June 19, 2018 / 8:44 PM / 9 months ago

INTERVIEW-Don't despair, protect hard-won climate gains, says former Norway leader

LONDON, June 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world must reject “fear and despondency” wrought by political setbacks and protect hard-won gains to tackle climate change such as the Paris agreement, Norway’s former prime minister said in an interview on Tuesday.

Decisions such as U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to pull out of the 2015 Paris deal mark “a tipping point” for the climate, Gro Harlem Brundtland told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“If meaningful action is not taken to protect our hard-won gains in the face of ... fear and despondency, the damage to our ecosystem could be irreparable,” said Brundtland, Norway’s first female prime minister.

Trump announced last year his decision to abandon the Paris accord, claiming it would cost the United States trillions of dollars in lost jobs and damage to business.

“The reaction to President Trump’s decision, both inside the United States and abroad, paradoxically gives us hope,” Brundtland said on the sidelines of the biennial Barbara Ward lecture convened by the International Institute for Environment and Development in London.

“Below the federal level, U.S. states, cities, businesses and citizens have made it clear they reject the administration’s climate policies and are committed to making Paris succeed,” she said.

An equally urgent task, said Brundtland, is to figure out how to finance climate action worldwide.

Brundtland said wealthy countries must financially support developing nations’ shift to a low-carbon future, for example by finding private investment for green technologies such as electric cars.

“This is a matter of climate justice,” she said. “The poorest countries in the world did not create the problem, but they are suffering first and worst from its impacts.”

The Paris climate deal, agreed upon by nearly 200 nations, set a goal of keeping the rise in average global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and ideally to 1.5 degrees.

The world has already warmed by about 1 degree.

Brundtland, a Harvard University-educated physician who is known as the "mother of the nation" in Norway, served as a United Nations special envoy for climate change from 2007 to 2010. (Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)

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