Less than a year ago, 197 countries came together for the first time to deliver a universal climate Paris Agreement. And with it, a promise to work together to limit global temperature rise to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Today, that agreement becomes the law of the planet — entered into force almost faster than any other UN agreement. It is a historic achievement that deserves to be celebrated. The atmosphere around the Paris Agreement’s entry-into-force is one of hope, and trust and confidence in each other; sentiments we began cultivating at the first UN climate change talks in Berlin back in 1995.
By transcending old lines of conflict with science and equity in mind, the Paris Agreement establishes a new way of working together. It creates a unique framework for partnership among governments, businesses, civil society, faith groups and communities to collaborate and rally behind this crucial common cause for the planet.
Collaboration was key to success
When we decided to organise COP20, I had no expectations. But it was always in my mind that we would need to re-think the relationships in the talks if we were to have any measure of success. So it was this new way of looking at collaboration, starting with the Lima Call for Climate Action, that helped build the momentum that I am convinced helped ensure a deal in Paris was possible. This very spirit of collaboration helped foster the partnerships between State and non-State actors, bridge north-south relations and enhanced south-south cooperation, all with ambitious objectives. By working with the UN agencies, the French COP presidency, business and civil society we were able to straddle the schisms left by COP15 in Copenhagen a few years earlier.
The good news is that no one is resting on their laurels. This past year saw further climate gains: a deal to clamp down on emissions from international aviation, to another to phase out dangerous climate pollutants used in air conditioners and refrigerators. And the crowning achievement — the Paris Agreement’s early entry into force.
Collectively these have kept the momentum to change climate change going. It has led us to a tipping point just in advance of the next round of UN climate talks in Marrakech. Science underpins this global call to action. In October, the World Meteorological Organization said 2015 was the first full year where carbon dioxide measurements in the atmosphere averaged 400 dangerous parts per million (ppm). This goes beyond the recommended 350ppm upper limit, and is a number experts say won’t drop for several generations.
Turning the promise into action
To turn the promise of Paris into equally momentous action, we must focus on two key areas. Beyond the Paris Agreement’s set universal targets, details on how countries will deliver on those common goals remain vague and subject to change. To that end, negotiators must clarify the Paris Agreement “rule book” and deliver clear guidance on how each country and each sector can double down to create more ambitious action.
At the heart of the rule book’s importance, lies the reality that as of today, countries’ pledges are not enough to bend the arc of our climate change trajectory to safe levels below 1.5°C. Right now we are on track towards around a 3°C plus world, with the global average temperature having already risen by 1°C since the Industrial Revolution. The impacts of which are being felt worldwide. There is an urgent need for dramatically scaling up action.
Under the Agreement’s framework, 2018 is the last last formal opportunity for all countries to increase their 2020 climate targets. To give the earth the maximum opportunity to slow climate change, governments must go beyond existing targets with specific policy measures and actions. If we don’t, we will be locked into targets for the next 5-10 years that will severely impair our ability to achieve Paris’ ambitious temperature goal of 1.5°C by the middle of this century.
It will take everyone
More ambition isn’t just needed from governments. We also need to include other actions by business, cities, communities and individuals around the world. Globally, multiple sectors have already woken up to their own power.
We are feeling the ripple effect throughout the worlds of commerce, transportation, food production, and of course renewable energy systems.
With the next round of UN talks on climate change in the spotlight, let’s continue this wave of momentum by pushing the world forward into concrete action to fulfill the promise of Paris.
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is the leader of WWF International’s Global Climate and Energy Practice. He is based in Lima, Peru. firstname.lastname@example.org