public finance for fossil fuels, and for the World Bank to end fossil fuel finance. The signatories included Greenpeace, the Climate Action Network, WWF, Christian Aid and Oil Change International.
A group of economists including Jeffrey Sachs and Yanis Varoufakis also called for no more to be spent on fossil fuels, while more than 50 companies including Adidas, Alliance, H&M and Philips signed another declaration calling for the polluting fuels to be phased out.
But green campaigners were concerned that the measures announced at the conference were insufficient to drive forward the Paris agreement goals.