The Paris Agreement – A Pivotal Moment to Avert Climate Catastrophe

September 1, 2021

Photography: Sergei Gapon/UNDP in Belarus

Armen Martirosyan, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Belarus

Our planet is in a race against time. Rising temperatures are a warning signpost. In 2021 World Meteorological Organization experts documented a record number of heat waves sweeping through the northern hemisphere. Belarus was no exception. July has become the month of temperature records in the history of the country’s meteorological observations with an average monthly temperature of +22.5°C, exceeding the climatic norm by 4.1°C. We have witnessed frequent fires, accidents at road and energy infrastructure facilities and abnormal weather phenomena that resulted in the flooding of some Belarusian cities, including Minsk.

Unfortunately, such situations are becoming more frequent not only in Belarus, but all over the world. For people their consequences are becoming increasingly manifest. Global warming is already causing long-term changes in our climate system and threatens the existence of mankind and nature. According to United Nations estimates, over the past 20 years 1.23 million people perished in 7,348 major disasters worldwide. These events affected 4.2 billion people, resulting in a global economic loss of US$2.97 trillion.

In addition, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2020 World Disasters Report notes that in the last decade extreme weather and climatic events caused almost 85 percent of all disasters. Worldwide, women, young people, the unemployed, the elderly, persons with disabilities and those with chronic illnesses are more vulnerable to changing climatic conditions.

Can pessimistic climate scenarios be avoided? Experts estimate that the number of days per year with extreme weather events could be halved if the Paris Agreement was fully implemented. The Paris Agreement is the most important international treaty bringing together 196 countries united by the common goal of making ambitious efforts to combat climate change and to adapt to its effects. Scientists agree that we have very little time to take urgent action to maintain the rise in the global average temperature within 1.5° C.

Now more than ever, we need to join forces in the fight against climate change. COVID-19 has made it clear that economic recovery after the pandemic cannot be done in a “business-as-usual” manner. Recovery and the transition to a sustainable, socially equitable and climate-neutral economy can and must go hand in hand. The global nature of the climate crisis requires a green consensus among all stakeholders -- from governments to businesses, from local communities to young people.

Supporting climate change mitigation at national and local levels is a priority and strategic focus of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) work across the globe. Today, it is an important element of UNDP's systematic and integrated programmes in 115 countries, where we are helping to improve the Nationally Determined Contributions adopted under the Paris Agreement. This work is built on broad partnerships involving integrated cross-sectoral solutions that take into account new emerging challenges in health care, urban development, climate insurance and security.

Belarus is keenly focused on combating climate change. UNDP, together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, and with the financial support of the European Union and the Global Environment Facility, are implementing a number of projects to achieve common goals in combating climate change and adapting to its consequences. Systemic work is carried out under “Preparation of the Seventh National Communication for the Implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Third Biennial Report”, “Capacity Building for Emissions Trading and Strengthened Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) in the Republic of Belarus”, the EU4Cliamte environmental projects.

The EU4Climate project, designed to help integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation objectives into Belarus' long-term development strategies. The project’s strategic aim is to strengthen the country's capacity to achieve its Nationally Determined Contribution.

In a relatively short time, the EU4Climate established a platform for the joint development of a National Climate Change Adaptation Plan and for the improvement of climate change legislation, with a focus on concrete solutions for strategic sectors of Belarus’ economy. Thanks to expert support from the project, a second Nationally Determined Contribution and scenarios for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in the waste management, energy and industrial sectors have been developed. Vulnerability and climate risks in the fuel and energy sector, construction, housing and utilities and the transport industries are also being assessed.

Climate change increasingly affects the poor, who are least responsible for the climate crisis, with people living in rural areas the most impacted by climate change. They are the most vulnerable and, unfortunately, the most affected by its consequences - reduced crop yields, increased natural disasters and catastrophes.

In that regard, one noteworthy point -- climate change impacts men and women differently. For example, in rural areas, women are more involved in agriculture, one of the most climate-vulnerable sectors of the economy. Conversely, men with jobs in sectors such as construction and road infrastructure, where they comprise a majority, are more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Research on gender-specific responses to climate change can help develop effective mechanisms to increase the resilience of households, communities and countries to climate change.

Today we have a unique opportunity -- through the Paris Agreement and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals -- to ensure a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous future for all. Only by bringing countries, governments, civil society, business and communities together can we have a significant impact on the success of the climate agenda and stop global warming from rising further beyond the critical 1.5°C.

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