By: Samuel Halulko
Meeting in New York just weeks ago on Sept. 23, diplomats of the United Nations Climate Change Summit discussed topics including the imminent threat presented by climate change and the emission of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. This conference is the sixth of its kind. The first, held in 2014, was responsible for the UN’s zero-emissions objective and “1.5°C” initiative.
One of the conference’s most notable proceedings was the conclusion that despite the persistent efforts of individuals, companies and nations alike, it would be “unlikely” that established UN objectives in carbon emission, global nutrition and sustainable manufacturing would be fulfilled by their deadlines in 2030. The council cited lackluster efforts from those able to participate and the large population of undeveloped nations that cannot yet improve their own infrastructure as reasons for failure to meet the goal.
The nature of the conference was perhaps best portrayed by the fiery rhetoric given by Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old Swedish activist and one of sixty who spoke before the forum. She, like many others, heard the unrealized promises of ecological reform and green initiatives by organizations worldwide, but has yet to see any change.
Thunberg’s protests were not just driven by emotion, as she cited the likelihood of a net 3.4 degrees Celsius, or 6.12 degrees Fahrenheit, temperature increase by the close of the century alone. Thunberg also referenced current atmospheric carbon levels approaching amounts last experienced over three million years ago.
Isabel Cavelier, senior advisor for the Mission 2020 climate initiative, acknowledged the legitimacy of Thunberg’s frustration. She noted that, despite the apparent interests of governments and corporate entities, their words and commitments often fell flat.
Of the UN’s recommendations to improve the general health of our planet, few are of any surprise or novelty; pesticides and heavy metal contamination continue to plague the world’s water and food supply, carbon emissions continue to grow and the exhaustion point of fossil fuels draws ever closer. Members of the European Union, most prominently French President Emmanuel Macron, used the summit platform to vow to “deepen emission cuts” to meet the 2030 deadline.
More optimistically, however, the Scientific Advisory Board to the UN’s Climate Forum praised the precautions and innovations made in the past several years. The Board cited examples such as the “star-shaped city” approach by Germany’s Gerd Landsberg. This green development strategy effectively maximizes the green spaces in urban environments and increases the efficiency of the delivery of utilities such as water, electricity and heat.
As for what this may spell for the future, no one can say for sure. The objectives described by the Forum are ambitious, but so are those pursuing them. Best said by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, himself, “Climate change is running faster than we are. Put simply, we need climate action to prevent even greater crises. We must act with greater ambition and urgency.”
The United Nations will meet again in a similar conference in 2020, though the location of said conference has yet to be announced.
Cover photo via Pixabay