UN Climate Change Conference: A turning point for energy?



UPDATE: The UN Climate Conference (COP21) came to a close on 12 December in Paris, with nearly 200 countries agreeing on the ambitious target to keep global warming to “well below 2°C” and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. But is such a goal achievable? 

Our leading Global Trends analysts examine the latest outcomes from this landmark Paris Agreement. In our new Inform report, “Has the world reached a historic turning point?”, we look at how the 2°C target could be achieved, and what it means for supply/demand fundamentals in coal, oil, gas and renewables.

Diving into more in-depth analysis in our COP21 video, we assess the potential implications for global energy demand out to 2035  comparing and contrasting Wood Mackenzie’s base case outlook, carbon-constrained scenario and the IEA’s 2°C energy pathway. 


Tara Schmidt, Senior Manager for Global Trends Research, questions in her latest blog whether fossil fuel companies will be diversifying into renewables as demand for renewable energy grows — and what needs to happen for them to succeed.  

December 3, 2015 

Nations large and small are gathering in Paris for two weeks for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which seeks to achieve a global agreement on limiting global CO2 emissions post-2020. Our Corporate Week in Brief introduces the conference and offers a look at how an impending agreement might affect the global energy market. 

Over the next two weeks, nearly 200 countries and 140 global leaders will be gathered in Paris for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or 'Conference of Parties' (COP21). The conference's goal is for these countries to come to agreement on how to reduce global CO2 emissions beyond 2020, capping the global temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius. 

The climate change conference could have a significant impact on the global energy market, as greenhouse gas emissions limitations slow global energy demand growth and drive the market to favour gas and non-fossil-fuels over coal. We examine the implications of a "carbon-constrained world" at the outset of COP21 in our video blog, "UN Climate Conference: why this time is different."

But will the conference turn the tide on climate change?

Paul McConnell, Research Director—Global Trends at Wood Mackenzie, comments on potential outcomes in his Forbes.com blog, "The U.N. Can't Solve Climate Change, But CO2 Controls Are Coming Anyway." Outlining the major players' emissions profiles as a result of previous climate conference negotiations and applying Wood Mackenzie's base case forecasts for long-term energy demand, McConnell raises some compelling questions about whether market forces are more likely than international law to lower greenhouse gas emissions. 


With 173 countries pledging to cut or curb emissions, momentum seems to be building toward a deal by the conference's end on December 11. 

Additional carbon-focused analysis
We have an extensive library of expert research and analysis on how carbon and clean energy issues affect the global energy market—today and in the decades to come. The following is a selection of the proprietary Insight reports and public-facing analysis we've recently published surrounding the factors at play in the UN climate conference.

Global Trends Signpost Tracker: corporate response to carbon policy
What recent corporate announcements could mean for global energy industry
Global Trends Signpost Tracker: CO2 Emissions
A look at key government announcements ahead of the UN climate conference
G7 calls for the end of the fossil fuel age
How governments could phase out fossil fuels, and key indicators of fundamental changes in energy consumption 

Global energy risks: clean energy takes centre stage
A recap of our biannual Risk Tracker report, including the momentum building to COP21
Decarbonising the global economy
Our take on the G7’s call to phase out fossil fuels
Unburnable carbon: lights out for fossil fuels?
A comparison of the twilight scenario, UN 2DS and our 2H 2014 view — update coming for 1H 2015