The world is looking to Paris as world leaders gather in the city to open the UN Climate Summit (COP 21) where governments from more than 190 countries are expected to forge a new, global climate agreement that paves the way for an accelerated transition to a 100% renewable energy future.
For the first time ever over 150 countries have submitted national climate action plans known in technical UN-speak as INDCs. Submitted over the past 9 months these pledges, including some from countries who have never taken action before, can help to bend the curve of projected global warming closer to the internationally agreed target of of 2°C – or ideally 1.5°C. However they are not enough to achieve this goal alone, so the Paris Summit must build on them.
The science is crystal clear, we are responsible for the worsening impacts of climate change, and if we don’t take much more ambitious action, the future of our children and children’s children is at stake. Not only does the current pace of action risk to jeopardise successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed a few months ago, it also risks to undermine many development gains which took decades to achieve, potentially forcing millions into poverty.
That’s why the agreement needs to include measures to check in on commitments and scale them up over time until we get to our goal. It needs to support the poorest and most vulnerable countries to reach a fossil free, secure future. And it needs to build resilience to impacts and deal with the loss and damage caused by them.
The Paris Summit is not about delivering a silver bullet – it is about building a platform that will deliver effective action to phase out fossil fuels. In Paris, governments have an opportunity to build the right global framework for the transformative agenda on climate change that people across the world are demanding. The outcome should leave no doubt for citizens, businesses, cities, governments and other stakeholders that the world needs to transform, and that the the agreement has enabled this transformation.
Fortunately, people, businesses and other institutions around the world aren’t waiting for our governments — they are taking the lead. The story of change is also happening outside of the UN corridors.
This weekend over half a million people around the world participated in record-breaking mobilisations in over 2300 events across 170 countries. The participants came from all walks of life, from development organisations, climate movements, the young and old, indigenous people, trade unionists, and many more marched together. The people made their voices heard through many incredibly creative ways, calling for a safer world and for an agreement that scales up the transformation of our economies towards 100% renewable energy for all, stamps out poverty, injustice and inequalities, ends the wasteful consumption of our precious resources, and provides support for those living in the face of worsening impacts.
These people are part of a massive, diverse and growing movement working to secure a renewable energy powered world. Many local authorities are also leading the way to a cleaner future. Cities like Vancouver (Canada), Kasese (Uganda) and Sydney (Australia) setting the bar high by pledging to go 100 percent renewable.
Earlier this year, this great momentum was also spurred through the historic Islamic Climate Declaration and Papal Encyclical, as well as similar declarations by Buddhists and Hindus, through which religious authorities are impressing the moral case for phasing out fossil fuels and tackling inequality upon billions of people of faith around the world.
In every corner of the world, people mobilise and implement solutions to fight climate impacts that are stripping away the hard won development gains made in recent years.
However, in many places, these efforts are still suppressed, silenced or ignored. Fellow activists are working, sometimes at great risk, to denounce double-discourses or false solutions of governments and businesses, and the global movement needs to be further empowered to act in solidarity, increase ambition and political will, and hold leaders to account. The civil society community needs to continue to strengthen coordination and joint action to help bring about the change we need to see. International civil society organisations (ICSOs) have a key role to play in that regard, facilitating the links between the different levels and layers of action, and supporting the efforts of this bigger and broader movement. If decision-makers’ words don’t translate into change on the ground, international efforts will ring hollow.