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Tue, 21 Jan 2020 14:59 GMT

Can We Still Meet the Paris Agreement Before It’s Too Late?


Jenna Kleinwort

Tue, 14 Jan 2020 20:27 GMT

Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once said, “There is no Plan B, because there is no Planet B.”

The adoption of the Paris agreement in 2015 at the end of COP 21 was considered a historic step in the fight against climate change, as it was the first universal and legally binding agreement, determined to limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century.  

At the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi on January 14th, policymakers and experts shared their insights on whether or not the demands of the Paris agreement can still be met or whether the agreement has already failed.

Can We Keep the Historic Momentum of the Paris Agreement?

Former president of Iceland Olafur Ragnar Grimson responded to the question of how national governments could keep the historic momentum of the Paris agreement going.

“I was probably the only minister who came to the first Sustainability Summit. Most people thought it was a PR stunt. But what you have done since is in my opinion the ultimate proof that we can fulfil the Paris agreements, that we can replace the emissions with renewable clean energy.”

Grimson referred to the Masdar project as a business case, which successfully shows that green energy can be profitable. The renewable energy that it generates can be cheaper than energy that is generated from oil and gas and therefore can make economic sense.

In the fight against climate change, Grimson says that he remains a realist, but also optimistic.

“Even if governments do not do anything and withdraw from the Paris agreement, communities can take action into their own hands… This is why I am still optimistic. That is why I believe that it is still possible,” Grimson said.

There Is No Planet B

Laurent Fabius, the UN Environment Patron on Environmental Governance of the United Nations urged countries to keep up their efforts.

“There are two mistakes to avoid. The first one would be to abandon. This is not possible, since, as Ban ki-Moon said, there is no Planet B. The second mistake would be to say that we have the Paris agreement, is it really interesting? If it is not directly implemented it has no meaning… I think this would be great mistakes. Paris is there, COPs are there. We need gatherings, we need commitments, we need will.”

Efforts at National Level

It remains up to governments that have signed the Paris agreements how to amend their domestic policies in accordance with it. But communities and civil societies are needed to take action for themselves, too. Cooperation is needed.

Earlier in the morning, Rwandan President Paul Kagame referred to the necessity of creating a contract between governments and society in order to achieve a sustainable environment.

The Rwandan Minister of Environment ,Jeanna D’Arc Mujawamariya, highlighted some of the initiatives that are happening on the national level in Rwanda. “Each Saturday of the month, we get together to clean the forest and to plant. We have started not to plant trees, but to plant forests to fight deforestation.” Moreover, there are car free days in Rwanda, when from 7am to 11pm people walk instead of using cars.

Optimists and Realists, The Young and The Old

The Emirati minister for Climate Change and Environment, Thani Al Zeyoudi, highlighted the efforts that the UAE has taken and stressed the important role that youth plays in combating climate change.

“The youth has the power, the skills and the passion to move forward quickly,” stressed Zeyoudi.

The panelists agreed on one thing: in order to combat climate change, people from all walks of life and all levels of society need to engage and work together.

Realists and optimists and those that remain sceptic, the young and the old: if we want to make sure that the historic climate goals of Paris are realised, everyone has to get involved.

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