Climate Action

UN Climate Summit

Jay Inslee, the Washington state governor hit the nail on the head: “We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.” And he is not the only one thinking that way this week. Ban Ki Moon, former US Vice President Al Gore, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, and hundreds of thousands climate activists have turned a spotlight onto environmental change this week. The UN Climate Summit is currently being held in New York City, bringing many leaders to the city and instigating other major events, including the largest climate march in history and the Major Economies Forum. The MEF met on Saturday, preceding the Summit that started on Tuesday. The MEF was launched in 2009 as an initiative to create a positive dialogue between developed and developing economies to aid UN climate negotiations. With opening remarks by Secretary of State Kerry, Foreign Minister of Peru Gonzalo Gutierrez, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, this meeting called for global action through energy policies. Those developed nations that initially contributed on a large scale to climate change are now in the best position to reduce it. Kerry describes environmental insecurity to be as urgent as other threats such as ISIL, Ebola, and terrorism: “climate change has impacts not only on the environment but for our economies and for global security interests as well.” Kerry also indicated that the problem today lies not in developing technological solutions (there are many) but rather, “It’s getting the political will to make the decisions to do what we know we have to do about it. It’s as simple as that, and that is true all over the world.” French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, began his remarks with the hope that climate targets will be settled at the next environmental conference, COP20 Lima, so that attendees of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015 can spend two weeks “only in nightclubs.” On a more serious note, Fabius concluded that past disappointments in environmental policies was due believing that only the biggest political leaders can solve problems. A poignant point, when two of the leaders of the biggest CO2 emitters, India and China, are not present at the summit. Instead, he stresses that each nation must prepare “ambitious and humble” targets to work towards sustainability. A few days later, the UN Climate Summit 2014 brought together world leaders from government, finance, business, and civil society to unite the commitment to climate change action. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on leaders to reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will in preparation for the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015. President Obama’s speech at the Climate Summit echoed the MEF. Climate change is at the forefront of global issues and must be treated on par with other economic, health, and social disasters. The economic powerhouses must be the leaders in creating “collective ambition” in order to work as a global community. No nation is immune to the impacts of rising sea levels and unpredictable weather. “We have the means, the technological innovation and scientific imagination to begin the work of repairing it right now.” He discussed the efforts and commitments the U.S. has already taken to drive down carbon emissions and announced a new Executive Order. The Order, officially announced in his speech at the UN, requires all agencies to “factor climate resilience into the design of their international development programs and investments.” Citizens have already voiced their concern, and Obama says “we cannot pretend we cannot hear them. We have to answer the call.” -Attiya Sayyed