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Spain’s King Honours Paris Climate Accord With Royal Award

Current and former UNFCCC executives Particia Espinosa and Christiana Figueres are congratulated by King Felipe VI. Photo: @CasaReal / Twitter
Current and former UNFCCC executives Particia Espinosa and Christiana Figueres are congratulated by King Felipe VI. Photo: @CasaReal / Twitter

It may not have been implemented yet and the world is still in peril, but the historic Paris Agreement on climate change has already received a royal award.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive Patricia Espinosa and her predecessor Christiana Figueres accepted the prestigious 2016 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation on behalf of the landmark agreement at a ceremony in Northern Spain on Friday (21 October).

The award’s jury said it was awarding both the agreement and the UNFCCC  “in the context of international cooperation, as a project that looks to the future to help all countries move together toward a cleaner and more sustainable model.”

The annual awards – founded in 1980 by then crown prince Felipe while Spain was still emerging from decades of military rule – recognise individuals and organisations in a number of categories to promote the “scientific, cultural and humanistic values that form part of the universal heritage of humanity,” according to the awards website.

Most Work Still Ahead

Despite the unprecedented success of the accord, which is set to come into force well ahead of schedule on 4 November, most work is still ahead. Even on the day of the royal ceremony in Oviedo, EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete met with representatives of Europe’s public-private climate innovation partnership – Climate-KIC – at the European Commission offices in Madrid.

According to La Informacion, the discussion in Madrid focused on the role of innovation in fighting climate change and securing jobs and economic growth as countries around the world are set to compete in the transition to a low-carbon economy. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has already said she wants to make sure America becomes the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.

Meanwhile in Oviedo, capital of the Principality of Asturias, Figueres tweeted this photo of a meeting with King Felipe and Queen Letizia.

The picture shows the former UN executive and the Spanish royal couple getting acquainted ahead of the award ceremony – the flag of Figueres’ native Costa Rica, a former Spanish colony, visible in the background.

Figueres stressed the prize was “for the team” and took a selfie with two of the UN colleagues able to join her in Spain. “How I wish that ALL team members could be here,” she said.

Later Figueres gave another shout-out to “all UNFCCC colleagues who laboured so hard and so long,” and conveyed “deep gratitude from me and 7 billion others.”

King Felipe’s social media account tweeted these photos of his majesty’s speech at the glamorous Campoamor theatre.

UNFCCC chief Espinosa accepted the award from King Felipe, this tweet from her account shows. In her acceptance speech she called the Paris Agreement a “gift of hope for all children of the world,” according to her tweet.

Mexico’s 24 Horas newspaper later tweeted a photo of Espinosa and Figueres celebrating the award shortly after receiving it from King Felipe.

For the benefit of those not fluent in Spanish, Espinosa also tweeted a link to an English-language version of her address.

In her speech, she thanked Figueres for her “optimism,” which has “inspired your staff, your vision forged a universal agreement and your energy united all sectors of society in action,” she said.

Espinosa and Figueres featured in this tweet from the king’s account, shown alongside some of the other winners of this year’s Asturias awards.

Back in Madrid, commissioner Cañete was focused on the road ahead, according to this tweet by Climate-KIC in Spain.

As was Patricia Espinosa in her speech, in which she stressed the world is now entering a “new phase.” It “will require effort from everyone to realise a sustainable future that brings hope for the youth of today and for generations to come,” she said.

Find out how Climate-KIC is accelerating climate innovation in Spain and how you could start your own business in the low-carbon economy.

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