In addition to the overarching intention of the Accord, it includes bold and important statements throughout, which create a common set of priorities and goals that all stakeholders can work toward collectively—and, hopefully, synergistically. I would like to share and comment on some key phrases that I have italicized and grouped below, including:
…climate change is a common concern of humankind…
Climate change will touch each of our lives, and our actions play either a positive or negative part of the solution. When governments recognize the enormity of climate change’s impacts on our world, they legitimize the need to take action and emphasize the lesson that “business as usual” must not continue—for all of our sakes.
…deep reductions in global emissions will be required…
…the urgency of accelerating the implementation…
…the enduring benefits of ambitious and early action…
The signatory 188 governments have set a minimum goal of keeping average global surface temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, while striving to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Scientists say that 2 degrees Celsius is the level critical to avoiding a downward spiral into even more devastating impacts. This threshold not only provides a specific and measurable goal, it aligns with science that has often been minimized or ignored by politicians and climate change doubters.
Experts claim that achieving this goal of 2 degrees Celsius will require an end to industrial emissions by 2050, while the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius will require the end of nearly all conventional coal- or gas-powered plants, gasoline cars, ships and airplanes fueled by fossil futures by 2030. These are bold measures, “game changers” that would transform our economies into ones built on new and carbon-neutral or carbon-free sources of energy. It is worth noting that nuclear energy will likely play a bigger role in a carbon-free economy.
Stating the urgent need to take bold action lays the foundation for meaningful and effective incentives, investment in technology, and a move away from outdated or carbon intensive industries. Such a statement also reminds us that more extreme steps must be taken now, in part because of less aggressive demands in past accords.
…acknowledging the specific needs and concerns of developing countries….
…need to enhance the provision of finance, technology and capacity-building support by developed countries…
We must recognize the dramatic social impacts of climate change to communities in developing countries and the need to help them adapt to these inevitable impacts. Developing countries can also play an important role in curbing climate change. Converting to more efficient and renewable energy sources, increasing agricultural yields, and reducing the conversion of habitats and ecosystems to agricultural production or expanded cities are just a few ways that developing countries can help this important global cause. More advanced countries should share technologies and know-how with the less resource-rich countries to help them reach their full potential.
Support for improved transparency and reporting by all Parties, including regularly reviewing and revising goals, is another positive feature of the Accords. We will need to establish and promote consistent ways to measure and report progress.
Flexibility in how different Parties achieve GHG emissions reduction goals is another important part of the Accords. Greater flexibility allows Parties to determine the best way to reduce emissions in the context of their culture, economy and sources of emissions.
The Accord stresses the need for cooperation, integrated approaches, improved training, greater education and public awareness as well. The Accord also notes that we need more widespread sharing of good practices, experiences and lessons learned, and deployment of tools and assistance with implementation. Concerted efforts to implement efforts and changes such as these will help us accelerate and scale up effective measures that are so desperately needed.
Curbing climate change will also require significant financial investment. The 188 signatory governments have committed:
- $100 billion for financial support for research, advancement of technology, capacity building, and
- $100 billion annually with a focus on priorities of developing countries.
Despite all the promise the Accord holds, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that we still need to urge all Parties who have yet to ratify and implement all elements of the Kyoto Protocols, Doha Agreement, and Cancun Agreements to do so. Complete commitment and unity by all Parties can only add strength to this important collective effort.
I should also acknowledge that the Accord is certainly not the end all. We all have a lot of work ahead of us to curb and adapt to climate change. I hope that the Accord at least provides the first and very important step forward.