Our Perspectives

Post-Paris: paving the way for zero carbon growth


women in mountainsIn 2016, we will build on our $2.3 billion climate portfolio across 140 countries and expand our support on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Photo: UNDP Turkey

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their perspective on issues of climate change, in light of the COP21 conference held in December.

Having witnessed the international community reach (and celebrate) a global climate deal in Paris last week, I have been reflecting on the journey that brought us here, as well as picturing the long but important road ahead.

First, while there has been much talk about the relative significance of the Paris agreement, I would like to echo a sentiment expressed by the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert: the deal is a success simply because the alternative was no deal at all. Business as usual is not an option, and the Paris agreement, while not perfect, is a landmark that brings together 196 parties. The bottom-up nature of the agreement is certainly a worthy first step.

The global climate team I manage has worked tirelessly for well over a year with dozens of countries to help prepare their climate targets (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs) and we proudly watched as countries submitted them. These targets, as spelled out in the Paris agreement, will now be included in a global registry and serve as both roadmap and measuring stick for implementation.

Beyond the 43 countries we have supported directly, our inputs assisted many more via global consultations, the publication we released with the World Resources Institute, and the INDC Forum we held with the Government of Morocco, UNEP and the European Commission. The lessons we have learned from our stakeholders and partners will undoubtedly prove useful as we move forward with implementation.  

In addition, UNDP has been active in advocacy and communications leading up to COP21, pushing for critical issues to be included in the agreement. This included access to financing; an emphasis on adaptation; forest protection and support to indigenous peoples; gender empowerment and inclusivity; the use of regular review mechanisms; and the end-goal of a zero-carbon economy. I am happy to see that all of this has been included in the Paris agreement.

But Paris is just the beginning. With a deal in place, we now have to set our minds toward helping countries not only achieve their current commitments, but also raise the overall ambition, to get as close as possible to the 1.5C goal by turningintended contributions intoimplemented actions.

Looking Ahead

In 2016, we will build on our $2.3 billion climate portfolio across 140 countries and expand our support on climate change mitigation and adaptation. This includes support for both energy and renewables; scaling up our work with REDD+ to tackle deforestation and forest degradation; and working with vulnerable groups, countries, and communities to strengthen adaptation.

UNDP will have to focus especially on providing support to small enterprises, farmers and households, many of whom face difficulties in accessing climate finance. We will help increase access to finance and investment channels for green growth technologies. And we will continue working with partners on a new mechanism for loan and asset bundling, the Climate Aggregation Platform, which hopefully will empower small and medium enterprises.

While a zero-carbon path is the only option, the transition will not be painless. Jobs and livelihoods will have to evolve as industries do, and communities that will ultimately benefit from the changes will still have to cope with climate impacts that already exist.

Adaptation is the foremost concern among many of our partners. It is our job to find ways to support these communities and soften the impacts of the transition as much as possible.

I think that the Paris agreement is a success. While many wanted a hard goal to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or explicit carbon pricing, or any number of things to strengthen and tighten the text, in the end, this is the agreement that we have. It isn’t perfect, but it is a good place to start.

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