Climate change battle needs more than talks in Lima

Climate change battle needs more than talks in Lima

At this very moment, all eyes are on Lima, Peru, and rightfully so. Peru is currently hosting the COP 20 (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). For two weeks, representatives of every country are gathered to iron out the details of what should be the new agreement on climate change, to be signed in Paris in December 2015.

The COP 20, and the ongoing climate negotiations as a whole, are more than legal discussions over the drafting of a binding agreement.

They are about a common future that we are trying to build together.

As high as the stakes are right now, the climate crisis can either be a cataclysm or an opportunity to build a brand new framework for greener, stronger and more sustainable development and economic growth.

Indeed, the effects of climate change are already felt throughout the world: droughts, floods, increased temperature, rising sea level and the multiplication of extreme weather events. Climate change will also affect public health, food supplies and access to clean water, inevitably leading to more conflicts and more victims.

In 2013, the number of natural disaster refugees was three times higher than the number of people displaced because of conflicts. Climate refugees are becoming a reality and thousands of islanders have already lost their homes.

No country is immune to this phenomenon. In fact, Thailand is one of the countries most exposed to the devastating effects of climate change. In 2013, over two-and-a-half million people in Thailand suffered either from drought, flooding or other extreme weather events.

This reality can be changed. Climate change is man-made, therefore it can and will be solved by man. But solving the climate crisis implies implementing a two-fold solution.

First, climate negotiations must be successful this year in Lima and next year in Paris. The signing of a binding agreement during the COP 21, which will target strong reduction of carbon emission and will be tailored to keep the rise in temperature below the 2C threshold, is vital.

It is a great honour for France to preside over the COP 21. But it is also a tremendous responsibility that is taken very seriously.

It is the duty of the host and president of the conference to create favourable conditions for successful negotiations. This means that France will not defend one position, not its own or the EU’s. Rather, France's role will be to listen to everyone, to understand every position, every national imperative and expectation. France has to find common goals among all the nations.

It wants not only to reach an agreement, a binding agreement, but also to ensure that this agreement will be ambitious as well as fair, flexible as well as inalienable.

Then, international political commitments will only be meaningful and implementable if they have the full support and commitment of the civil society. Indeed, we are the first generation who will not be able to say that we did not know and we are the last generation to be able to act.

A single country can make a difference, but it will not solve this global issue alone, governments will need everyone to be involved to carry out the new paradigm for building a better and fairer future, where climate is no longer a threat but rather an opportunity.

Now is the time to act. Because climate change is happening right now. Thailand and France might be lucky enough not to have yet experienced the full extent of the cataclysms that it will bring.

But others are not that lucky. People have lost their homes, their culture, their roots, their lives. Together, we can fight climate change and its tragic repercussions. Together, we can put an end to this avoidable disaster. Because the consequences are already too much to bear.

We must make our voices heard. Climate action is happening in Lima now. It will definitely happen in Paris next December. And we must make it happen, no matter the circumstances and the challenges in our daily life.

Thierry Viteau is the French ambassador to Thailand.

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