UN Climate Speech / 15 Jun, 2017
Patricia Espinosa Speech - African Ministerial Conference on the Environment

The Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, participated in the 16th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), held on 12-16 June 2017 in Libreville, Gabon.

In her address, she highlighted the importance of continued climate action under the Paris Agreement to put Africa on track to be a resilient and sustainable continent. See the full speech below:

Honourable Ministers, Excellences, Colleagues, Friends

It gives me great pleasure to address you here in Libreville at this AMCEN meeting. As you discuss key issues around sustainability and climate change, I am very honoured to be able to contribute my views.

The year 2015 was indeed a landmark year for all of us: African leaders adopted the Agenda 2063 which lists sustainable development in its first aspiration, the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, and, a little later, the Paris Agreement.

With these overarching policy documents, the world, and Africa, have set the course for the way our economies, societies and our relationship with nature should develop.

Together with Agenda 2063, they are policy frameworks that allow African countries to act towards common goals, in line with their specific national circumstances, challenges and opportunities.

These policy frameworks cover multiple topics, but one agenda—namely how, on a planet of over 6 billion people rising to over 10 billion by 2050, can we implement a holistic and integrated development path that minimizes environmental damage and degradation and maximizes economic and social opportunities for all.

Sustainable Development goal 13 refers specifically to climate action, however achieving all 17 goals requires efforts to address climate change.

As environmental pressures mount due to population growth, climate and sustainability action provide a path to development in a stable, secure world where opportunity is open to all.

There are some inspiring experiences from across Africa. For example, Tanzania just launched an urban resilience programme to better protect its city inhabitants. Ethiopia is projected to have one of the world’s lowest-carbon power generation systems by 2025.  And in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Angola, modern and energy efficient railways are being built through international cooperation.

Africa is entering the era of rapid urbanisation and is home to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. At the same time, the continent is being industrialised more and more. As a result, such inspiring actions are critically important.

But we know that more is needed to put Africa on track to being a resilient, fully sustainably developed continent.

The Paris Agreement holds one of the keys for doing so. 

As you know the agreement entered into force in less than 12 months. Right now, the number of Parties who have ratified the agreement stands at 148. It signals an incredible sense of enthusiasm and ownership by nations North and South, East and West. I encourage all those countries that have not done yet so to join this group.

Of course, we need to acknowledge that recently, one of the major partners in our process, has announced its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. We deeply regret this, but at the same time, we in the secretariat stand ready to engage in a frank and open dialogue to promote the universality of the Agreement and climate action everywhere.

We are very encouraged by the unanimous expressions of support around the Agreement and on the need and urgency for climate action.

It has been particularly inspiring to see how non State actors, who are not the signatories of the treaty, have decided to conduct themselves, voluntarily, according to the provisions of the Paris Agreement.

We also have to focus on the guidelines needed on how to implement the Agreement, so its full potential can be harvested now and over the years and decades to come.

That work is underway and will constitute the main focus of the efforts of Parties at the November UN climate conference: it needs to be completed by the end of 2018 at the following UN climate conference in Poland.

In addition, in 2018, we also expect a key contribution from science: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will present its report on prospects and scenarios for keeping a global temperature rise to not just well below 2 degrees C, but 1.5 degrees C.

Honourable Ministers, I understand that one of the issues you will address in this meeting are going to be the preparations for COP23. It is the first time that a small island state, those who are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, will preside the COP. This will send a strong message about the urgency to make progress in the process and to accelerate climate action.

At the recent climate change conference in May in Bonn, the in-coming Fiji presidency outlined their priorities and those priorities that building greater resilience for all vulnerable nations and boosting access to adaptation finance will be among their key priorities for the COP.  These priorities are widely shared by all you here in the African continent.

Representing a highly vulnerable nation, the in-coming Fiji presidency is well placed to underline the urgency to make decisive progress on resilience and adaptation finance.

This is important because if vulnerabilities to impacts are not addressed, much of the development progress over the past years is likely to be erased by climate change. We cannot let that happen!

Now is the moment when every nation should assess their vulnerabilities and put in place country-level policy to incentivize greater resilience.

This will be an important step towards ensuring that adaptation and sustainable development become mutually reinforcing.

Climate action is squarely at the centre of sustainable development, as action on sustainable development is at the centre of climate.

The Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs Parties have put forward are as much sustainable development plans as they are climate ones. The NDCs need to be translated into the national development plans and investment programmes.

We stand before a huge opportunity to do things differently and better. But this opportunity needs to be seized by all.

I therefore encourage you to engage with other ministers – of finance, of energy, land use, transportation, health and more to find solutions that work for your country and inspire others.

Honorable Ministers, sustainable development is this generation’s responsibility - and its opportunity. It goes to the heart of the kind of world we all want. It goes to the heart of ensuring that the African continent is resilient and sustainably developed.

Africa needs to show strategic leadership in this. I urge you to be the key player you are in finding and providing solutions to climate change and sustainability. Diffuse these solutions across the continent and bring them to the world.

I very much look forward to welcoming you to COP23 and to further advancing these critical issues. Thank you.