on 15th April 2016

Signing of the Paris Agreement: another chance to show global leadership

On International Mother Earth Day, 22 April, over 130 governments will gather in New York to take the next necessary step for turning the Paris Agreement into meaningful action to protect our planet and its people from dangerous climate change.

Although we have seen a great amount of global commitment to step up the fight on climate change, this year’s Mother Earth Day comes at a time when human suffering from weather extremes is at an unprecedented high. The strongest El Nino ever recorded, on top of climate change induced record-breaking temperatures, overwhelms millions of people’s ability to cope with erratic weather. Storms and floods in Fiji, mega droughts in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe or Papua New Guinea, the list goes on. The solutions and coping mechanisms local communities have to adapt to climate change, to ensure they have enough food, are at their limits in this extreme crisis.

From record-breaking temperatures to a record-breaking agreement

What difference will signing the UN climate deal make in the lives of the poor people on the frontlines of climate impacts? Nothing much immediately, but signing the agreement has symbolic value that shows that governments are committed to stepping up climate action.

To become legally binding, the Paris climate deal must be ratified by at least 55 countries, which account for at least 55% of global emissions. The UN believes that the Paris Agreement could become a record-breaking agreement, with the highest number of signatories on the opening day. Importantly, some big emitters, like the US and China, have already indicated that they will ratify the new climate deal in 2016.

Small countries lead the way

Although the giants are moving, the true frontrunners of global climate action have been a few small island states, such as the Marshall Islands, Fiji and St Lucia. One of the biggest and surprising achievements of the Paris Agreement is the aim to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This goal was strongly advocated for by more than 100 countries and hundreds of NGOs, including CARE.

Achieving the temperature limit goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius is by no means an easy task. It will require more climate action and emissions reductions by all countries, but the evidence is undeniable, it’s the only option to ensure the survival of climate vulnerable communities and nations that are often the least capable to prepare for and adapt to disastrous climate impacts. Inaction on climate change threatens most their chances of overcoming poverty and living a life in dignity.

New climate and development goals

2015 was the year of big global commitments, the new Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement set the agenda for international efforts on tackling the dual challenge on climate change and poverty. Now is the time to speed up the real work to achieve the promises made in 2015. The signing of the Paris Agreement on Mother Earth Day is the next step in a long road towards a more sustainable and climate just future.

Sven Harmeling, Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator, CARE International

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