In the wake of the historical agreement reached in Paris last week, close to 200 countries will embark on the road towards ratification and implementation of unprecedented climate action.
In the words of UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, this agreement is “an expression of common resolve to protect our planet and build a more resilient and equitable world for all”. Thumbs up, then – or not?
While there is cause for celebration, there is also cause for concern. As many have pointed out, the blood, sweat and tears of the past few weeks will bear little fruit if the agreement is not translated into action at the national level. While the final text establishes a global goal to “hold the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius… and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius” concrete timelines or targets are notoriously absent. Without such specifics, the Paris agreement reads like a bucket list rather than a roadmap – making it just that little bit too easy for countries to cop out. How do we make sure that the commitments made are cemented?
Parliamentary action: the time is now
Parliaments have a critical role to play in the transition from promise to policy. Ratifying the Paris agreement, however significant, is only the first of many steps. Throughout the years ahead, parliamentarians should ensure that political action on climate change is effective and sustainable, and that policy priorities and budgets reflect the most pressing needs. At the same time, clear and consistent communication on proposed policies and programmes will be crucial in maintaining the momentum for climate action.
This is a blog post by Lotte Geunis, Parliamentary Development Officer at the United Nations Development Programme.