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Why there’s no time to dally on the Paris Agreement

The treaty may enter into force well before 2020, but let’s not wait and see – let’s start delivering actions.

Marion Davis, Johan L. Kuylenstierna / Published on 22 April 2016
Aerial view of an island
16,000 people live on Mo’orea Island in French Polynesia. Photo: Dany13 / Flickr.

Today, representatives of more than 160 countries are expected to sign the Paris Agreement – a first-day record for a global treaty if it becomes a reality. This is something to celebrate: the momentum of Paris is holding strong. And with global temperatures at the highest levels ever documented, we cannot let up.

A glitch in the formulation of the Paris Agreement has created an opportunity to have it enter into force well before 2020. The agreement becomes effective as soon as at least 55 Parties responsible for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions have ratified it. With the U.S. and China leading the charge for prompt ratification, the threshold is likely to be met soon. Given how many years it has taken us to get to this point, early entry into force would be a very good thing.

Yet we need not wait for entry into force to start taking action. National governments can work quickly to turn their Paris pledges into plans for action, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – and in the process, look for ways to further boost ambition. They can tackle additional economic sectors, address short-lived climate pollutants, and encourage and support climate engagement by sub-national governments and businesses.

Most important, the NDCs need to look beyond the immediate commitments and chart out a vision for development that is not only low-carbon, but also resource-efficient and socially and environmentally sustainable. That means thinking about climate action together with the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, as well as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

A broader, long-term vision is essential if we want to mobilize stakeholders at all levels. Fossil Free Sweden 2030 is a good example of a government collaborating with business and civil society to achieve an ambitious goal: the first fossil-free welfare state. The point is not just to “do good”; the public and private sector alike see this as a way to build future competiveness and business opportunities.

Source: Climate Home, UK

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