L’Appel de Paris: holding each other to account after COP21
By Nicolette Bartlett, Senior Programme Manager, The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group
22 December 2015
There were many speeches during those giddy moments after the gavel came down on COP21 and we realised we had the first universal global agreement on climate change. Tweetable soundbites and grand phrases were everywhere but two in particular stayed with me.
First, I remember Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief since 2010, stating: “I used to say: we must, we can, we will. Today we can say we did.”
You may have seen this slogan linked to the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA). Beside governments, non-state actors have played a fundamental role in the success of COP21. The very nature of the Paris Agreement means that its true success lies in how effectively and ambitiously it is implemented. And non-party stakeholders such as cities, regional governments, businesses and investors are at the heart of this.
This is why L’Appel de Paris (or Paris Pledge for Action) is so significant. On the face of it, it is a simple one-page statement ‘signed’ by non-state actors in support of the Paris Agreement. But it is so much more than this. By joining the pledge, organisations welcome what was agreed in Paris, yes, but more importantly they pledge to take action now so that targets governments have committed to are met and even exceeded.
The deal we have at the moment does not, at face value, put the world on track to limit global warming to below 2 degrees, let alone the aspirational 1.5 that is in the agreement. To get that, governments will need to keep coming back to the table with increased ambition every five years. This is where sub-national actors, businesses and investors come into play. By scaling up investments into the low-carbon economy and driving forward change, confidence in new forms of economic development will grow. Governments will be racing to have policy catch up with this transition so that their countries can reap the benefits. This is the race to the top that Paris can catalyse.
I see Paris as a moment where we held each other to account. And not just governments but everyone else too. The Pledge highlights clearly how we are all in this together. We have come a long way as a global community on this issue. We at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership are no stranger to bringing the voice of progressive business to bear on the international negotiations. Since the Bali climate change conference in 2007, we have been facilitating, through The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, the Corporate Climate Communiqués.
These annual statements have often become the definitive voice of forward-thinking business in advance of a climate conference. In 2007, the Bali Communiqué, published in a centre-page spread in the Financial Times, was an unprecedented move by business calling for a robust climate deal. It made such an impact that the US government felt that it had to issue a public response to it. More recently, it was with the Trillion Tonne Communiqué that the business community first came out publicly in support of a net zero emissions goal well before the end of the century – an objective now enshrined in the Paris Agreement.
From Bali 2007, where business was calling for a deal, to Paris 2015, where business and other stakeholders are welcoming the deal and promising to help implement and exceed it, L’Appel de Paris shows how far we’ve come in the past decade.
So far more than 1,000 organisations have joined the Pledge: over 500 global companies, 170 investors with well over $11 trillion in assets, 110 cities and regions representing around 500 million people. And the numbers keep rising.
Which brings me to the second statement which stayed with me at the conclusion of COP21. This was by Ms. Bomo Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Environment Minister when she quoted Nelson Mandela.
"I have walked that long road to freedom…. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended."
For me this sums up what the Paris Agreement really means. We have come to the top of a great hill. But there are many more to climb. Paris is just the beginning of a long journey.
Governments have committed to take taking action and they now have to walk the talk. With the Paris Pledge for Action, sub-national governments, companies, investors and civil society actors promise to work with them and take action themselves – holding governments to account and being held to account themselves – to make a thriving clean economy happen. The next generation is watching.