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Leaders must step up action on new climate and development goals as they sign Paris Agreement in New York this week

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By Sandeep Chamling Rai and Sven Harmeling

Scaled up national actions are essential to limit global warming to 1.5°C and to overcome poverty through the coordinated and immediate implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement (PA).

Information is emerging almost daily that increases our understanding of the growing impacts of climate change, giving us stark reminders of how urgent it is to change course. The question is whether political leaders can deliver the changes committed to in 2015.

So, can political leaders deliver the changes promised in 2015?

The inclusion of a stand-alone climate change goal (SDG 13), and the many targets linked to climate change adaptation, resilience and mitigation under the other SDG goals was essential to help policy makers integrate climate change into the implementation of policies and programmes.

The SDGs offer solutions to tackle climate change. They seek to change patterns of consumption and production, energy use and economic growth – all challenges that are also recognised in the PA. The SDGs strongly underline the need to build resilience to disasters and other climate change impacts. The agendas have also converged regarding key principles underpinning action. Both agreements promote gender equality and human rights. Taken together the climate change agreement and the SDGs are two excellent tools to support us towards a sustainable future.

In terms of implementing the PA the next steps are rapid ratification by countries, and the implementation of national climate action plans. However, time is not on our side. All countries have confirmed that the current plans lag significantly behind from what is needed, in particular in terms of emission reductions.

The consequences of slow action on emission reductions will be irreversible, and any delay in building climate resilience undermines the delivery of the SDGs, pushing more people into more extreme poverty. Both agreements also underline, stronger than ever before, the important role of non-governmental actors, including civil society and the private sector, and their engagement at all levels.

CARE and WWF recognise the inter-connected and inter-dependent nature of the world we live in, and the new Twin Tracks report looks at the PA and the SDGs linkages in more depth. Only by bringing our complementary skills and perspectives together, can we achieve our common goal of a more equitable world where all people live in dignity and where nature thrives.

Now is the time for real and urgent action to deliver on the promises made in 2015. This will be much harder than ‘getting an agreement’, which was itself hard enough. It requires genuine change in terms of how investments are made, how the economy is structured, how energy is generated and how resources are used and managed.

This is not business as usual, it requires transformational change that impacts on every sector from infrastructure to health, from water resources to women’s rights. It also requires new partnerships and collaborations, with governments, private sector, civil society and citizens all working together in innovative ways.

The SDGs and the PA provide a positive vision for the future, and a road map for how to get there. What we need now is for global leaders to maintain courage and determination. We must all change course and head towards this new destination, and act boldly and decisively for a fair, safe and sustainable future.

Sandeep Chamling Rai (scrai@wwf.sg) is Senior Global Adaptation Policy Advisor for WWF International’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative and Sven Harmeling (sharmeling@careclimatechange.org) is climate change advocacy coordinator for CARE International.

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