the 196 signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) passed a new climate agreement in Paris in December 2015, it was celebrated as a success around the world. If the Paris Agreement is now consistently implemented, this means nothing less than the start of the end of the age of fossil fuels and therefore a wide-ranging transformation for the global economy and society.
After the Agreement was signed at a celebration in New York on 22 April 2016 by as many as 172 nations, the first signatory conference after the Paris summit (COP-21) will take place in Marrakesh on 7-18 November to drive forward the complex processes of international climate policy. The mediators of the UNFCCC signatory states will negotiate about the implementation of the resolutions passed in Paris. “COP-22” in Marrakesh therefore offers the first serious litmus test for the Paris Agreement. Only then will it be clear whether the Paris Agreement has rightly been hailed “historic” or only created paper tigers.
The Paris Agreement stipulates in a binding manner that even optimised international “business as usual” is no longer sustainable if the most serious consequences of anthropogenic climate change are to be avoided or their effects reduced significantly. The transformative claim of global climate policy is based on this. In fact, climate change and policy have wide-ranging implications that affect virtually all areas of human development and international cooperation.
This is the exact reason why the Paris Agreement is also of far-reaching importance with regard to development policy - not least in the context of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, which was passed in September 2015 by the UN General Assembly, and of itself has an explicitly transformative claim. The Paris Agreement thus anchors adaptation to climate change as a key field of activity for international cooperation, in particular with regard to particularly vulnerable developing countries and small island states. The associated decisions on climate finance and the transfer of suitable technologies will characterise the financial and technical cooperation of the coming years and decades. Forward-looking and intelligent networking of the relevant measures with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 and their targets is necessary because, for example, inadequate adaptation capacities - e.g. relating to water supply (SDG 6), infrastructure (SDG 9) or protecting the eco-system (SDG 15) - clearly oppose achieving the goals.
In terms of joint but different responsibilities for global climate protection - as laid down in particular in the national climate plans presented at the Paris Summit (nationally determined contributions, NDCs) - and for sustainable development in global, national and local connections, at the end of the day each country must find its own mix of policies and technologies. The fact that this not only requires sober calculation and technocratic planning, but rather is also a deeply political negotiation process in which it is necessary to moderate tangibly conflicting goals is obvious.
How well this can be achieved is decided to a major extent in the global energy sector, global land usage and the ongoing process of the dynamic urbanisation trend as can be seen in particular in developing and emerging economies in Asia and Africa. The design of the urbanisation processes will have a major effect on the development of global energy consumption and the demand for regional land and water resources. It can therefore effectively undermine the goals of the international climate and sustainability agenda or bring about transformative change that would go far beyond the urban centres.
Even if the Paris Climate Agreement and Agenda 2030 - as well as the “New Urban Agenda”, which should be passed in October this year at the United Nations Habitat III Summit in Quito, Ecuador - in and of themselves do not bring about any transformation with regard to global sustainability, they will continue to provide significant, international and binding reference points that can and must become catalysts for transformative policy at all action levels. A targeted link between the climate, sustainability and urbanisation agendas now requires that the relevant multilateral agreements must be implemented at a national and local level. Without appropriate intervention and the relevant technical, institutional and above all political support, the transformative claims from the multilateral declarations will quickly disintegrate again into national daily business and the typical path dependencies of rampant urban development.
The decisions taken at the climate conference in Marrakesh will therefore have an outstanding signal effect. As the incoming host, the Moroccan environment minister Hakima El Haite emphasised at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue meeting of the federal government at the start of July: “The next climate conference will be the conference for implementation and support.” To achieve this aim and to set the course for implementation policy that promises to be a success in terms of the transformative agenda, COP-22 should in particular:
1. produce binding, long-term implementation strategies for the different thematic streams from the Paris Agreement, not least with regard to financing and technology transfer and in terms of a climate-sensitive global investment policy;
2. specify the mechanisms using which the signatory states should regularly improve their national climate plans (“ratcheting up”) faced with the superior objective of stabilising the average global warming at 1.5°Cor maximum 2°C;
3. specify how the global financial flows can be unified with climate-appropriate development and how in particular the financial commitment of USD 100 billion annually to be provided to developing countries can be complied with from 2020. In the words of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, also at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue: “We really have to do what we have promised.”
In general, the aim should be to move towards fundamental, global structural change by implementing the Paris Agreement step by step. The ratification of the Paris Agreement by China and the US is a key step in the right direction. Then the Paris Agreement, in interaction with a climate-appropriate operationalisation of the UN sustainability objectives and the design options for the urbanisation dynamic, can seal the end of the age of fossil fuels and drive forward the decarbonisation of the global economy with the aim of sustainable global development. For this to be achieved, strategic “top-down” planning must be intelligently combined with ambitious objectives, long-term vision and innumerable, decentralised “bottom-up” initiatives in order to ensure a permanent transformative effect. After the fine words of the Paris Agreement, it is up to Marrakesh to ensure specific actions follow.
Pictures: 1 = David Blackwell. (flickr.com) | 2 = COP PARIS (flickr.com) | 3, 4 = Matteo Martinello (flickr.com)