POLITICO's Senior EU Correspondent Ryan Heath in Brussels, Belgium recently hosted a conversation with UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa to discuss her plans to tackle the global climate challenge and her outreach to cities, local governments, businesses, researchers and other stakeholders to help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The event, part of the news outlet Playbook Cocktails series, took place a day after the One Planet Summit in Paris, marking the celebration of the second anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement.
Ms. Espinosa identified two key takeaways from the One Planet Summit: an increasing number of creative initiatives for addressing the issue of climate change; and a growing sense of urgency.
"What we saw in Paris was a clear example of the transformation already underway in the world. Like United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said: The train has left the station. Whoever is not in it will be left behind," said Ms. Espinosa.
She also praised the quality of the discussions and highlighted the fact that the Summit brought together representatives from different sectors of society. "Leaders from countries, from the financial sector, from industries, from civil society were there, working for a climate action agenda, which is an agenda that requires the full participation of each and every sector of society."
The UN's top climate change official reminded the audience that the Paris Agreement has been ratified by 170 countries so far, only two years after it was adopted. "We have resources, we have solutions, we have the political will. There is still a small window of opportunity. It's not very big and it won't last very long, but it is there," noted Ms. Espinosa, while discussing the possibility of meeting the Paris Agreement's goals on temperature.
She is optimistic about next year's UN Climate Change Conference (COP24), which will be presided and hosted by Poland and will be an important milestone for the Paris Agreement. "COP21 saw the birth of the Agreement. In Poland, as I call it Paris 2.0, we will put together the pieces, directions and guidelines in order to make the framework really operate," explained Espinosa, reiterating that 2018 will be a very complex year of negotiations for the UN Climate Change Secretariat.
The Executive Secretary emphasized the importance of agriculture and land use in the fight against climate change. "Over 90% of NDCs, the countries' National Climate Action Plans, touch on agriculture. But we need to look at agriculture in the light of the Sustainable Development Goal number 2, Zero Hunger. It's not about reducing emissions by producing less food; it's about finding creative solutions to address both issues at the same time." Ms. Espinosa also talked about smart agriculture as an example of a better, more efficient way of producing food whilst using fewer resources.
Marco Alverà, who heads the initiative GasNaturally and gave his initial remarks at the event, drew attention to the role of natural gas in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Ms. Espinosa underlined the importance of having an open and objective conversation on the role of fossil fuels in the transition towards a carbon neutral world. "Realities are so different from country to country, or even within certain countries. We need to be more specific about the solutions. In many cases, natural gas has been and will be one of the sources of energy in this transition," the Executive Secretary said.