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SDG Media Compact: Exclusive Interview with Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC

Editing Office - Geneva

Patricia Espinosa was appointed the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2016, a year after the adoption of the Paris Agreement to intensify actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. Prior to that, she was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

The IPCC report says that it is not impossible to limit climate change to 1.5͒C? Do you think we can realistically achieve that? Politically, what needs to happen?

History shows that when the human race decides to pursue a challenging goal, we can achieve great things. From ridding the world of smallpox to prohibiting slavery and other ancient abuses through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have proven that by joining together we can create a better world. Today, I believe we can succeed in limiting climate change to 1.5°C – but only if we once again work in solidarity with a powerful unity of purpose.Humans have evolved to respond to immediate threats and opportunities. We find it more difficult to address problems that play out over years and decades. We must overcome this natural short-sightedness and commit to urgent climate action. The Paris Agreement confirms the political commitment to climate action, and the UN system provides a platform for international collaboration. What we need now is for more leaders and more citizens to recognize climate action as a global priority and to start working together more urgently.

There was a great surge of enthusiasm for action among industries, governments and even regular people after Paris. Do you think that enthusiasm has been sustained and how can their involvement be ramped Up?

There is no quick fix for climate change. Effective climate action will require a long-term, full-time commitment by virtually everyone. Every climate policy, every new technology, every personal action that contributes to reducing emissions and building resilience should be recognized and applauded. There will be other surges of excitement, as in 2015 when the Paris Agreement was adopted, but most importantly we need to rely on consistent, steady action. We can sustain enthusiasm by sharing success stories, closely monitoring and publicizing emissions levels and climate trends, and keeping the climate conversation alive on a daily basis. 

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