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A defining moment to unite the planet

As world leaders gather at the United Nations to adopt a new sustainable development agenda, it is important to take a moment to reflect on what is at stake for humanity in the years to come.

The agenda’s 17 global goals provide renewed hope and a roadmap to set the international community on a path towards a cleaner and greener planet and a world that promotes shared prosperity and well-being for all.

From my perspective, as head of the Green Climate Fund, I unquestionably lean towards the importance of Goal 13 on climate action and the role of the GCF in attaining the targets. For me, it is clear that by working towards the achievement of this standalone Goal, we will spark positive impacts on the prospects of realizing the entire sustainable development agenda.

At the Green Climate Fund we looked at the 17 goals to see which ones the Fund could support through its mandate of helping developing countries make the shift towards resilient, low-carbon societies. The result? GCF enables 14 of the 17 global goals—from ending poverty (Goal 1) to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls (Goal 5). Focusing on climate action directly contributes to several goals, from ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (Goal 7), to making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (Goal 11). In other words, responding to climate change can help implement this transformative agenda.

A key ingredient to activate climate action is finance. By establishing the Green Climate Fund, countries — developing and developed alike — recognized that responding to climate change requires unprecedented levels of new financial resources. Yet, the level of GCF resources available today to developing countries is not on par with the financing needed to enact change. Although governments have committed to mobilize significantly more funding to reach the agreed USD 100 billion in new resources per year by 2020, the current level of USD 1.5 billion per year of commitment capacity of GCF is far from the amount required to support low-emission and climate-resilient investments.

Without serious climate finance on the table, there is arguably little chance of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius — a threshold that scientists have established as a tipping point to unwelcomed threats to the planet. This kind of temperature increase would also put at risk the long-term benefits the planet may encounter through the sustainable development agenda.

Although the agenda’s timeframe is for the next 15 years, its reach, if successfully implemented in its entirety, could be much further than we might think. Let’s hope that is indeed the case. As a historic number of heads of state and government descend upon New York, we must all be reminded of what is at stake — the defining moment is now.
By Héla Cheikhrouhou
Executive Director, Green Climate Fund