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OpEd: Forging ahead with global climate action
(by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission, and Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy)
With the Paris Agreement, the world decided to take responsibility for its present and its future, by committing to preserve the very source of life: our planet and its environment. The climate change deal is an unprecedented multilateral partnership between nearly 200 countries, supported by companies and communities across the world, to address a problem facing all of us. It's a challenge we can only tackle together and, since the beginning, Europe has been at the forefront of this collective engagement.
And there is a growing acknowledgment that there is no other way than acting together. Today, more than ever, Europe stands by this landmark agreement and leads the way on its implementation, through effective climate policies and strengthened cooperation to build strong partnerships. Also through continued support to the poorest and most vulnerable: we see more and more people on the move, or exposed to extreme poverty, due to droughts or floods linked to climate change. For Europe, dealing with climate change is a matter of political responsibility and multilateral engagement, and a matter of security, prevention of conflicts and even radicalisation.
That is why the European Union will not renegotiate the Paris Agreement. We have spent 20 years negotiating. Now it is time for action, the world's priority is implementation.
And as we address climate change with an eye on the future, we create countless opportunities for the present, by setting up new and better ways to produce and consume, invest and trade and protect lives, assets and livelihood opportunities, for the benefit of all people as well as the planet.
To accelerate the global transition to a low-emission, climate-resilient future, we have started to strengthen our existing partnerships and to seek and find new alliances, from the world's largest economies to the most vulnerable island states. Because from the Arctic to the Sahel, climate change is a reality today, not a remote concept of the future.
We expect all countries to uphold the Paris Agreement and put words into action by implementing their national climate plans and strengthening their efforts over time. Plans must be turned into concrete, actionable policies and measures – now.
The European Union is already working towards completion of the legislative and regulatory framework necessary to deliver our Paris target, to reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990. Our legislative actions cover all sectors of the economy, and we are putting energy efficiency first and boosting uptake of renewable energy across the bloc.
Taking action on climate change goes hand-in-hand with economic growth. Take the EU's case: our emissions have fallen by 22% since 1990, while total EU GDP has grown by 50%. During this period, we have created new jobs, businesses and technologies. We are preparing our economies for the future and, at the same time, investing in making our societies more resilient to climate change, to reduce current and future risks.
We have more than two decades of experience in developing and implementing ambitious climate policies and we are ready to share our experiences and lessons learned. It's not by chance that we have already established extensive climate policy cooperation with key partners across the globe. We will also continue to provide substantial funding to support climate action in partner countries. In 2015 alone, EU support totalled close to R260 billion.
In just a few months, in November this year, countries will gather in Bonn for the next UN climate conference – COP23 – to continue to flesh out the work programme for implementing the Paris Agreement. Next year, the facilitative dialogue to be held as part of the UN climate process will be the first opportunity since Paris to look at our collective efforts to limit global warming and assess what we have done concretely to deliver on the commitments made. These are key steps for turning the political agreement reached in Paris into reality.
Yet this is a challenge we can only overcome with the greatest possible involvement of civil society, businesses, local communities, cities and regions in parallel. And we are seeing an unprecedented breadth and scale of action by all of these actors. As institutions, we can plan and support the strategies needed to save our environment, but it is they that have the crucial role of turning policies into action and results on the ground. Our new EU Consensus on Development actively promotes this role. Enhanced cooperation and coordination among all stakeholders are key – we would say the key. Because only by working together will we be able to live up to the level of ambition we have set ourselves and reap the many benefits of concerted action: lower emissions, greater energy security and energy efficiency, innovation-driven growth, job creation, more resilient societies and a better environment.
Paris was a defining moment in the global challenge to safeguard the planet for present and future generations. The EU is determined to not only implement the Paris Agreement, but also build strong global partnerships to ensure that diplomacy and multilateralism bring real, tangible results for our people. The world, the planet, can count on the European Union.
For more information: Frank Oberholzer +27(0)12 452 5261