The progress on ratification has been extraordinary - the Paris Agreement entered into force on 4th November last year and 148 countries have already ratified it. We welcome and appreciate the finalisation of the internal ratification process of the Paris Agreement in Egypt.
Ratification is of course an important step towards achieving the implementation of the Paris Agreement, but ratifying the agreement on its own will not deliver the necessary greenhouse gas reductions, adaptation action and financing.
For the vision of a global climate-resilient, low-emissions future to actually materialise, we must now focus all our attention on putting our words into action.
Addressing climate change provides countless opportunities to invent new and better ways to produce and consume, invest and trade and protect lives, assets and livelihood opportunities, for the benefit of all people as well as the planet. To deliver the much-needed economic and social transformation, it will be vital that the emissions reduction targets and adaptation strategies and plans countries have put forward are now translated into concrete, actionable policies and measures in all sectors of the economy. Intent alone does not guarantee delivery.
The EU and its Member States are determined to play our full part in implementing the Paris Agreement, both at home and internationally. Europe has provided and will continue to provide substantial funding to support climate action in partner countries. Globally, in 2015 alone, support totalled EUR 17.6 billion.
Domestically, we are committed to ensuring the completion of the legislative and regulatory package necessary to deliver the EU's target for Paris – reducing emissions by at least 40% by 2030. Our legislative actions cover all sectors of the economy and we are putting energy efficiency first, as well as boosting uptake of renewable energy across the bloc.
We hear and understand concerns that taking action on climate change can affect economic growth. But we have found that the opposite is in fact true: our emissions have fallen by 22% since 1990, while EU GDP has grown by 50%.
During this period, we have created new jobs, businesses, technologies and competitive advantages, preparing our economies well for the climate-resilient, low-carbon future.
At the same time, we are investing in increasing resilience of our societies: our experience shows that for each euro invested in flood protection, we can save six euros in avoided damages. In other words, investing in climate resilience reduces current and future risks.
While the EU has more than two decades of experience in developing and implementing ambitious climate policies, we know that many of our partners are doing so for the first time. We stand ready to share our experiences and lessons learned – and we have already established extensive climate policy cooperation with some of our key partners, including Egypt.
The EU has committed to devote at least 20% of its global development assistance funding to climate action. In Egypt we already do significantly more than that, with over a half of our assistance impacting on the problem.
Adaptation to, and mitigation of climate change are important priorities for our assistance programme here. Over 700 million Euros of current EU grant assistance in Egypt is climate relevant, and part of this has also helped leverage additional concessional loans from the European Investment Bank and other EU development Banks of some 4.65 Billion Euros. A number of EU member states are also involved in their own right, through their various bilateral programmes.
We are working throughout the country, supporting renewable and clean energy, energy efficiency, transport, sanitation, water and waste management, pollution abatement, housing and agriculture.
Our assistance in the water sector also focuses on a climate relevant integrated approach to water resources management. And there are other adaptation programmes covering areas such as energy efficiency in the housing sector, integrated coastal zone management, agriculture and disaster risk reduction.
As well as developing long-term climate strategies, there are actions we all need to take urgently now. In just a few months, in November this year, countries will gather in Bonn at COP23 to continue the hard work of turning the political agreement struck Paris into reality.
Next year we have another milestone ahead of us: the so-called 'Facilitative Dialogue' to be held in 2018 will be the first opportunity since Paris to look at our collective efforts to limit global warming and what we have done concretely in terms of delivering on the commitments made. It will be the moment to demonstrate our ability to follow through on what our leaders pledged in Paris.
And it is not just governments that are taking action. The global climate challenges are of unprecedented breadth and scale. Businesses, cities and regions and civil society all have a crucial role to play in delivering action on the ground that will really make a difference. We need enhanced cooperation and coordination between governments, civil society, the private sector and other key actors. Only by working together will we be able to live up to the level of ambition we have set ourselves – and the expectations of future generations.
Paris was a defining moment in the fight to safeguard the planet for future generations. We must maintain that momentum in the months and years ahead, because the prize is truly worth it: lower emissions, greater energy security and energy efficiency, innovation-driven growth, job creation, more resilient societies and a better environment. There is a lot of work to do, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Egypt.
The writer is Head of European Union Delegation to Egypt.