UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa remains optimistic about climate action despite the ‘Trump threat’ to the fate of the Paris Agreement, during an exclusive chat with The Hindu

Mexican diplomat Patricia Espinosa took over the reins at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) after the triumphant moment of 194 UN member nations coming together to adopt the Paris Agreement in 2015 had passed. Since November 8 last year, when climate skeptic Donald Trump ascended to the position of U.S. President, the mood in international climate policy circles has turned sombre. Last month, the U.S. government set out to undo Obama-era climate policies incentivising clean power and curbing coal production, reviving fears that the Agreement may fail to keep global warming levels under control as originally envisaged (U.S. is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world). Meanwhile on Tuesday, the Trump administration postponed a meeting to decide whether to pull out of the Paris Agreement or not. Vested with the challenging task of ensuring that the Agreement gets implemented, Ms. Espinosa showed rare optimism that positive climate action is still possible, despite the looming uncertainties.

In an exclusive interaction with The Hindu, during her two-day visit to India from April 18-19 in New Delhi, the seasoned diplomat spoke about why governments can longer ignore the matter.

How have you managed to keep the Paris 2015 momentum going since the Trump phenomenon?

When I presented my candidacy to lead the UNFCCC last year, I was aware of the size of the challenge. The Paris Agreement had already happened. How to translate that into action was now the question before us. To be able to transform societies and economies to low-carbon ones was an amazing challenge. To influence and to facilitate such an important transformation in the world would be like witnessing something of industrial revolution proportions. Just like how the industrial revolution had transformed the life of people all over the world, and led to the use of fossil fuels in a massive way, we have now realised that even if that process has provided us with new levels of well being, we’ve to address its negative impacts at the same time. The action that comes after the Agreement is more important than the Agreement itself. I have children; I hope to be a grandmother one day. It is a kind of a moral imperative for me. We cannot afford to have a reality (of climate change) that is posing such a threat to the future. As of today, 143 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement and most of the countries ratified it after the UN Marrakech climate summit last year. So, the momentum has happened in spite of the Trump phenomena. People thought that after November 8, countries won’t ratify the treaty anymore, but that has not happened.

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Source: April 20, 2017, The Hindu