The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming is unequivocal in its assessment: only a short window of opportunity remains to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. This stark warning reinforces what we are witnessing throughout the world: that the impacts of climate change are already here, they are negatively affecting millions of lives, and they are acting as a threat multiplier to some of humanity’s most pressing challenges.
If nations of the world do not act with a renewed sense of determination, united by renewed commitment to multilateralism, the consequences for planet Earth and all life dependent upon it will be both immeasurable and irreversible. At a time when humanity has never been in a better position to harness the technology, innovation and global cooperation necessary to address climate change, this is completely unacceptable.
Governments must respond to urgency with urgency. They can do so this December at the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Katowice, Poland. The G20 Buenos Aires Summit takes place immediately before the conference, providing a golden opportunity for national leaders to demonstrate climate leadership.
What we need from G20 nations – indeed, all nations – is clear. First, we need the G20 to actively support the completion of the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement. Second, the G20 summit can help accelerate progress by promoting national policies that inspire and incentivise citizens, companies, cities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and regional governments to take more ambitious climate action.
Why Are The Guidelines Important?
In short, the implementation guidelines will unleash the power and ongoing potential of the Paris Agreement. The guidelines will, for example, make it possible to aggregate national information in order to check whether the world is progressing towards the Paris targets, including through a ‘global stock take’ in 2023. We need the active support of G20 members in Katowice to complete this work.
It is also about transparency. The guidelines will establish a transparency framework so that policymakers and citizens can see what individual countries are doing to meet the Paris goal of limiting the global temperature increase to “well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.
The implementation guidelines will also make financial flows more transparent. Developed countries have pledged to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. Comprehensive and inclusive international action on global climate change depends on this pledge being realised. This is especially important for developing countries – those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Katowice will also host the conclusion of the Talanoa Dialogue for raising ambition and promoting mitigation and adaption solutions. This Fiji-led dialogue is inspired by the traditional Pacific island practice of inclusive and transparent dialogue through storytelling. The G20 members have already made important contributions to the dialogue. Like the transparency framework, the dialogue seeks to build trust. It also makes it easier to understand which policies and technologies adopted around the world may be most effective and replicable.
We need to respond to the growing impacts of climate change by accelerating our efforts to cut emissions. The Earth’s lower atmosphere has already warmed by one degree since the pre-industrial era. This means that to achieve the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement, the world must produce zero net emissions by mid-century. This is a challenging task, but it is still possible for us to succeed if – and only if – we take ambitious action now.
At the same time, we need to advance more rapidly in building climate resilience, particularly for poor and vulnerable communities in developing countries. This is where the links between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement become particularly important. Progress on each SDG – from agriculture to oceans to cities to equitable societies – is vital for strengthening climate adaptation and resilience.
Towards a 21st-Century Transformation
While national governments must lead the global effort on climate change, governments cannot do it alone. The IPCC Special Report reconfirms that to reach our climate change goals, we must also welcome and include non-state actors, such as regional governments, businesses, investors and everyday people in our discussions. At UN Climate Change, we call this inclusive multilateralism. It is reflected in the above-mentioned Talanoa Dialogue, in our hundreds of discussions with non-state actors throughout the year, and why UN Climate Change recently co-hosted the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. This gathering highlighted and promoted effective climate actions by business, civil society and local and regional governments. We will continue to engage such actors and encourage governments to do the same.
One of the next major opportunities for advancing both inclusive multilateralism and increased climate action will be the 2019 United Nations Climate Summit in New York. This is a high-profile opportunity to recognise and promote actions that contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation and to share success stories and solutions.
What We Need From The G20
The Paris Agreement recognises that addressing climate change requires nothing less than a dramatic social and economic transformation. We need to move rapidly. By ensuring that the Paris Agreement is robust and fully operational, and by working closely with all sectors and actors, we can leave a healthy, green planet for our children and grandchildren.
Words, however, must be backed with action. That is why I am challenging G20 members – all of them and everyone at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires – to take on the mantle of leadership and respond to what the people of the world both want and need: clear and unequivocal action on climate change – action that reflects the dire and urgent situation we collectively face.
Again, the G20 can do this in two ways: first, by actively supporting the completion of the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement. Second, the G20 can help accelerate progress by promoting national policies that inspire and incentivise citizens, companies, cities, NGOs and regional governments to take more ambitious climate action.
Addressing climate change is an enormous task, but it is also an enormous opportunity – an opportunity to build a world that is more sustainable, more resilient and more prosperous for all. None of this, however, will happen on its own. It requires leadership – leadership that you can provide today, at COP24, and in our continuing efforts to address climate change.