As this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP 23) is about to begin in Bonn, the good news is that the international community remains strongly committed to moving ahead with the Paris Agreement on climate action. Some 165 countries plus the European Union have already pledged, through their ratifications of this landmark agreement, to achieve the goal of keeping the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.
The disturbing news is that climate change is taking place, and in many parts of the world at a pace that, according to scientific research, is contributing to more frequent and intense extreme weather phenomena. It has become increasingly apparent that the way we organise our society, and make use of natural resources, is having a global impact on the earth’s geosystems.
As members of the international community, we share a common but differentiated responsibility and capacity to address this climate change. We will have to move away from low-efficiency fossil-fuel based systems, towards high-efficiency renewable economies.
There is no law of nature whereby fossil fuels are the inevitable source of energy for our transport, housing and business activities. Quite the reverse: nature is now sounding the alarm bells.
In fact, renewable energy is gaining an ever greater foothold, demonstrating the ability of our societies to progress over time. Last year, renewable energy accounted for nearly two thirds of all newly installed energy capacity globally. As prices are falling, renewable energy is becoming increasingly competitive.
Renewable energy has the advantage that it can be generated in any country, over time relieving the balance of payments burden. Off-grid solar power generation opens up the prospect for millions of people to access electricity, and hence meet key development challenges.
There is also an urgent need to adapt our societies to the effects of climate change, and to engage in international cooperation to this end. The Paris Agreement is clear on this issue. The means of implementation, in terms of finance and technology, should be made available to all countries for both mitigation (curbing emissions) and adaptation.
Sweden takes this responsibility seriously and is one of the largest financial contributors to both the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund.
Climate change entails certain risks, in particular to vulnerable countries, and its effects on society may in turn pose a threat to peace and stability. As a current member of the UN Security Council, Sweden is calling for strengthened analytical capacity within the United Nations to help the Security Council make sound assessments of critical situations.
The United Nations Charter is as relevant as ever. Article 1 exhorts all of us to achieve international cooperation in solving global problems. The Paris Agreement demonstrated the strength of our multilateral order, as we identified a common challenge and decided to work together to meet it.
The 2030 Agenda, with its Sustainable Development Goals, is another remarkable manifestation of resolve to fight poverty and bring better and more decent lives to all people. Addressing climate change is closely linked to that agenda, as both express our determination to provide a good life not only for ourselves, but also for future generations.
The big challenge that lies ahead is designing and implementing climate-smart development policies. It is a challenge for all countries, whether poor or rich, as no region can claim to have a proven model to replicate.
What is encouraging is that investing in climate action is investing in economic development and growth. This was the main conclusion drawn in a recent OECD report submitted to the G20. What we are seeing is the emergence of a new climate economy, which offers the prospects of economic and social transformation while staying within the planetary boundaries.
Sweden has embarked down a path of becoming a fossil-free society within a generation. Earlier this year, the Riksdag (the Swedish parliament) adopted a law setting out a climate policy framework, instructing the Government to draw up regular action plans and report annually on progress made. The stated goal is an economy with zero net emissions of carbon by 2045.
As a member of the United Nations, Sweden remains strongly committed to engaging with other countries to address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Lars Ronnås, Climate Ambassador