The international climate summit in Paris is widely seen as our last chance to prevent climate change wreaking a terrible toll on global lives and livelihoods. As we rapidly approach the tipping point beyond which climate change may become irreversible, we risk denying future generations their right to a livable, sustainable planet.
So: what needs to be done? Crucially, the heads of state and government and their teams of negotiators in Paris need to recognise that climate change is a human-rights and justice issue as well as an economic and environmental one.
In September this year, these same heads of state and government came together at the UN in New York to agree on the new Sustainable Development Goals. This was a landmark moment, building on the success of the Millennium Development Goals and placing sustainability at the heart of the global development agenda.
I was particularly heartened by the adoption of the SDGs because nearly 30 years ago, I chaired a UN Commission that issued the report "Our Common Future," which described the emerging environmental and social threats and called for radical change to promote sustainable development to safeguard humanity and Planet Earth.
The SDGs show how far these concepts, once deemed radical and idealistic, are now firmly embedded in the mainstream of policymakers' agenda. This is something to celebrate.
Yet without a strong agreement in Paris, the SDGs will not be deliverable -- instead, development goals achieved to date will be wiped out by the impacts of climate change. The disastrous consequences of such a failure will be felt by us all, through extreme weather conditions, droughts, famines and natural disasters, but also through the increased conflicts and refugee crises that we know follow on from scarcity of natural resources and swathes of land becoming unlivable as a result of climate change.
Without decisive action in Paris, we are on course for the frightening prospect of a four-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures, far outstripping the two-degree rise that leaders committed to at the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen.
We urgently need to scale up the pace of change!
This is why, together with my fellow Elders, I urge the summit negotiators in Paris to commit to four key elements in the final agreement:
An overarching goal for all nations to reach a state of carbon neutrality by 2050. This is important to send a clear signal and incentive to investors to make the necessary shift away from fossil fuels and into clean energy.
A clear and strong commitment on climate finance. Developed countries cannot simply insist that poorer countries refrain from using fossil fuels on account of climate change, but should provide feasible alternatives to enable a transition to a carbon-neutral future. Support should be given in particular to Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, many of whom face an existential threat from climate change.
A mechanism that will assess collective progress and ratchet up the commitments of all countries on mitigation and adaptation every five years. Paris is only the first step in a much longer path to securing a sustainable climate, so the agreement must be designed to increase ambition progressively over time.
Enabling conditions for the introduction of a global carbon price. Accurately pricing carbon is crucial to accelerate development of alternative-energy sources. This last point highlights that, for all the grim statistics and data to hand, in some ways climate change is an opportunity as well as a threat. We must seize the chance to achieve sustainable growth and development, harnessing technological advances in renewable energy to create jobs, increase prosperity and end poverty. These new environmentally-friendly models of energy and economic growth can enable people to move out of poverty, while protecting our air, our water, and our land -- the very fabric of life on Earth.
The Norwegian explorer and geographer Thor Heyerdahl once wrote that: "In fighting nature, man can win every battle except the last. If he should win that, too, he will perish, like an embryo cutting its own umbilical cord."
His words should not be seen as hyperbole or exaggeration. If world leaders fail now to agree to a just and strong deal in Paris, the Earth risks becoming unlivable for our grandchildren. We cannot afford to let them down.
Gro Harlem Brundtland is a former Prime Minister of Norway and a long-standing advocate of sustainable development. She is Deputy Chair of The Elders and Vice Chair of the United Nations Foundation Board.
This post is part of a "Nordic Solutions" series produced by The Huffington Post, in conjunction with the U.N.'s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (Nov. 30-Dec. 11), aka the climate-change conference. The series will put a spotlight on climate solutions from the five Nordic countries, and is part of our What's Working editorial initiative. To view the entire series, visit here.