The landmark Paris Agreement on climate change was a key achievement of multilateralism, of which both the European Union (EU) and the Pacific countries should be proud. The Pacific was at the heart of this success, leading the High Ambition Coalition, in close cooperation with the EU and other partners. Fiji was the first country to ratify the Agreement, closely followed by other Pacific nations. Since then, progress on ratification has been extraordinary - the Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November last year and 148 parties have already ratified it.
Yet there is no room for complacency: for the vision of a global climate-resilient, low-emissions future to actually materialise, we must now focus all our attention on putting our words into action. And we should not be distracted by the announced withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement. It is regrettable but this should not stop global action for the sake of vulnerable nations and the planet.
We believe that addressing climate change provides countless opportunities to invent new and better ways to produce and consume, invest, trade, and protect lives, for the benefit of all people as well as the planet. To deliver much-needed economic and social transformation, it will be vital that the emissions reduction targets and adaptation strategies and plans countries have put forward are now translated into concrete, actionable policies and measures in all sectors of the economy. Intent alone does not guarantee delivery.
The EU and its Member States are determined to play our full part in implementing the Paris Agreement, both at home and internationally. Europe has provided and will continue to provide substantial funding to support climate action in partner countries. In 2015 alone, support totalled EUR 17.6 billion.
Domestically, we are committed to ensuring the completion of the legislative and regulatory package necessary to deliver the EU's target for Paris – reducing emissions by at least 40% by 2030. Our legislative actions cover all sectors of the economy and we are putting energy efficiency first, as well as boosting uptake of renewable energy across the bloc.
We hear and understand concerns that taking action on climate change can affect economic growth. But we have found that the opposite is in fact true: our emissions have fallen by 22% since 1990, while EU GDP has grown by 50%. During this period, we have created new jobs, businesses, technologies and competitive advantages, preparing our economies well for the climate-resilient, low-carbon future.
At the same time, we are investing in increasing resilience of our societies: our experience shows that for each euro invested in flood protection, we can save six euros in avoided damages. In other words, investing in climate resilience reduces current and future risks.
While the EU has more than two decades of experience in developing and implementing ambitious climate policies, we know that many of our partners are more at an initial stage.
The EU has available about EUR 800 million for development co-operation with the Pacific up to 2020. More than 50% of this amount will be spent on climate-related work. But what counts perhaps even more, is that the EU will continue to engage strategically with all partners in the region to make sure that mitigation and adaptation are mainstreamed in policy-making at all levels. Particularly for the Pacific, climate action is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda, which are the main guide for the EU’s co-operation work.
While it is crucial to develop long-term climate strategies, there are actions we all need to take urgently now. In just a few months, in November, countries will gather in Bonn at COP23 to continue the hard work required to turn the Paris Agreement into action. Fiji, as the Presidency of COP23, therefore takes a leading role in ensuring the effective implementation by all parties of what was agreed in Paris, and in making sure that climate action truly changes the lives of those affected. In this respect, the EU and its Member States are working closely with Fiji and have already provided financial and technical assistance to the government for these intense negotiations to be a success.
Next year we have another milestone ahead of us: the 2018 'Facilitative Dialogue' will invite all countries to demonstrate how they have and will continue to follow through on what our leaders pledged in Paris. This will be the first opportunity since COP21 to look at our collective efforts to limit global warming, evaluate the progress thus far on commitments made, and scale up global ambition.
And it is not just governments that are taking action. The global climate challenges are of unprecedented breadth and scale. Businesses, cities and regions, and civil society all have a crucial role to play in delivering action on the ground that will really make a difference. We need enhanced cooperation and coordination between governments, civil society, the private sector and other key actors. This is already happening in the Pacific. The Climate Action Pacific Partnership Event in Suva, organised by Fijian High-Level Climate Champion Minister Seruiratu in July will bring together Pacific leaders, civil society organisations and private sector in order to accelerate climate action in the Pacific. It is only by working together that we will we be able to live up to the level of ambition needed to prevent the severe impacts of climate change and protect the interests of future generations.
COP21 in Paris was a defining moment in the fight to safeguard the planet for future generations. We must maintain that momentum in the months and years ahead, because the prize is truly worth it: lower emissions, greater energy security and energy efficiency, innovation-driven growth, job creation, more resilient societies and healthier and safer environment. There is a lot of work to do, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Fiji and the Pacific.
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