Future proofing

30th November 2016

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  • Mitigation ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Agriculture


Ornela Perera

Long-term plans for prosperous economies

The Paris Agreement creates a global framework around climate action – an agreed shared goal, a common rules base for mutual accountability, and a regular five-year schedule to develop renewed and incremental climate action from national commitments.

However, there is an under-discussed clause in the agreement – article 4.19 – that can help unlock a cycle of deeper, more transformative thinking from governments as it encourages them to ground their short and mid-term plans in longer term strategies.

National plans that aim at 2050 are essential to delivering the long-term vision of the Paris Agreement. They are a necessary complement to the shorter-term Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and will give business and subnational governments a clearer framework to plan future investments. Only by planning for the long term and thinking about the investments and decisions that need to be made today to unlock longer-term ambition, will the goals of the Paris Agreement start to come within reach.

Of course, decision-makers in both business and policy circles may struggle to connect their immediate priorities and planning to a 2050 timeline. However, long-term vision is a crucial tool for developing sensible and rigorous short and medium term-policies. If done correctly, such plans can build understanding across society about the nature of the changes underway, surface important assumptions and trigger key conversations about the plans and actions required.

Laurence Tubiana, French climate champion, and one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, has developed a 2050 pathways platform to encourage the production of such plans. Twenty-two countries have already committed to produce plans, and already governments such as Germany, Mexico, Canada and the US (under the outgoing administration) have published theirs.

In many ways, however, countries are coming late to this party. Comparable actions by business and subnational governments are quickly taking off. The 165 jurisdictions that are part of the Under 2 coalition of subnational governments have set out their commitment to such long-term planning, while 200 businesses brought together by the We Mean Business Coalition have committed to develop science-based targets.

Last week, before the pathways platform was launched, the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, published a policy briefing setting out some key thinking about how such plans should be developed to be effective and to secure the best engagement from the private sector. Specifically we identify three key characteristics for such plans.

Firstly they need to be comprehensive – to match up to the scale and nature of the challenges that they face. This means including ambitious, ‘Paris-compliant’ targets for both carbon reductions and climate adaptation, but also grounding that in the wider task of addressing the sustainable development goals that governments have also agreed.

Secondly, and perhaps counter-intuitively, they need to be flexible. No long-term plan can survived unchanged throughout its lifetime and any such plan needs to include regular review cycles and actively plan to allow flexibility and scope for innovation, uncertainty and change.

Thirdly they need to be developed in such a way that they can be credible. This means developing a broad base of political support and writing the plans based on a robust, transparent and accountable process with a documented evidence base. Clear ownership from government and strong international linkages will also help.

By meeting those three characteristics such plans can be a powerful tool of policy-making, opening the door to necessary national conversations about what needs to happen and building engagement in a country’s future economy. Done well they can act as an effective investment prospectus – guiding the private sector in what the markets and opportunities of tomorrow will be.


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