We have one collective aim—taking action: to improve the quality of the air we breathe; to preserve the land, we live and work on; and to protect the waters that give us sustenance and economic opportunity.
Few other places on earth suffer the devastating impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss like the continent of Africa. Few others on earth recognize more clearly the need for urgent and rapid action on a number of fronts. And few other places on earth are better placed to take a leadership role, particularly in the area of nature-based solutions to the crises brought about by biodiversity loss and unchecked climate change.
Never have we needed this work more than today. As the Special Report from the IPCC indicates, only a small window remains to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C. Africa is responding to the challenge on many fronts. The African Forest Landscape Restoration, the Central African Forest Initiative, and the Restoration initiatives are but three substantial efforts to address climate change and biodiversity loss.
The benefits of such nature-based solutions are clear. They include: reduced deforestation and land degradation; restoration of degraded lands, and enhanced soil management. These provide important buffers against extreme weather events.
It’s also important to note that in their Paris Agreement contributions, 45 African countries have identified ecosystems and biodiversity as key vulnerabilities.
From a UNFCCC perspective, the implementation of National Adaptation Plans—NAPs—offer a significant opportunity for Africa with respect to addressing these issues, while helping plan their efforts on biodiversity and land degradation.
With respect to the Paris Agreement itself, important work remains—work that must be accomplished at COP24 in Poland in December. Parties to the agreement set themselves a deadline of this year to finalize the Paris Agreement Work Program and that deadline comes up at our COP 24 meetings in Poland next month.
A completed Work Program will not only provide guidelines for the Paris Agreement, but unleash its full potential. More than that, it sends a signal that nations are serious about addressing climate change, and by extension biodiversity.
Nations must also significantly accelerate their global climate ambitions before 2020 which should be reflected in the next round of Nationally-Determined Contributions. And we need progress on ensuring nations fulfill their financial pledges to support the climate regime. Specifically, we need Parties to come through on their pledges to provide $100 billion to developing countries to help address climate change. We know many nations are depending on this finance, including African nations.
While little time remains, it’s not too late to address the climate change and biodiversity issues we collectively face. But we must take action now. Our road ahead is clear. The map is well marked. But we are running out of time. We will only achieve our goals by working together.
Work with national leaders and urge them to take action and finalize the work that needs to be done at COP24. We must act. And we must act now. If not for us, then for our children. And our children’s children.
By Patricia Espinosa,
The Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa.