2017 has been a complicated year for climate change legislation. With the rise of political instability and turmoil around the world, the environment has been set aside in favour of other strategic priorities in countless national agendas. However, despite their omission from national political forefronts, climate change and the environment have not strayed from the priorities of all leaders.
Heads of State, government representatives, civil society actors, and members of the private sector gathered in Paris on December 12, 2017, for the One Planet Summit, a convention seeking to portray climate change as a global issue and highlighting the need to take collective action to combat it. President Emmanuel Macron of France convened these talks in collaboration with Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, and António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, as part of an effort to build on the renowned Paris Climate Accords established in 2015. These agreements, though legally binding, have yet to produce consequential change staving off or reversing climate change. The One Planet summit, therefore, set out to provide an impetus to the implementation of climate change actions.
The purpose of this summit was threefold, expressed as “adaptation, mitigation, and mobilization.” Specifically, the summit aimed to propose new means of financing “the adaptation of our ways of life to inevitable transformations,” to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions by accelerating their reduction and to mobilize resources around climate issues by conveying their importance to the finance sector.
These three goals were discussed throughout the day, over a series of four panels. These panels were structured to address important topics in the quest to incite climate change action, such as scaling up finance for climate action and sustainable businesses, accelerating climate action, and strengthening political action. They discussed critical pragmatic points, including which instruments could be used to mobilize funding, which financial and governmental actors could be allies in this transformation, and which institutions could impact the elaboration of long-term climate policies and the leveraging of private finance.
In addition to its major dialogue sessions, the summit also presented twenty specific projects to attendees. These projects, chosen based on their merit, the pertinence of their subject matter, their measured effectiveness, and their degree of innovation, served as inspirational models for localized and global action and demonstrated that concrete actions have been taken to address climate issues big and small. In this way, the current transition to a conscious and respectful world and the progress that is being made was presented to a public audience, serving as a beacon of hope for an issue that, at times, may appear grim.
The most important outcome of this day of dialogue was certainly the twelve OnePlanet commitments, enacted in support of each of the summit’s three primary objectives. These twelve specific objectives, accompanied by actionable items, attempt to itemize steps participating nations and organizations can take to effect change. Select commitments include “Public Procurement and Access for Local Governments to Green Financing,” a “Zero Emissions Target” towards carbon neutrality, and a “Commitment by Sovereign Funds.” In an innovative approach, individual nations may commit to the objectives they choose and prioritize. Countries are therefore incentivized to participate in adapting, mitigating, and mobilizing by whatever means they can.
Many point to the summit’s location in Paris, France as an example of a national government’s commitment to action. Paris’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, belongs to the Socialist Party, which has declared its commitment to protecting and preserving the environment on numerous occasions. Hidalgo has championed many policies in favour of making Paris greener, including creating regulations to limit motor vehicle circulation in an attempt to reduce air pollution, increasing car and bike sharing programs, and prioritizing public transportation. Nationally, French President Emmanuel Macron’s political party En Marche ! has identified the environment and the “ecological transition” as one of its priorities. The party’s platform is based on the recognition that climate change is a threat to human health, the environment, and our way of life and strives to face this threat face-first with a detailed series of objectives and actionable recommendations. The French nation’s commitment to climate change on a national level supports its legitimacy in hosting these accords and provides hope that 2018, unlike 2017, may represent a positive change for climate change action.
Article written by Sophia Qadir