The news from Paris was in over the weekend, and reaction was mixed. True, it could have been worse, but not exactly a walk in the park for Roy Hodgson’s men.
Across town, even more momentous news from the climate talks at Le Bourget, which finally ended with the world’s first international climate agreement.
The agreement was hard (and long) fought, and its highlights include:
* A commitment to try and keep global temperature rises below 2˚C by 2100, together with a highly ambitious “aspirational” goal of limiting increases to 1.5˚C
* A 5 yearly review of the goals already enshrined in national emission reduction plans with a view to revising them upwards so as to arrive at peak global emissions as soon as possible
* A non-binding agreement for developed countries to continue the goal of mobilising $100bn of public and private finance for developing countries, each year after 2020
* Support for embattled national, and global, carbon markets.
Our own government has been quick to point to the parallels between these long-term goals and 5 yearly review mechanism, and the regime put in place over here some time ago by the Climate Change Act 2008. True enough, but getting anywhere near the 1.5˚C aspirational goal will require even tougher commitments than those set by the UK for itself in that Act.
So, expect to see increased pressure on the UK government to get its low carbon plans in order. No longer can it credibly claim to be leading by example.
Naturally, sceptics will argue that the Paris talks were all a monumental waste of time and money, whereas many environmentalists will bemoan the fudge and obfuscation in the final outcome.
But surely, the key point to bear in mind is that the global community has, for the first time, signalled the eventual end of coal and the decarbonisation of the world’s economies. This is a pivotal moment, and sets what is surely an, albeit slow but inevitable, transition.
For the private sector, this is a clear statement of intent from world leaders, and it will be interesting to see now how businesses and investors will respond.
We might expect to see investors gradually turn their back on fossil fuel businesses, and witness an enhanced mark down of carbon related asset values, and an acceleration of private money chasing the green economy.
And for businesses, what better long-term signal of the healthy demand that we can expect, especially in the developing countries, for the new technologies that will be needed to help this transition to a decarbonised society?
The reaction of investors and business is surely the litmus test. Will this new agreement trigger a vast flow of money into the low carbon technologies and infrastructures of the future? This is the only way we will tackle climate change.
In my view, we should therefore avoid worrying about all the minutae and heavily worded text in this groundbreaking climate treaty. Ultimately, it’s not about the individual governmental commitments, and whether or not something is expressed to be legally binding. A watertight set of contractual commitments from 195 countries was never on the cards.
No, we need to stay focussed on the bigger picture. The course has been set. A new era beckons.
Andrew Whitehead is senior partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau and leads the firm's energy and climate change practice