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At the successful conclusion of the COP21 climate summit, Mary Robinson welcomes the new Paris Agreement, giving the world the opportunity to create a sustainable future.

World leaders at the adoption of the COP21 Paris Agreement. Credit: UN Climate Change

Climate change is already affecting us all and the Paris Agreement provides the opportunity to transform our way of life to one that is fairer and more sustainable. 

Although the Paris Agreement falls short of a full rights-based implementation approach, it still recognises the need to respect and promote human rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, gender equality, women’s empowerment and intergenerational equity to achieve a just transition.

As a result, the Agreement has the potential to set in train the steps needed to protect people living in the most vulnerable situations. This will require the continued engagement of governments working in partnership with citizens, businesses, local authorities and civil society.

The inclusive process that enabled countries to come together in Paris is the key to strengthening the values signalled in the agreement so that they inform the design and implementation of climate actions over time.

Let us be clear: Paris is not the end of the road, but its beginning. We need to hold governments and businesses to their word so the deal is implemented in full and in good faith, with adequate means to ratchet up ambition.

The reference to climate justice in the preamble of the agreement is evidence that the calls of people through marches, petitions, online campaigns, music and the arts have been heard. We need to keep building this momentum between now and 2020, to translate the agreement into ambitious actions both at the national and local level.

Despite their differences, 196 countries came together to prove that a multilateral process built on trust and dialogue, and that respects the capacity of smaller delegations to engage, can yield strong results. By ensuring that decisions on climate change are participatory, transparent and accountable, the voices of people in vulnerable situations were heard and will be acted upon.

We have set the direction of travel in 2015 with this Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Together they send a strong message of hope that progressive change is possible. My fellow Elders and I will continue to fight for these causes in 2016 and as always we welcome your support in working for a better world.

Mary Robinson during COP21 in Paris. Photo: MINIRENA Rwanda

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