Implementing the Paris Agreement will require many different actions by many different players, but everyone seems up to the task, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa told former U.S. Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday during his annual 24 Hours of Reality event. “The implementation of the commitments under the Paris Agreement is one very clear priority, and it’s a priority that presents challenges in many ways,” she said.
The Paris Agreement was adopted a year ago during the 21st Session of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Paris and entered into force last month, much earlier than initially expected. For the U.N. Secretariat, the milestone “represents turning from a method of work that was very much concentrated in negotiations into a mode where our task should be to support countries in really putting in place policies and actions that will allow them to comply [with] their commitments under the Paris Agreement,” Espinosa said.
For the countries themselves, entry into force means starting or ramping up domestic action to carry out their national commitments. Under the agreement, each nation submitted to the UNFCCC an intended contribution to help keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius; the United States, for example, committed to reducing national greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Both developed and developing nations made pledges, which vary as greatly as the individual circumstances of the countries.
For developing nations, it’s important that climate change and sustainability be considered as they work to develop, according to Espinosa. “We do need to realize that addressing climate change is not only an environmental issue, that it is really an issue that is in the core of sustainable development,” she said. “If we want to make the transformation that we need in order to achieve the goals that were set in the Paris Agreement, we do need to incorporate these objectives and these goals into the national development programs, into national policies.”
Governing bodies are not alone in working to implement the Paris Agreement. Advocacy work like that of Gore’s NGO, the Climate Reality Project, helps to inform the public about the need to take action and strengthen grass-roots efforts to do so, Gore and Espinosa agreed.
However, Espinosa said, there is something of a language barrier between negotiating bodies and the general public that must be addressed to take full advantage of such partnerships. “People get used to referring to the different aspects of the negotiations in very technical terms that are not understandable for the people outside, for the regular citizen that feels the effects of climate change but does not really have the knowledge about the phenomenon,” she said. “This is a point that I have been sharing, I would say with really very positive responses, in terms of the need really to dedicate resources, human and all kinds of resources, for communication.”