(c) Takvr/Flickr – People’s Climate March, Melbourne, Australia, September 2014
In many ways, the Paris Agreement is a masterpiece of international policymaking. Fueled by bottom-up pledges and peer pressure, rather than centralisation and compulsion, it forged international consensus, around a clear vision, on one of the most complex challenges of our time. . It has proven resilient to the effects of – hopefully – temporary repudiation, such as that by the Trump administration.
Climate pledges not on track for 1.5°C
But as powerful a tool as country’s voluntary, bottom-up pledges were in building the foundation and momentum toward the Paris Agreement, the emissions targets submitted in the run-up to the Paris negotiations in 2015 will result in global warming of at least 3°C by the end of this century – warming that would be catastrophic for nature and people alike.
Even with the ‘mere’ 1°C of warming we have seen to date, it is clear that we are already in a climate emergency. The floods, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires we can expect from climate change are already here, devastating lives and ravaging vulnerable communities and ecosystems. Cyclone Idai is just the latest manifestation of the threat climate change poses. As the 1.5°C report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear, every fraction of a degree of warming matters.
Emergency package of actions needed
What we need now – at the UN Secretary General’s next Climate Action Summit, being held in New York in September, and at the next round of the UN climate talks, COP 25 in Santiago, Chile – is an emergency package of actions. It must be a collective signal that can dynamize individual action and bring about real change by countries and businesses and communities around the world. We need to transform our economies in every sector so that when governments submit their second round of climate pledges – the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – we can truly close the gap between the current 3°C pledges and what the science tells us is needed for 1.5°C.
These national targets should scale up climate action that results in significant emissions reductions by 2030. Stronger policy signals, digital innovation and global leadership – will be vital if we are to reach net-zero emissions by the second half of this century, as is required under the Paris Agreement. Most importantly, it includes a ratchet mechanism, requiring countries to submit emissions targets on a five-yearly basis, with each target expected to more ambitious than the last.
Political vision needed to galvanise climate ambition
And outside the formal process, there is a clear political need for the international climate effort to demonstrate ambition – in response to growing disillusion and scepticism towards politicians and policy making. Last year’s climate talks in Katowice illustrated this need. While its outcomes were positive in formal and technocratic terms, they were sorely lacking regarding a vision to galvanise voters and taxpayers behind the effort to tackle global warming.
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is the leader of WWF’s global climate and energy practice. He is based in Lima.