Jari Vilen, Chairman of the REC Board of Directors, comments on the significance of ratifying the Paris Agreement
Q: Following the October 3 decision by EU ministers, today the European Parliament approved the European Union’s ratification of the Paris Agreement, a decision that brings the Agreement very close to entering into force. What effects are this historic move likely to have for the citizens of Europe and beyond?
JV: As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said just a few hours ago in the European Parliament: “Today the EU has the opportunity to demonstrate its global climate leadership.” So, the decision is indeed historic, and formal adaptation of the Paris Agreement will bring it into force. Europe is one of the global pioneers of climate efforts, and the decision marks great progress towards solving the climate crisis. The global unity around the Paris Agreement demonstrates that worldwide cooperation is possible when all stakeholders unite their efforts at local, regional and global levels. The new, voluntary approach guarantees a transparent implementation process for reducing GHG emissions, and also secures financial assets to achieve goals.
Q: Being yourself ambassador of the EU, do you think that the EU will have the will in the near future to strengthen its commitment towards achieving the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement — namely, to keep global warming below 1.5°C?
JV: As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Indeed, the Paris Agreement is an open pact with a transparent framework for strengthening the submitted commitments. Therefore, I truly believe that global efforts will not end here, and technology will also develop quickly. So there is a good chance to take more steps and achieve results that are within manageable levels as close as possible to 1.5°C.
Q: As Chairman of the REC Board of Directors, how do you foresee the role of the REC in climate efforts?
JV: The REC has already contributed in many ways to the Paris Agreement. We are not only an active observer of the COP process, but in our region we assisted in the preparation of the national pledges. Projects like SLED (Support for Low Emission Development in South East Europe), CarpathCC (Assessment of Vulnerability to Climate Change in the Carpathian Region), and Climate Change and Security in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the South Caucasus are good examples of how the REC can facilitate science-based decision making — thanks to donors like Austria, Japan, Sweden, Norway and the European Commission. We are also active in Ukraine to empower local communities on environment and energy action planning. Last but not least, the REC has the capacity to integrate climate challenges into the UN 2030 Agenda — mainstreaming climate objectives into economic and social development policies.