Tuesday 26 April 2016 at 21:31A Sense Of Collective Responsibility
“The world is in a race against time. The era of consumption without consequences is over. Today you are signing a new covenant with the future. This covenant must amount to more than promises." -U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his opening speech at the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement
As I looked around the UN General Assembly Hall on Friday, I had to keep pinching myself that 15 countries had ratified the adopted Paris Agreement, 174 countries and the EU signed, with a further 19 declaring an intent to ratify later this year.
The joy of this historic day; the most countries ever to sign a global agreement on the first day, effervesced throughout the hall.
It was exciting and an honour to be there.
I was particularly interested to hear that China aimed to ratify the agreement before the G20 summit in China in September and listened closely to the USA declaring its intention to ratify this year. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry spoke of the opportunities of the agreement and how it would unleash the private sector to set the global economy on a new low carbon path.
US$13.5 trillion in clean investments is needed by 2030 to implement the Paris Agreement and to move from the billions to the trillions, a carbon price is essential, as is a larger pool of public and private investors.
Most memorable was seeing so many nations, lining up — united by a sense of collective responsibility, including North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong who was in line signing the agreement. Meanwhile, Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission said the EU wanted to be in the “first wave” of ratifying countries. However, this is by no means certain, as though the EU negotiates as a single entity, the ratification process requires actions in individual countries and not all Europeans want climate action. Many countries in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, rely heavily on coal and thus are the weakest link to the EU’s former glowing climate change leadership.
We all love a bit of star power and Leonardo DiCaprio gave a powerful speech, including a reference to Abraham Lincoln:
“'We will be remembered in spite of ourselves. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the last generation…We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth'...That is our charge now – you are the last best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it. Or we – and all living things we cherish – are history.”
Not all countries signed the Agreement. Nicaragua, expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the Paris Agreement, saying it was not strict enough and criticised it for not providing financing to poorer countries to compensate for loss and damage. Let’s not forget when the sheen of the historic Earth Day dwindles; the INDCs submitted last year still put us on a path of a 2.7C temperature increase by 2100 compared with pre-industrial levels.
Many small island nations joined the Agreement at the earliest date possible because they simply can’t afford to wait.
It is therefore essential we maintain momentum and push for the Paris Agreement to come into force as soon as possible and for all of us, to work together to demand that governments increase their level of climate ambition to take us to a zero carbon world.
By Ciara Shannon, Interfaith Climate Change Statement Coordinator and GreenFaith Asia Coordinator.
Photo Credit: Simon Pearson, via Flickr