The Deal Is Done. It's Time To Act on Climate Change

Koutoubia mosque, Marrakech, Morocco
Koutoubia mosque, Marrakech, Morocco

The world celebrated in December when a new global agreement on climate change was reached in Paris. Less than a year later, that agreement has entered into force. This is a remarkable achievement by any account. Now the need is for rapid and effective climate action.

Full implementation of the Paris Agreement requires unsustainable energy use, deforestation, and other drivers of greenhouse-gas emissions to be tackled decisively. The goal is to build a zero-carbon, climate-resilient, sustainable future. Knowing this, our focus now must be to follow the pathway set out in Paris.

The transformations required will take many years of hard work and trillions of dollars in investments to effect. But if we collectively commit to this future, we will also create jobs, improve public health, foster innovation, protect vital ecosystems, and preserve water resources -- just to name a few of the co-benefits of adapting to and mitigating climate change.

For countries around the world, the new "era of implementation" of the Paris Agreement means translating their climate commitments, as expressed in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), into concrete action. UNDP as a key partner in climate action can assist countries to apply the necessary tools and mobilise the resources to support immediate and scaled up action.

Three things will unlock quick transitions from intentions and plans to action:

First, access to finance is critical. For many countries, this means mobilizing domestic resources across sectors and ministries. For others, it also means attracting bilateral and multilateral support. For all countries, it means ensuring that climate programmes can attract both public and private investment.

In UNDP's experience, access to climate finance is strengthened when strong enabling environments are in place. Policy and regulatory barriers to public and private investment in sustainability need to be removed.

Second, support for capacity building is essential. Countries have made ambitious commitments to adaptation and mitigation in their NDCs, and support is needed for many to build the institutional and technical capacities to meet them. UNDP, with its major climate change-related portfolio, is committed to this.

Climate vulnerable countries need support now to build resilience against an increasingly volatile climate that threatens the lives and livelihoods of their citizens. Only last month Hurricane Matthew brought widespread devastation to Haiti, leveling homes and infrastructure, killing more than 500 people, and impacting hundreds of thousands of people. In Eastern and Southern Africa, the recent El Niño has contributed to the worst drought a number of countries have seen in 30 years, putting many millions of people at risk of food and water shortages and loss of livelihoods.

Investing in new technologies and supporting institutional capacities for adaptation is key. More suitable crops, water infrastructure, risk insurance, early-warning systems, and disaster preparedness are all part of the mix. In Malawi, hard-hit by the recent drought, and by severe flooding a year before, a new $16 million project financed through the Green Climate Fund will scale up the use of climate information and early-warning systems.

Finally, in order to deliver inclusive, zero-carbon, climate-resilient development at the needed scale and with the urgency required, strong partnerships are critical. Governments, bilateral and multilateral partners, the private sector, civil society, NGOs, and philanthropists all have roles to play. A new NDC Partnership will soon be launched.

As countries meet this week at COP22 in Marrakech for the next round of climate negotiations, there must be impetus for climate action. Now is the time to move forward on the NDCs, and reap the early benefits for inclusive growth, innovation, and sustainability.

For those of us working to support these efforts at country level, our roles and responsibilities are clear: support action whenever and wherever possible.

The deal was done in Paris. Let us now turn our attention to action for a zero-carbon, sustainable future.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, in conjunction with the U.N.'s 22nd Conference of the Parties(COP22) in Morocco (Nov. 7-18), aka the climate-change conference. The series will put a spotlight on climate-change issues and the conference itself. To view the entire series, visit here.