A Twitter comment that says it all

Paris was a ground-breaker because we set out to craft the enduring framework that would attract the most ambitious action from the widest possible set of countries.

Twitter’s fortunes might have dipped somewhat in recent weeks, as some of its top officials migrated to Google, but in my opinion it remains one of the most effective and smartest ways of using the social media as a vehicle through which one can convey short and punchy messages.

A case in point was one of the best quotes to emerge from the Davos World Economic Forum by Christiana Figueres, the energetic UNFCCC executive secretary – a role Michael Zammit Cutajar had carried out with great expertise over the years, practically since its inception.

Figueres’s climate action quote was that COP21 was a success, but that was the easy part.

Which brings us to the bottom line issue – the implementation process.

This notion extends beyond the realm of climate action dipping into the sustainable development goals area and other sectors where expectations were raised high as a result of the recent high level UN summitry of last year.

This year this process is expected to accelerate even further as world leaders gear up for the Paris Agreement being open for signature at the UNHG in New York City for one year on 22 April, Earth Day. As well as through the High Level Segment, the UNGA special event, that is being convened on the eve to put the seal on the sustainable development goals agreed upon in the Fall last year

Now is the time to think and act globally, regionally, nationally and also purely locally. This is an opportunity for every government to adopt a bottom-up approach while delegating certain powers from top-down to those responsible for implementation on the ground. Whether Obama, who will want to secure US adherence to the Climate Agreement before he leaves office, would attend the ceremony, carrying not just a pen but also an instrument of acceptance, is so far still a subject of speculation but the momentum is inevitably there and no nation, big or small, can afford to be caught napping.

He himself recently emphasised that although the Paris agreement might not be perfect, the mechanisms built into it will nevertheless hold every country accountable for meeting its commitments.

The biggest breakthrough to my mind was two-fold: The inevitable but impressive emerging synergy between governments, business and the environmental and climate sectors without which the whole edifice and process would crumble; as well as the fact that the strong global agreement in Paris last month is not only set to put the world on the path of a low carbon future but that it also allows developing countries like, say, India, to pursue development, growth and reduce poverty.

Paris was a ground-breaker because we – and by we I mean every nation present from the biggest GHG emitters and polluters to small countries like Malta – set out to craft the enduring framework that would attract the most ambitious action from the widest possible set of countries.

And we have succeeded.

It is no joke for nearly 200 nations to commit to their own specific targets, even as one takes into account differences between countries.

While India at one time risked sending the whole process up in smoke, not only did it end up party to the final accord, but it has also committed to one of the world’s most ambitious targets in renewables.

Paris might not have been perfect but it is not an every day occurrence that an agreement is reached that does include a strong system of transparency, including periodic reviews and independent assessments, to help hold every country accountable for meeting its commitments.

What impressed me most is the emerging new sense of urgency that every nation needs to act and act fast, without denying the fact that we must realise that different countries are at different stages of development and have different roles to play.

By the time Malta’s 2017 EU Presidency comes on stream the implementation of the post COP21 process will be well underway.

I am mentioning the US and India within the same context because in spite of their starting off the COP21 process poles apart, today they are engaged with many other nations in launching mission innovation, a ground-breaking new public private partnership to spark new research, development and investment, and help nations create the much needed clean energy jobs and industries.

Fighting climate change and harnessing clean energy will increasingly be a pillar of the US India relationship.

This was the message that I humbly conveyed when addressing those present before handing out the Environment for Industry awards organised by the Cleaner Technology Centre a week ago in a leading local hotel.

These are the same ambitions that have spurred us on to appoint the Climate Action Board, details of which will be announced later this week, with information regarding the Climate Action Fund emerging in a few weeks time too.

Carbon pollution is a threat to public health, and citizens worldwide, be they Asians, Africans or even Europeans have the right to breathe clean air.

Obama’s most telling statement before COP21 kicked in was in recognising his country’s part in helping create this problem and so was leading the global effort to combat it by reducing its own emissions.

This becomes even more telling when one realises that at a time when there is so much talk of renewables and clean energy, countries like India still have hundreds of millions of people who do not even have electricity and it would be an injustice to consign them to a future without power for schools, homes and businesses.

The more we unleash investment and innovation in new technologies the more we can progress over time and pave the way to even more ambitious carbon reduction targets in future.

On a similar note I cannot but acknowledge the significance and importance of the new Global Commission to Promote Businesses’ Role in Sustainable Development, with Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman articulating and quantifying the compelling economic case for businesses to engage in achieving the so called SDGs.

If business succeeds in moving towards this path, there will be significant economic rewards for the picking, through new markets, investment opportunities and innovations.

On the other hand there will be risks to business performance and stability, and increased fragmentation, resource competition and fragility, if the world fails to address these risks.

We all need even as governments to decode the SDGs and show why it makes sense for business to engage on sustainable development at a far more strategic level than it has to date.

We need to show how new business models can align profitability with social purpose. And most importantly we need to map out how business, government and society can work effectively together to build the partnerships needed for SDG delivery.

Finally we simply must quantify the efficiency gains in achieving sustainable development if business is fully aligned with the SDGs. If we global players take all these factors on board the New York summitry will all be worth it.

If not it will be mere tokenism and mere lip service paying.

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