UN Climate Speech / 30 Jun, 2017
Paris Agreement Can Be Catalyst for Transformative Change Across Africa

Speaking at the Africa Carbon Forum in Cotonou, Benin, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Patricia Espinosa, said that the Paris Climate Change Agreement can be a catalyst for transformative change across Africa, given that Africa’s climate action plans under the agreement are blueprints for attracting private sector investment. She also said that integrated action on climate change and sustainable development opens vast potential for social and economic gains. See her full speech here:

Let me start by thanking the Government of Benin for hosting the 9th Africa Carbon Forum here in Cotonou.

Let me thank the Nairobi Framework Partnership partners and all agencies that helped make this meeting possible - United Nations Environment and their DTU Partnership, the International Emissions Trading Association the World Bank Group, the Africa Development Bank, the West African Development Bank, UNDP, and the Africa LEDS Partnership

Let me also thank all of you, ministers, for your presence here today. I very much appreciate the opportunity to join you today.

Honorable ministers, this is the first Africa Carbon Forum since the Paris Climate Change Agreement entered into force last November just before the UN climate change conference in Marrakech. This united the world in action on climate change.

To date, 151 nations have ratified the Paris Agreement, being Togo the latest country to do so just yesterday. I would like to therefore congratulate the delegates of Togo for this commitment and to thank them. It is very exciting. There is unprecedented political will to meet the climate challenge. The era of implementation has begun.

This alone should spark the country-level policy that points development towards lower emissions and higher resilience. But there are several more reasons why every nation should move quickly towards this new and dynamic model of development.

First, in 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals were agreed, as were the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Addis Ababa Action Agenda for financing sustainable development. Together, these landmark agreements set an agenda and – along with the Paris Agreement – provide a framework for implementation.

This sustainable development agenda is incredibly important. Action towards sustainable development ensures people’s needs are met as the population swells – basic needs such as food water and energy. And needs that keep societies healthy and strong, such as public health, education, economic opportunity and equality for women and girls.

Honorable ministers, climate action is squarely at the centre of sustainable development as action on sustainable development is at the centre of climate.

The enabling frameworks, including support to developing countries to achieve their Paris Agreement plans, are key for scaling-up ambition at speed and at scale across nations, economies and sectors. This in turn will deliver benefits to every community in every country.

This brings me to the second reason why we must urgently implement the Paris Agreement – integrated action on climate change and sustainable development opens vast potential for social and economic gains, while protecting the one planet we share and depend on.

The OECD Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth report says that ‘bringing together the growth and climate agendas’ could lift 2050 output by up to 2.8 percent in G20 countries.

And the Better Business Better World report says that an integrated approach to implementation can unlock $12 trillion dollars or more in economic opportunity. This opportunity would present itself in particular in the sectors that are in focus for this Africa Carbon Forum: energy, agriculture and cities. The advantages of moving quickly on implementation are waiting for those who take the lead.

Forward thinking investors and companies and governments at all levels – cities and states in addition to nations – are aligning with the principles agrees in Paris.

This alignment to a multilateral agreement by all actors is truly unprecedented in the history of multilateralism.

This is the third reason the Paris Agreement must be a catalyst for transformative change – across Africa and the entire world. The risk is recognized. The opportunity is clear. And the momentum is growing. In fact, it is accelerating.

In April, UN Environment released their annual renewable energy assessment, which showed that in 2016 new renewable power capacity installed world-wide was up 8 percent as costs continued to fall.

The growing global share of clean energy was cited by the International Energy Agency as one reason why greenhouse gas emissions have stayed flat for three years while global economic growth grew by more than 3 percent.

Oil and gas is also on board. Saudi Arabia announced a $50 billion push to develop renewables, the head of OPEC confirmed support for the Paris Agreement and Exxon shareholders recently voted to review climate-related risks.

In finance – green bonds, carbon risk disclosure and the environmental, social, and corporate governance principles are promoting long-term prosperity.

In businesses – sustainable supply chains, efficient operations and clean energy, all make a real, bottom-line difference at a moment when consumers want responsibility.

This momentum is apparent in our growing understanding of the economic and human value of “soft-infrastructure” – the world’s forests, soils and agricultural systems.

We see this momentum right here in Africa.

From last year’s COP 22 in Marrakesh, in a country where they are building one of the world’s largest solar power plants and where women are harvesting fog to adapt to a climate change – a project we recognized this past year through the Momentum for Change awards. To South Africa, where the work plan for the Paris Agreement was set… and all points in between, we see action.

The African Risk Capacity agency of the African Union is facilitating risk management that is both cost efficient and responsive to people’s needs. Solar Sisters – another Momentum for Change recognized project – is empowering women to lead in the renewables revolution. And determining the human and economic value of the Mau forest complex in Kenya was a crucial step in its sustainable management.

The momentum is here. Yet to truly rise to the challenge, there must be more.

Honorable ministers, Africa will see explosive growth through to the middle of the century. Not only that. Africa IS one of the most important engines for growth worldwide in the coming years, with is wealth in natural resources and young, thriving, creative population. African people are at the core of this growth. But the growth needs to be shaped on the basis of related climate and sustainable development criteria.

Implementation of the Paris Agreement is the foundation for stability, for security and prosperity as the population grows to 9 billion people or more by 2050. It is food and water and energy for everyone. It is good jobs. It is the foundation for building sustainable, resilient communities powered by clean, renewable energy.

This is crucial for megacities like Lagos, just down the coast, which is set to double in population by mid-century. It is crucial for Cotonou here in Benin. And it is crucial for every community on the continent – in the Sahel, in Southern Africa and in all the vulnerable communities and places already hit by climate impacts.

Climate and sustainability action delivers on the promise of Paris – the promise of a future where opportunity is open to all and peace and prosperity flourish. It is a vision of a world where growth and development does not come at the expense of other people, the planet we share or future generations.

We must move forward towards that vision together.

The Paris Agreement was made stronger last year in Marrakech. It will be made stronger still this November in Bonn, where the Government of Fiji – a small island developing state – will preside over the UN climate change conference with the support of Germany, a shining example of cooperation.

Today, I encourage you all to make the Paris Agreement stronger still by accelerating implementation in your own countries.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement can be catalyst for transformative change across Africa, given that Africa’s climate action plans under the agreement are blueprints for attracting private sector investment and pushing forward rather than backwards. This is our best bet for securing support and firing up the multitrillion dollar transition.

In this transition, serious decisions on carbon pricing must be taken. Carbon pricing reinforces the full realization of the nationally determined contributions and is an essential key for a strong, real, useful implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The UN climate change secretariat remains committed ensuring that developing countries in Africa and beyond are well supported as agreed by developed countries, regional banks and others. This is why I have put forward a vision for the Secretariat to engage individually with all of you to facilitate interactions, partnerships with other UN agencies, the private sector, financial institutions, among others, in order to fully realize the implementation phase that we have recognized.

As you know, the Secretariat is in a transitional moment – just as we all are. For the full content of the Paris Agreement to impact our societies and catalyze action, the Secretariat will continue supporting negotiations to shape our rules and interactions, but it also needs to put all its knowledge and capacity behind implementation at the country level.

I count on your support to get to this next stage. I count on your guidance and your vision. We need to deliver to the people.

Honorable ministers, this is a moment of great change and a moment of great opportunity. We need champions like Hakima El Haite and the solar sisters and so many more. We need effective engagement of the private sector to spur innovation and transformation.

We need every country and company, city and citizen on board. Together we can make this happen. The Africa Carbon Forum represents almost a decade of experience. Thousands of successful projects and real-world results that are already making a positive difference in people’s lives and livelihoods.

We have the foundation. Let’s build a better future together.

Thank you.