Climate change

Climate change disproportionately hits the world’s most vulnerable people. We support bold leadership to implement the Paris Agreement and maintain ambition.

  • Our vision

    The historic climate agreement reached at COP21 in Paris between 196 nations was a rare and encouraging display of global solidarity and hope. The Elders believe that in the years ahead, leadership is required all levels to deliver a sustainable future.

    Unless governments act quickly and deliberately we risk creating, through our own actions, one of the greatest injustices in human history, denying future generations their right to a habitable, sustainable planet. If we fail to act now, the whole of humanity stands to lose.

    A solution is possible. We possess the tools and the technology to move towards a low-carbon economy and end our reliance on fossil fuels. With bold, transformative leadership at the global level and insight and innovation from the grassroots, we can unite around the shared vision of a sustainable, equitable world.

    The Elders stand for solidarity and justice for climate change’s victims. We call for visionary leadership now, not tomorrow, to set us on course for a carbon-neutral future. As former leaders, The Elders know that this will not be easy. But if there was ever a cause to unite mankind, climate change must surely be it.

  • A carbon-neutral future

    By the end of this century, the world faces the risk of a global temperature increase of 2° to 5° Celsius above pre-industrial era levels: a future of unprecedented heat waves, severe droughts, sea-level rise and acidified oceans. To change course before irreversible damage is done, we have to limit global warming to less than 2° Celsius. The Elders support the overall goal of carbon-neutrality by 2050.

    This transition to a low-carbon, sustainable future is technically possible but requires bold and concerted action. To phase down greenhouse gas emissions, governments should do all they can to encourage the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

    This will mean giving clear market signals to business and investors, including through an internationally agreed price on carbon. It means leveraging public and private capital to support the rapid transition to sustainable, affordable energy sources. And it means supporting technological innovation – recent advances in clean and renewable energy have already penetrated energy markets, including in the Global South; the sooner these innovations can be scaled up and invested in, the lower the costs and the greater the return on investment.

  • Climate justice

    Perversely it is the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people – those who benefit least from fossil fuel-powered growth – who are the most affected by the impacts of climate change. Floods, droughts and extreme weather events undermine their basic rights to food, water, health and shelter. Left unchecked, climate change threatens catastrophe for generations to come.

    A just approach to climate change means not only that the most vulnerable are able to participate fully in efforts to address the climate crisis; but that richer countries help poorer countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change, contributing more towards developing low-carbon solutions, and providing funding and access to this technology.

    The Elders call on the international community to significantly scale up support for the implementation of adaptation strategies in poor countries, as well as for mechanisms that address the irreversible loss and damage in climate-vulnerable countries. The Elders also call for financial support to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable nations are represented in international climate negotiations.

    Watch Mary Robinson explain climate justice, the importance of building resilience and ensuring adequate climate finance:

  • Bottom-up solutions

    A global solution to the climate crisis requires the direct participation of the people who are most affected by it.

    The Elders support an inclusive, equitable approach that gives voice to the victims of climate change, who are among those best-placed to develop practical and low-cost solutions. Some of the greatest innovation is taking place, out of necessity, in communities already suffering the impacts of climate change. These adaptive strategies should inform policies at the national and international level.

    Gender equality is also a critical element of effective policy responses to the climate crisis. Women bring different voices to the climate change debate, often informed by traditional roles as small-scale farmers, providers of fuel and water, and caretakers both of family and natural resources. The Elders will bring a gender perspective into all of their work on climate change, promoting greater participation by women in decision-making.

  • We need extraordinary leaders

    If we are to seize this historic opportunity, avert climate catastrophe and move towards a carbon-neutral world, extraordinary leadership is required. The Elders appeal for leadership at all levels – political, business, faith communities, young people, women, civil society – to change the narrative on climate change and deliver transformative progress.

    World leaders must be bold, restore trust and give hope. The long-term interests of humanity take precedence over short-term political and financial concerns. We should not be afraid to ‘name and shame’ governments that break international agreements or fail to meet their commitments on climate change. At the same time, we should recognise and encourage good leadership, for example in the many developing countries that have made significant progress to pioneer legislation on climate mitigation and adaptation.

  • Implementing and strengthening the Paris Agreement

    The Elders welcome the Paris Agreement which gives the world the opportunity to create a sustainable future.

    The Paris Agreement sets the direction of travel and shows that progressive change is possible. 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.

    While The Elders condemned the announcement in June 2017 by President Trump of his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, they note that this has in fact galvanised action by states and cities. They maintain the need to hold governments and businesses to their word so that the deal is implemented in full and in good faith, with adequate means to ratchet up ambition and have reiterated this in subsequent meetings including with Pope Francis and President Macron in late 2017.