on 21st March 2016

First 100 days – the climate drumbeat continues post-Paris

The first 100 days have passed since the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which undoubtedly was a milestone in the global fight against climate change. At CARE, we called the outcome “a ray of hope for the world’s poorest people”, although the agreement has several flaws and its significance depends on its implementation.

Were we too optimistic? Of course, 100 days is a short time to assess the real value of the Paris Agreement, but as the official signing ceremony is just one month away, on the 22nd of April. About one hundred countries are expected to sign the agreement in New York and take the first steps to making the promises made in Paris a reality. This is a critical time to reflect and take stock of the developments so far.

The first months of 2016 send a stark reminder of the humanitarian cost of the climate crisis

Our planet is in a state of emergency. 2015 was the hottest year on record, but the temperatures just keep rising – just last month NASA released a study saying that February had smashed all temperature records by a “shocking” margin of 0.5 degrees Celsius compared to the previous record year, 1998.

On top of record-braking temperatures, the strongest El Niño on record has turned weather patterns upside down causing large-scale human suffering. Still the international community is ignoring the severity of the drought in Ethiopia that has left millions of people hungry, as well as other humanitarian crises unfolding across the world. CARE is working with vulnerable people and communities to mitigate the worst consequences, but the scale of the crisis is unprecedented. Moreover, the fact that early warning and adaptation measures could not prevent this emergency, shows that climate related loss and damage is already exceeding people’s ability to cope.

It is disappointing that the EU just missed an important opportunity to show real leadership, as its Heads of States Council merely agreed on meaningless conclusions at the European Council’s meeting last week. The member states have given no indication to increase the ambition of their national climate plans, despite the agreement in Paris to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, there are countries that have clearly understood the implications of the Paris Agreement,and they should step up and drive the climate ambition onwards and upwards within the EU, not letting the laggards stop or delay action.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Luckily there is also hope and we can see the Paris Agreement leaving its mark. The inclusion of the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature limit in the Agreement was a win for the most vulnerable countries and a stick to call for higher ambition and an urgent shift away from fossil fuels. New coalitions are standing up against business-as-usual, such as the coalition for greater ambition in the EU, and calling upon decision-makers to go beyond the currently agreed “at least” 40% emission reductions by 2030. China implies in its recently adopted 5-year plan that it will increase its current climate pledge. For the second consecutive year, CO2 emissions from energy use seem to have stalled globally, indicating that the shift to renewables pays off. Local communities are also rising up against coal power plants and extraction, and we have seen big investors are pulling out of coal.

In the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), various technical bodies are continuing their work on adaptation and loss and damage. Preparations for the next UNFCCC session in May and COP22 in Morocco are well underway. The Green Climate Fund has also started its 2016 journey with another USD 500 million in its pockets as the first installment of the US pledge, and, hopefully, will achieve by the end of the year significant progress in funding local and community driven pro-poor solutions to climate change. Mid-April, the Inter-governmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to take forward the development of a special report on what the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit means for the world.

Global Goals, Paris Goals – what’s the way forward?

The fact that sustainable development and climate action go hand-in-hand is increasingly underpinned by real-world evidence. A recent IRENA study found that accelerated renewable energy expansion could save billions of tonnes of CO2, could provide dozens of millions of jobs and save millions of lives due to reduced pollution. Further analyses highlight the need to put adaptation and climate resilience, a central pillar of the Paris Agreement, at the forefront of development planning “to prevent the further post-disaster intensification of poverty in countries damaged by the impact of climate-related shocks”. This evidence cannot be ignored as countries start to implement the Paris Agreement alongside the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

The months ahead will show whether the signal of hope we saw in Paris last December will live on and if the objectives of the Paris Agreement will translate into a real action. The first 100 days give a mixed and concerning indication of what we can expect, but certainly not a hopeless picture.

Sven Harmeling, Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator, CARE International

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