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Post-COP21 … Will we stop our climate from changing?

Submitted by on 30 Mar 2016 – 10:57

The Paris deal signals progress on a number of fronts, but perhaps, the most significant one is the signal that it sends to investors. MEP Miriam Dalli, Member of EP’s COP21 delegation discusses the urgent priorities of the climate change agreement and says we have to reach a new level of partnership among heads of states, undertake more research to develop newer sources of clean energy and introduce climate change as a topic in primary schools

Mariam DelliThe United Nations agreement on climate change can truly be considered a historic turning point as it embeds climate action in the heart of the political agreement. More than ever before, this ambitious Paris deal is a clear and much-needed sign that there is still hope and that a better greener world is still an attainable goal. Among progressive European leaders, there was a pronounced sense of urgency and a strong need for a global deal. It is to the merit of such leaders that we are filled with confidence that the escalating climate crisis can be tackled. If nothing else, we owe this to our children and grandchildren so that they may inherit a liveable planet with a cleaner future.

The Paris agreement is a real breakthrough. It is the first global deal on climate change, the first time that 195 countries managed to agree on the long-term goal of decarbonisation whilst decouple their economic growth from fossil fuels. Moreover this deal goes much further than the world would have expected a couple of years ago.

COP21 was successful in that it was an unprecedented political recognition of the risks that climate change brings about. Moreover COP21 managed to unite all countries to take action together. Elements of the climate agreement are legally binding and manage to set the road towards limiting global warming to well below 2°C above the pre-industrial levels and to further work towards 1.5°C. This is a much more ambitious goal than many would have thought.

In many procedural ways, too, the Paris climate agreement exceeded what was initially anticipated. There was a huge step towards moving from the previous hard line on differentiation. For the first time ever, it was agreed that all countries in the world must participate in this global effort by resubmitting their greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans every five years. The reporting and monitoring system is to be more transparent and comprehensive, meaning that ambitions of the national contributions will be revisited after a stocktaking exercise every five years. The fact that all nations have agreed to make contributions makes the agreement universal in nature. Furthermore, as the rich, more developed countries are invited to help the less developed ones meet their decarbonisation objectives, it can be stated that this is also a fair and ambitious agreement.

These points show that the Paris deal signals progress on a number of fronts, but perhaps, the most significant one is the signal that it sends to investors. I hope that this agreement will be the strongest indicator that fossil fuels are a thing of the past and that the future lies in renewables and the technologies that support them. However, the success of this global climate agreement depends on what will happen in the near future. What happened in Paris back in December 2015 must serve as the beginning of a revolution in policy-making, in making investment decisions, in the financial markets and in energy technologies.

We need to undertake more research to develop further new sources of clean energy. Innovative solutions must be supported so that they can be rolled out on a commercial scale. The world needs new patterns of investment and new sources of finance. We need to change our emphasis on what technologies we incentivise by focusing on greener and more sustainable technology. Providing better and cheaper technology and a greater flow of climate finance towards developing countries would help individual national ambitions for greenhouse gas reduction grow faster.

More needs to be done. The hope is that a bottom-up processes, rather than strict UN mandates, will drive up the level of action in the decades to come. Governments will need to structure their power markets, and re-plan their growth, but the nature of climate change is such that new policies need to transcend geographical borders. No nation and no region can afford to be inward-looking. Countries’ individual initiatives are virtually ineffective if taken in isolation. There is a strong need to shift the environmental focus away from the national to the international and from the individual to the collective.

As climate change poses an unprecedented threat to the future of our planet, equity, solidarity and responsibility are the main principles that should guide our actions. We have a moral duty towards ourselves, our children and grandchildren, to take urgent action at a global level because ultimately, this is our common responsibility.

We have to reach a new level of partnership between heads of governments from every region, working constructively alongside the private sector and civil society to address an enormous challenge that no one nation or indeed region is capable of solving alone. We have to act together. All of us, both individually and collectively, both at national and at international level, today’s and future generations together.

We need to seriously consider the introduction of climate change as a topic in our primary schools. Our children are agents of change and they are pivotal to start changing attitudes and behaviours. Teaching our children about climate change from a very early age will help us change our citizens’ mentality because the impact our kids have on their parents is simply amazing and many times underrated.

Most importantly, we need ambitious policies, a proper roadmap, which can lead to a shift in the mentality of people, organisations and policy-makers. However, this is not an issue for governments alone to deal with. Each and every one of us has the power to start changing things. We can all contribute in concrete ways to address climate change.

The Paris climate change summit was one small step for our mankind. Although the nations of the world know that they cannot all of a sudden impose themselves on one another to stop emitting greenhouse gases, because fossil fuels are fundamental to the way some economies work and grow, they also know that they need to find ways and means to work together towards a better future. The Paris agreement offers a range of mechanisms to make this happen; and we, as individuals and communities have to make it work