Climate change and climate action: What next for the UN after the Paris Agreement?

The Earth as seen from the NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft. Image credit: NASA

UN’s hitherto accomplishments are not yet sufficient for the scale of the global challenge posed by climate change. The time for lip service and negotiations is over – full mobilization for action is needed.

Climate change is perhaps the quintessential “global” or “United Nations” issue, involving as it does a major threat to human security without regard to national boundaries, deeply entwined national interests, and development and equity challenges. It is therefore a source of pride that the United Nations has, over the past 30 years, delivered 3 important, near-universal, multilateral treaties, 5 increasingly-conclusive scientific assessments of the problem, an integrated 2030 agenda for sustainable development fully integrating climate considerations, numerous summits and high-level engagements, and a robust treaty implementation regime that promotes transparency and engagement, including by non-state actors.

The accomplishments listed above, heartening as they may be, are, nevertheless, completely insufficient for the scale of the problem the world currently faces – and to the opportunities presented by addressing the climate challenge in a concerted manner. The vision enshrined in the Paris Agreement is extremely ambitious: global temperature change thresholds, peaking global emissions as soon as possible, carbon neutrality in the second half of the century (i.e. a no carbon future), and adapting to the already inevitable impacts of climate change. The United Nations system must embrace its goals and push all-out to achieve them – with determination, optimism and courage. The time for lip service and negotiations is over – full mobilization for action is the order of the day.

From the time the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992, through the adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015, much of the credit for keeping climate change on national and international agendas must go to the United Nations – from the on-going UNFCCC negotiation process, with its supporting secretariat, to the leadership of the Secretary-General in highlighting the need for action among world leaders and with the broader public.

However, we have entered a new era and different roles must come to the fore. In the wake of the adoption and entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the locus of action now shifts fundamentally to the national level, with local and regional entities and the private sector also having critical roles to play. Four imperatives can be identified:

1. Full implementation of the Paris Agreement, especially of its underlying “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), and doing so in conjunction with achieving the full set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

2. Constant positive reinforcement of, and pressure for, enhanced action. This means mobilization by all sectors from governments, civil society, and business, and especially high-level political engagement to lead the way.

3. The ongoing response to the climate challenge must be centred around a commitment to a just world – in the coming crucial decade and for future generations. The most vulnerable people need to be supported by governments and the international community, and the economic transformations that will be necessary need to be planned carefully and promote socially just outcomes.

4. The final imperative is the need for more and better information: what can be done (and how), and what is happening in the atmosphere and the environment, in the economy, and in the implementation of response strategies. This is key to moving forward and to fairness and transparency.

What can and should the United Nations be doing to advance these four imperatives? Activities can be grouped in four thematic areas:

Convening and advocating at high level

Given the urgent, and ongoing, need to accelerate and intensify action to reduce emissions in all countries and to adapt to climate change impacts, all relevant UN agencies must use their convening and advocacy powers to push for greater ambition, showcase the leaders and shame the laggards. Heads of state and government need to be periodically engaged so that the vision they launched in Paris is carried through and not frustrated by competing internal agendas.

Supporting implementation

In line with the need to advocate for enhanced action is the obligation to do a much better job at country level, and in inter-agency work, of supporting the development and implementation of nationally determined contributions, and the related national and sectoral plans, including effective adaptation planning and support. Finance is essential for ambitious implementation. The Secretary-General and the UN can direct at changing investment patterns and unleashing the power of capital flows to achieve climate and sustainability objectives.

Holding states and other actors accountable

The UN, especially UNFCCC in collaboration with other agencies, has a central role in holding governments, business and local authorities to account for doing what they have promised. The status of implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and what is the impact on emission trends – nationally and globally – are crucial pieces in the UN’s watchdog role.

Sharing scientific information and good practices

Sharing and promoting information on what adaptation and emission-reduction actions can be taken, their estimated costs and their impacts can be a powerful promoter of action. It reinforces the case that action is not expensive but rather reduces significantly the climate-related losses and brings about other benefits – and that the problem is solvable. The UN, working with the scientific community and partners like environmental NGOs, community leaders, progressive business and the media, can help to ensure well-informed decision-makers and publics.


The challenges posed by global climate change are huge and there is no time to lose. All actors must play their appropriate roles – national governments, the private sector, sub-national governments, civil society and an informed citizenry. Among them, the United Nations family of organisations has several indispensable roles to play, within its competencies and expertise: to convene, hold accountable, share information and support. These should be the UN’s climate objectives for the next 25 years.

This is an abridged version of an article under the same title prepared in the context of the UN2100 Initiative of the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS). For the full article see here.

Richard Kinley

Richard Kinley is a member of the Advisory Board of the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS). Richard was a senior official at the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC) from 1993 to 2017. He served as Deputy Executive Secretary from 2006 to 2017 and was intimately involved in the development of UNFCCC as an organization from its establishment and in its management and operations. He also led or oversaw the secretariat’s support to the climate change negotiations, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, and to the intergovernmental institutions. Prior to joining UNFCCC, Richard was an official of the Government of Canada working on international environmental policy issues. He holds a B.A. in political studies and an M.A. in international relations.

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.

Legal note

1.    Terms and Conditions

2.    Privacy Policy

3.    Cookies Policy


1.    Terms and Conditions

Contact data for the web owner

This website has been created by KATOIKOS to promote their products and services.

– Name: Katoikos, S.L

– Co. tax Code:  B87123162

– Address:  Calle Campomanes 10, 28013  Madrid (SPAIN)

Registration details: Registered in the Commercial Register of Madrid.

Intellectual and Industrial Property

The various elements of this page, and website as a whole, are protected by Spanish legislation on intellectual and industrial property. The trademarks, trade names or logos appearing on this website are the property of the company, or, where appropriate, of third parties, and are protected by Trademarks Law, and of which KATOIKOS holds the legitimate license.

The information provided may not be used for commercial or public purposes, or modified. If the user downloads materials for personal and non-commercial use, warnings shall be kept about copyright and trademarks. To download and use the company logo that appears on the website, prior authorization is required.

Any unauthorised use of the images may violate copyright laws, trademark laws, the laws of privacy and publicity, and communications regulations and statutes.

Liability for Damage

KATOIKOS assumes no liability for damages you may suffer when browsing the web or in the use of computer applications that are part of it. Neither are warranties given as to the correction of malfunctions or updating of content.

Content you share with us

We may include features on this website that allow you to share your content with us and other users of the site. Please note that by sharing content it may become publicly accessible. You grant to Katoikos a worldwide, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license, without compensation to you:

 (a) to use, reproduce, distribute, adapt (including without limitation edit, modify, translate, and reformat), derive, transmit, display and perform, publicly or otherwise, such content, in any media now known or hereafter developed, for Kaotikos’ business purposes, and

 (b) to sublicense the foregoing rights, through multiple tiers, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. The foregoing licenses shall survive any termination of your use of the site, as further described below.

For all of the content you share through the site, you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary for you to grant these licenses, and that such content, and your provision or creation thereof through the site, complies with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations and does not infringe or otherwise violate the copyright, trademark, trade secret, privacy or other intellectual property or other rights of any third party, and is furthermore free from viruses and other malware.

Rules of Conduct

When using this website and/or sharing content with us, you are prohibited from posting or transmitting :

1. any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, racist, obscene, scandalous, deceptive, false, fraudulent, inflammatory or profane material or any material that could constitute or encourage conduct that would be considered a criminal offence, give rise to civil liability, or otherwise violate any law.
2. Any virus, worm, Trojan horse, Easter egg, time bomb, spyware or other computer code, file, or program that is harmful or invasive or may or is intended to damage or hijack the operation of, or to monitor the use of, any hardware, software or equipment;
3. Any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letter,” “pyramid scheme” or investment opportunity, or any other form of solicitation; and
4. Any material non-public information about a person or a company without the proper authorization to do so.

In addition, you will not:

1. Use this website for any fraudulent or unlawful purpose;
2. Interfere with or disrupt the operation of the website or the servers or networks used to make the website available; or violate any requirements, procedures, policies or regulations of such networks;
3. Access or use this website through any technology or means other than those expressly designated by us.
4. Restrict or inhibit any other person from using this website (including by hacking or defacing any portion of the website);
5. Except as expressly permitted by applicable law, modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble any portion of this website.
6. Remove any copyright, trademark or other proprietary rights notice from this website.
7. Frame or mirror any part of the webiste without our express prior written consent;
8. Create a database by systematically downloading and storing all or any content;
9. Use any robot, spider, site search/retrieval application or other manual or automatic device to retrieve, index, “scrape,” “data mine” or in any way reproduce or circumvent the navigational structure or presentation of this website, without our express prior written consent.


Kaotikos  reserves the right to remove any messages or statements or cancel any links.

This site may include hyperlinks to other web sites that are not owned or controlled by Katoikos. Katoikos has no control over, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices of any third party websites.

Content may be hosted on YouTube or other social media. Those operate their own set of terms and conditions and privacy policy which are separate to the ones presented on this website. Katoikos no control over and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices on YouTube or other social media.

 The right to terminate your access

Katoikos reserves the right to terminate your access to this website at any time if you do not comply with these Terms and Conditions or you infringe Kaotikos’ rights in the content provided on this website.

Governing Law

These Terms and Conditions are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Spain, without regard to its choice of law provisions.  You agree to the exclusive jurisdiction by the courts of Spain.

Changes to the Terms

Katoikos reserves the right to make changes to the Terms and Conditions from time to time. You acknowledge and agree that your continued access to or use of this website will constitute your acceptance of such changes.

2.    Privacy Policy

Kaotikos takes the protection of your personal data very seriously and collects, processes and uses your data only in accordance with the standards of the legal data protection regulations.

Data is collected, processed and used with technologyes of the provider web trends for marketing and optimisation purposes and also for sending news and information you may be interested in by any electronic services, such as email or SMS.

Our website user’s database is registered at the Spanish Agency of Data Protection. You have the rights of access, rectification, deletion and opposition, regulated in articles 14 to 16 of the LOPD.

For this, please write to:

KATOIKOS (Data Protection) Calle Campomanes 10, 28013, Madrid (SPAIN)

Or send an email to Your ID will be requested for these issues.

3.    Cookies Policy

This site, like many others, uses small files called cookies to help us customise your experience. Find out more about cookies and how you can control them.

This page contains information on what ‘cookies’ are, the cookies used by the Kaotikos’ website and how to switch cookies off in your browser.

If it does not provide the information you were looking for, or you have any further questions about the use of cookies on the Katoikos’s website, please email

What are ‘cookies’?

‘Cookies’ are small text files that are stored by the browser (for example, Internet Explorer or Safari) on your computer or mobile phone. They allow websites to store things like user preferences. You can think of cookies as providing a ‘memory’ for the website, so that it can recognise you when you come back and respond appropriately.

How does the Katoikos’s website use cookies?

A visit to a page on the Kaotikos’s website may generate the following type of cookies: Anonymous analytics cookies.

This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc., a Delaware company whose main office is at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View (California), CA 94043, USA (“Google”).

Google Analytics uses “cookies”, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information on our behalf in order to track your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google’s behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.

Anonymous analytics cookies

Cookier Name Origin Aim End
__utma Google Analysis 2 years since set –up or update
__utmb Google Analysis 30 minutes since set –up or update
__utmc Google Analysis When browser sesión ends
_utmt Google Analysis 10 minutes since set –up or update
__utmz Google Analysis 6 months since set –up or update

How do I turn cookies off?

It is usually possible to stop your browser accepting cookies, or to stop it accepting cookies from a particular website. All modern browsers allow you to change your cookie settings. You can usually find these settings in the ‘options’ or ‘preferences’ menu of your browser. To understand these settings, the following links may be helpful, or you can use the ‘Help’ option in your browser for more details.

Cookie settings in Internet Explorer
Cookie settings in Firefox
Cookie settings in Chrome
Cookie settings in Safari web and iOS.


© 2020 Katoikos, all rights are reserved. Developed by eMutation | New Media

Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
Your information will never shared with a third party.
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)
Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
Your information will never shared with a third party.
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)