Paris and the future of sustainable development

The world’s eyes have recently turned to Paris as 195 countries signed a new agreement to combat climate change and address its effects. After more than two decades of highly complex political negotiations, governments have finally committed to action in the climate front.  The recent Paris agreement puts us on the right direction into fighting climate change, but what are the perspectives for sustainable development?

Despite being a historic achievement for international action on climate change, the Paris agreement is not the end of the line for sustainable development. It is actually the beginning of a long process of mobilizing people to act in favour of sustainable development and to keep pushing their governments towards the implementation of the commitments.

Climate change doesn’t tell the whole story of sustainable development either. Humanity is not only confronted with the climate change challenge, but also with poverty and rising inequality among people and countries alike. Moreover, the changing climate is a consequence of an unsustainable development model based on incentivizing endless consumption of limited natural resources. The great challenge ahead of us is to rethink such a model and pursue integrated actions that challenge the root causes of poverty and inequality.

There is still a lot of uncertainty of how national governments will turn the Paris agreement into action, but success will depend on whether actions are pursued in an inclusive way, including people and other challenges to sustainable development as well.

People’s participation will be decisive to push the 195 governments into action on the Paris deal. Ranging from massive demonstrations to various advocacy, awareness-raising and social media campaigns, the participation of people has already been a determinant factor in shaping the political and multilateral negotiations and their results.

Financing is also one of the challenges ahead of us. Developing countries need additional financial resources to leapfrog obsolete, polluting technologies and help contain climate change. As explored in our previous blog post, the topic of finance was one of the most contested during the negotiations in Paris. The final agreement set a minimum of $100 billion per year to be delivered by developed countries – a great conquest by developing nations. However, such disbursements cannot be done at the expenses of other pivotal development challenges, such as the eradication of poverty.

Loss and damage’ is another issue of major relevance for the developing countries, which are already suffering the worst consequences of a changing climate. While the financial commitments for adaptation and mitigation represented a great victory for the developing nations, the lack of clarity regarding ‘loss and damage’ was a great setback.  No financial commitments were made for ‘loss and damage’ in the final agreement. This issue must be further reviewed at COP-22 in Morocco in 2016. Stay tuned!

Having an ambitious agreement in place is a major achievement; it is a boost of hope in the future of humanity. It also shows that governments will commit themselves if people are pushing for action and for greater accountability. People from all over the world have now the opportunity to renew their hope and build on this momentum to connect the Paris agreement to broader action for sustainable development.


Credit: IPC-IG/UNDP, Fishermen in China by Wong Chi Keung

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