It’s time for a climate revolution. Can the Paris Agreement take us there?
01 Dec 2016 by Daniela Carrington, Climate Change Policy Advisor, UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub
A year ago, against all expectations, delegates in Paris agreed on a ground-breaking new deal to take action on global warming.
In less than a year, the agreement came into force and was ratified by 113 nations, together accounting for 75 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. It was unprecedented in the history of international agreements.
At the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh, decision-makers moved quickly to begin to implement the deal. Here are a few of the key results:
- The negotiators have begun to draw up rules and procedures to implement the Paris Agreement, and a plan to adopt them by 2018. This will help ensure all countries are focused on implementing their side of the deal.
- The Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action was launched. This is an ambitious plan to link up cities, governments and civil society – including indigenous communities - to curb emissions and help societies adapt. Around 10,000 different players, including private companies, cities and multilateral banks have also made massive pledges, including IKEA which announced one billion Euros in June to help developing countries to cope with climate change.
- Developed countries now have a roadmap for delivering US$100 billion worth of climate financing every year through the Global Environment Facility and Green Climate Fund.
- There will now be a single mechanism to help developing countries attain the knowledge, skills and institutional arrangements they need to quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and report on the progress they make.
While I am optimistic about the political commitment of our decision-makers, I must also ring the alarm bell regarding the road ahead.
In today’s volatile political environment, if for instance the United States withdraws from the agreement, China, now the world’s biggest emitter, could follow suit. This could deal a devastating blow to the whole process.
Further, global warming itself is accelerating. The year 2016 is set to become the hottest on record, with average temperatures already nudging towards 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
I’m encouraged to see almost all countries in the region where I work, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, have made formal pledges to curb emissions. However, it takes a leap of faith to envisage a low-carbon future, let alone one in which poverty has ceased to exist. We need to make sure changes in government, delays in legislation, lack of international financing and antiquated technologies do not stand in the way of progress.
It isn’t enough for the negotiators in Paris or in Marrakesh to sign ground-breaking new deals. Tackling climate change requires every individual, household and community, every politician and every business to stay focused. Here are a few ways this can be done:
Accelerate the transition to green economies. Clean energy can take off within months. Between 2013 and 2014, for instance, investments in renewables were up 40 percent in China. One of the drivers behind the current boom has been the country’s catastrophic air quality.
Change current consumption patterns and behaviours. Consumers have more and more options, from locally-grown produce to carbon offsets. Countering pessimism will require developing positive habits, such as low-consumption and the famous “three Rs”: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Look for innovative financing. It will take much more than government financing and development aid to mitigate climate change. One option is to rely more on crowdfunding and create cooperatives that can help bridge funding gaps.
Keep up the political momentum. Governments must resist the temptation of catering to short-term interests. It’s important they build large coalitions for tackling climate challenges, consistent with the sorts of institutional mechanisms required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We finally have significant collective action around climate change. If we want to have a future as a species, this is the right moment to rally for a breakthrough.