The defining issue of our time – and the way forward

Published 22 November 2018 in:

Photo: UN Photo/Kibae Park

As this year’s United Nations climate change conference, COP 24, is about to kick off in the Polish city of Katowice, the urgency of climate action is writ large.

The recent report by the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius contains compelling messages about the severe consequences for people and natural systems if inaction prevails. IPCC is the leading international body to take a scientific view of climate change.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment.”

These were the words of the UN Secretary-General as he spoke on what he described as a “direct existential threat”.

The global commitment is there. 183 countries, plus the European Union, have pledged with their ratifications of the Paris Agreement to achieve the goal of curbing the rise of global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. This landmark agreement spells out our common, but differentiated, responsibility and capacities to address climate change.

The Paris Agreement obliges states to submit their own National Determined Contribution to achieve the goals. In Katowice, parties will agree on a common ‘rule book’ on how to follow up on these commitments.

National circumstances differ from country to county, and the rules will have to combine flexibility with being robust. Transparency is a critical component as it will build mutual trust and confidence between countries.

In Katowice, political leaders will also engage in a dialogue on climate ambitions. The outgoing Fiji Presidency has set the tone for a constructive and inclusive approach, which will hopefully serve as stepping stone for raised ambitions in the next few years.

There is also an urgent call to adapt our societies to climate change and, to this end, engage in international cooperation. The Paris Agreement is clear on this issue. The means of implementation in terms of finance and technology should be made available between countries both for curbing emissions (mitigation) and for adaptation.

Sweden takes this responsibility seriously and is one of the largest financial contributors to the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund.

Climate change presents the global community with immense challenges. And you cannot negotiate with nature.

What brings hope is that the benefits of climate action are greater than ever before, while the costs of inaction continue to rise.

Reports by the OECD and others show that climate-smart policies will bring improved economic growth and social progress. The development story of our time can unlock opportunities for a strong, sustainable and inclusive economy while moving away from fossil dependency.

The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda with its Sustainable Development Goals constitute a global framework to fight poverty, bring better and decent life to all people, while staying within the planetary boundaries.

The United Nations Charter is as relevant as ever. Article 1 mandates all of us to achieve international cooperation in solving global problems. The Paris Agreement demonstrated the strength of the multilateral order. In Katowice, the time has come to reinforce these collective efforts.