In 2009, the United Nations designated 22 April as International Mother Earth Day to reflect upon the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit.
This year’s celebrations had a special value, since Earth Day coincided with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which took place at UN Headquarters in New York. The Agreement is now open for signatures, marking the first step toward ensuring that the Agreement enters into legal force as quickly as possible.
Adopted by all 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015, its aim is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The Paris Agreement marked a watershed in the history of international climate politics since “representatives of more than 170 countries are gathering at UN Headquarters in New York to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This landmark pact, in conjunction with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, holds the power to transform our world,” as the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said.
However, at least 55 countries producing at least 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have neither ratified, nor accepted, nor approved nor acceded to the agreement yet. It is still too early then to tell if it will really have a definitive and long-lasting impact as it is now necessary to turn intentions into reality.
Nevertheless, the best thing we can do is to hope that the Paris Agreement will come into force soon, as it would help guaranteeing the system credibility and would add pressure to speed up regulation and coordinated policies. But it would also support the efforts undertaken by companies to adapt their business models and innovation investments to the fight against climate change. Last but not least, more coherent and fair development patterns based on both solidarity and on a mainstreamed sustainable development agenda would be enhanced.
As for the European Union, it should be now the time to show its real capacity to lead a real-economy high ambition coalition. But a deepening of its internal climate action does not seem to appeal to the EU, which has recently refused to step up its emission reduction target of 40% by 2030, even though it invented the so-called “ratchet mechanism.” Included in the Paris Agreement, this mechanism calls on states to step up their national target level every five years. In addition, its weakness in dealing national interests on energy and mitigation policies has slowed down the ratification process.
As for the EU’s External Action Strategy, traditional security views are still the main focus. In their political speeches, most EU policy-makers frequently associate Climate Change with the refugee crisis and worldwide conflicts. Though, they provide financial resources for climate change adaption out of moral obligation, rather than a way to reduce the geopolitical risks of climate change.
As a result, few money has being invested for real in improving our research on how climate change influences national security and adaptation is still regarded as helping the poorest and most vulnerable communities.
2016 is a year of opportunities, since the main missing pillars of the EU climate change and energy union policies as well as its External Action Strategy will be at the top of the European Institutions’ agenda.
Even though Europe is still facing great challenges – both at domestic and international levels – these cannot be properly addressed without a new vision. Indeed, unless there is a profound shift in the way Europe tackles climate change, no solution will ensure a long-lasting-economic recovery, a sound response to a shameful migration and refugee crisis. Because, as the International Mother Earth Day teaches, everything is interconnected in our planet.