By Steve Trent
How many photos of smiling handshakes and international meetings have you seen in the media recently and how many of these were taken during and after the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in late 2015 and used to illustrate a common success on climate change? My guess is quite a few.
The Paris agreement does reflect some great intentions, most notably the explicit “commitment” to limit global warming at 1.5 C°. It also proved that it is possible for almost all the States in the world to come to an acceptable agreement on something when the need is great enough and when all parties understand it will ultimately affect us all if we don’t.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said:
"Paris will shape the lives of all future generations in a profound way - it is their future that is at stake."
Last Friday, representatives from around 170 States, including 60 heads of States, gathered in New York for the ceremonial signing of the agreement. But before it enters into force, the text will have to be ratified by 55 countries representing 55% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions. If this is not reached, there will be no deal.
And this would mean we would all suffer. Climate change is a threat multiplier, exacerbating economic shocks, increasing the risk of conflict, heightening the impact of diseases. But while we would all inevitably feel the negative impacts from the effects of our warming planet, we should also remember that it will impact the poorest and most vulnerable first and worst - those who have contributed least to climate change. We should also remember that this is not the outcome promised in Paris.
What do the current figures tell us? In 2015 the earth’s surface temperatures reached its highest since modern record keeping began in 1880. March this year was 1.07 C° hotter compared with 20th century average March temperatures. Climate change is already increasing the number and magnitude of extreme weather events, causing rising sea levels and melting polar ice sheets.
At EJF, we would hope to see those countries with the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions getting on with a quick process of ratification. It is great to see that the U.S. and China are committed to ratify the agreement, and we need to see the European Union once again lead in the battle against climate change.
We cannot afford to delay this any longer. We need to act now. We must hold our governments to account and demand they meet their commitments swiftly and in full. Let your government representative know you want them to act today; that you demand they act without delay.