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Civil society experts respond to historic Paris Agreement signing ceremony

April 22nd, New York - Today representatives from more than 150 countries, including nearly 60 Heads of State, will gather at the UN Headquarters in New York to sign the historic Paris Agreement as governments take their first collective step from ambition to action after forging a new, global climate treaty in December. The event, hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Earth Day, will be the largest signing ceremony of its kind in the history of the UN, demonstrating the political momentum behind the global plan to tackle climate change and end the fossil fuel era.

Civil society experts have commented on the significance of the signing and what needs to happen next to accelerate the just transition to 100% renewable energy and boost the resilience of climate vulnerable communities:

"Today’s signing of the Paris Agreement is truly one for the history books, marking a turning point for humanity and a permanent shift toward a 100 percent clean energy economy. Following on the historic momentum from Paris, we’ve seen remarkable climate action both at home and around the world. The victories are numerous, from states like Oregon and New York committing to eliminate coal, to the wave of announcements from cities and businesses pledging to go 100 percent renewable, to India committing to 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022. In Paris, the world gave fossil fuels their expiration date, and today’s signing has set that process in motion.” said Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

“For so many countries to sign at the first opportunity is a real indication of the overwhelming support to turn the Paris Agreement into accelerated climate action. The decisions in the Paris Agreement now need to be incorporated into government and corporate decisions by breaking free from fossil fuels,” said Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International. “More people than ever before mobilized for the public good and our climate in 2015; this global wave of people power helped deliver the agreement in Paris. The people will stay vigilant until fossil fuels are history and climate justice is delivered,” added Bunny McDiarmid, Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

“The signing of this agreement reminds us just how far we’ve come. Just a few years ago the world was divided on how to respond to climate change and progress was slow. But this agreement shows the world is now united in tackling its biggest threat and the path towards a low carbon world is set. It is vital that countries ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as possible so that we can turn it into reality. The sooner it comes into force the stronger the signal is to investors and the faster the global transition will be, as money shifts to clean technologies. We’re already seeing this happen with coal as the market turns its back on companies like Peabody Energy.” said Mohamed Adow, Senior Climate Advisor at Christian Aid.

“The formal signing of the Paris Agreement could be the next nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel industry if governments actually follow through on their commitments. The growing and vibrant climate movement is forcing governments to bow to the pressure to break free from fossil fuels. However there is still a dangerous gap between what the governments are signing up to, what they are doing and the real ambition we need to avert the worst impacts of climate change. The only way to achieve this is by keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. As a movement we will continue to hold governments accountable, ensure they ratify the treaty, go well beyond their current targets and accelerate the transition to 100% renewable energy.” said May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org.

“The signing ceremony is a historic and important step forwards for the Paris Agreement but today isn’t just about the UN process and governments. There is a variety and pick’n’mix feel to the groups gathered here in New York, with activists, faith groups, representative of climate vulnerable countries, city mayors and business leaders forging partnerships to accelerate the shift to 100% renewable energy by raising the pressure on governments, financial institutions and of course, the fossil fuel industry. The end of the fossil era is inevitable and what is developing here in New York means exciting times are ahead.” said Wael Hmaidan, Director at Climate Action Network International.

"The signing of the Paris Agreement is historic. It is a crucial step in a journey that began a long time ago. This day did not arrive without a tremendous amount of support from people around the world, from all walks of life marching, getting arrested, writing their congressmen, and signing petitions demanding that world leaders to take action on the global threat of climate change. As we celebrate this great achievement it is clear that greater ambition is required. Civil Society will continue to engage with and to push world leaders to do their part." said Tina Johnson, Policy Director of US Climate Action Network.

“After the signing the Agreement, governments around the world have to roll up their sleeves and get to work aligning national climate and development policies with the 1.5oC degree warming threshold - which requires a swift and just transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy as well as concerted efforts to bolster the global climate agreement itself.” said Krishneil Narayan, Coordinator of Pacific Islands Climate Action Network.

"Although we have seen a great amount of global commitment to tackle climate change, current national action plans are not ambitious enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. This is a question of survival for many poor and climate vulnerable communities and nations that need much more support to withstand increasing climate shocks. There’s no room for delay, now is the time to turn the Paris Agreement into meaningful action,” said Sven Harmeling, Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator at CARE International

“The signature of the Paris Agreement is a strong signal forward, but the provisions of the agreement alone will not keep the planet away from dangerous climate change. Countries must therefore urgently get to work to increase their ambitions and turn them into swift, concrete actions if we are to keep temperatures well below the 1.5C [degrees celsius] threshold stated in the agreement. This is particularly crucial for communities around the world who are experiencing firsthand the effects of climate change at this very moment. It is therefore a moral duty to end the fossil fuel era now.” said Bernd Nilles, Secretary General at CIDSE.

“Governments must urgently turn these commitments into action by ratifying and implementing the Paris Climate Agreement at a national level while ratcheting up their ambition towards climate action, as the current commitments are not enough to avoid a world that is 3°C warmer. The first three months of 2016 are already recorded as warmest in hundred years and effects of which can be seen across the subcontinent reeling under unprecedented heat waves that has already claimed hundreds of lives.” said Sanjay Vashist, Director of Climate Action Network South Asia.

"Now more than ever developed countries have to ensure that adequate climate finance is in place to help millions of vulnerable people to respond to the worst impacts of climate change. The current Paris agreement is still unclear on how climate action will be implemented equitably and fairly. This should be the key priority for negotiators meeting at Bonn next month to pick up where the Paris climate meeting left off.” said Vositha Wijenayake, Policy & Advocacy Coordinator at Climate Action Network South Asia.

“The signing of the Paris agreement today marks a critical step forward towards building a more resilient, low-carbon future. But there is still much unfinished business left from Paris on adapting to the dangerous impacts of climate change. If all of today’s public climate adaptation finance were to be divided among the world’s 1.5 billion smallholder farmers in developing countries, they would get around $3 each a year to cope with climate change.” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director at Oxfam International.

"What we need now is clear milestones on how rich nations will raise the $100 billion they promised, as well as ambitious roadmaps from all countries to show they are taking practical steps to address the crisis. The Paris Agreement needs to make sure that events like the current drought and other severe weather caused by El Niño can be effectively tackled in the future.” said Harjeet Singh, Climate Policy Manager at ActionAid.

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