The Paris climate agreement kindled “a huge flame of hope”, establishing a new model of 21st-century diplomacy, the woman behind the deal has declared.
In her first public reflections on the climate accord signed in December, Christiana Figueres, the UN climate change official, said that after two decades of meandering negotiations, countries had at last discovered their “higher purpose” and risen to the challenge of dealing with global warming.
The Paris agreement, in which 195 countries committed to limiting the temperature increase to well below 2C, set a new standard for dealing with complex global problems, she said.
“Climate change is a very, very good example of how we are moving to a completely new social contract from the last century,” Figueres told the Guardianat a conference hosted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) in Abu Dhabi. “The social contract that is going to underpin the 21st century has at least five very, very different ways of dealing with challenges and very different ways of delivering solutions.
“To have Paris is a huge flame of hope. We can really take some confidence from there that if we decide we want to do something, then we can,” said Figueres, who will step down this summer after guiding the negotiations for six years. “We are not bound by situations we are confronted with. We can rise above them. It’s fantastic.”
A number of key players in the Paris climate deal attended the annual Irena conference at the weekend.
More than 80 countries committed in their climate plans in Paris to expand their use of solar and wind power as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These countries are now looking for financing and technological assistance to make the switch to cleaner energy sources.
Figueres said countries had overcome multiple faultlines to arrive at a deal in Paris – the divide between rich and poor countries, between the public and private sector, between different regions.
Unlike other negotiations, the Paris climate talks involved governments, business leaders and campaign groups. A number of foreign policy experts have held up Paris as a new model for diplomacy, and commentators have praised the French hosts for skilfully guiding the talks to a successful resolution. “It is the way that we are going to operate increasingly in the 21st century,” Figueres said.