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Climate. Christiana Figueres (Mission 2020): “the challenge must be won, there is no other option.”

Reducing gas emissions to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius is the inescapable challenge of the 21st century for the survival of the planet and of the next generations. Christiana Figueres, a world leading expert on the subject, a primary figure in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, addresses the roles of the Holy See, of the UN and of civil society, against a backdrop marked by the risk of U.S. backtracking on the pledges made.

The U-turn on climate is the challenge of the 21st century, the positive heritage for the survival of the planet we have the duty to pass on to the next generations. Implementing the Paris Agreement, whose aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2° by 2020, is an imperative. There are no alternatives. There is no question about it, according to Christiana Figueres, a world-renowned expert in this field. Dr Figueres served as Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and presently leads “Mission 2020“, a collaborative venture that brings together institutions, governments, and the private sector to achieve peaking of global emissions by 2020. Figueres attended all the conferences of the involved parties in Cancun, Durban, Doha, Warsaw and Lima, leading up to the historical Paris Agreements of 2015. She was in Rome a few days ago to attend an event organized by various Catholic bodies at the Pontifical Lateran University.

Why is it so important to reach the goals set by national governments in the 2015 Paris Agreement?The global action on climate change is an absolute priority: we are deciding the fate of 1.3 billion people in conditions of extreme poverty worldwide. If we don’t act now and swiftly this situation will continue for many years. The only way out is to halt the worst impacts of climate change and ensure that these people have a job, energy, and food security.

After Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato si’” what could be the role of the Holy See?
The Holy See has many different roles, that include appealing to moral principles worldwide, as in “Laudato si”, which contributed to the Paris Agreement. It can also sustain job creation and the transition of jobs in the fossil fuel industry towards the new economy of renewable energies.

But US President Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change and is threatening to backtrack on the agreement …
No comment. If you want to see them, the signs are there for everyone to see. There is no need to go too far to realize it. It’s not a creed or a dogma. It’s simply a matter of seeing what’s happening.

But the first signs are far from encouraging. Trump’s executive orders include the building of two oil pipelines, including the one running through Sioux territories of Standing rock, halted by the Obama administration on the grounds that it would pollute the sacred lands and water supply of the indigenous populations.

I am deeply worried about the US economy that risks hampering the progress made so far as well as the transitions that world Countries are working for.

What is the role of the UN, of national governments, and of other civil society actors – including enterprises – in the achievement of the agreements?
The United Nations will continue pursuing the commitments taken in the past 20 years, namely, supporting national governments, reaching agreements and continue to sustain them in the implementation of the Paris Agreements. At the same time we realize that the commitment of national governments is not enough, there is much more. I refer to cooperation, financial investments, along with the efforts of all citizens.

The 21st century challenge requires everyone’s commitment.

The United Nations will continue holding up this banner, and we should continue taking action, within and beyond national governments, in order to meet this challenge in time.

Given the present geopolitical situation, do you believe that the Paris Agreements will be realized? They have to.

It’s not a question of whether we intend to fulfil those goals. We have a fundamental moral responsibility and we have to make it in time. There is no other option.


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