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2016 was a pivotal year for climate change – but what next?

4 January 2017

The Commonwealth’s Head of Climate Finance and Small States, Denny Lewis-Bynoe, explains why 2016 marked a turning point in the global battle against climate change, and why it is crucial that the world builds upon this momentum in 2017.

2016 was a pivotal year for climate change. The world finally committed to reducing its carbon footprint.

Millions of people are already facing the brutality of climate change. This year, Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean and USA, leaving 1,600 people dead. Unusually heavy rains in Sri Lanka caused the worst flooding in the country for a quarter of a century. The Solomon Islands lost five reef islands to rising sea levels. Across the globe, unprecedented extreme weather was experienced with devastating impact.

The World Meteorological Organisation and NASA are among many that expect 2016 to be the hottest year on record, setting a new high for the third year in a row. Climate change is happening, and we’re picking up speed towards an existential disaster. If we do not act now, we will soon reach the point of no return.

But in 2016, a spark of hope was lit.  The Paris Agreement came into force, legally binding 194 signatory countries and parties - including UAE - to limiting global temperature rises to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. It also set objectives for better financing of climate-resilient development.

In September, the Commonwealth launched its Climate Finance Access Hub. This aims to help countries, including small and developing states, to unlock the billions of dollars pledged to fund climate mitigation and adaption projects. To date, 14 Commonwealth countries have requested support, and specialists will soon be deployed to the Caribbean, Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa to provide expert assistance.

Now, we must also focus our energies on pioneering and developing technologies for tackling climate change. Already, there is sustainable technology in existence – such as buildings that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and cars that run on water. In 2017 we must embrace these new solutions with fervour, and be ready to take that extra step in reducing our carbon consumption and adapting our lives to save our planet.

Carbon-free living is not a distant dream, it is the future. Perhaps, the only future humankind has a chance of surviving.