This week, delegates from the UN met in New York to discuss global climate change and to develop strategies for tackling these issues. What are the outcomes of their discussions? And what does this mean going forwards?
The meeting in New York was the largest climate meeting since Copenhagen 2009, and 120 world leaders took part in discussions. As well as discussing issues surrounding climate change, the summit aimed to encourage member states of the UN to sign the global climate agreement, which will be announced next year in Paris. The talks focused on eight areas: agriculture, cities, energy, financing, forests, industry, resilience, and transportation.
President Obama emphasised the role that the US and China play in global carbon emissions, and agreed that both countries, the world’s two biggest carbon emitters “have a responsibility to lead” the world in cutting emissions targets. China is the highest emitter of carbon, and for the first time has vowed to take action, saying that their emission levels will soon peak and begin to reduce. Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli saying the Chinese economy will be far more efficient by 2020, by which time they aim to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 45% compared to 2005. President Francois Hollande of France, where the 2015 meeting will be held, discussed the creation of a French law reducing France’s emissions by 40%, and pledging to use 30% renewable energy by 2030. France also pledged $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund, which aims to assist poorer nations in mitigation against the effects of rising temperatures. The Green Climate Fund was founded in 2010, and since then has raised $2.3 billion through donations from countries such as Denmark, Germany, Sweden, South Korea, Norway, and Mexico. The fund aims to raise over $10 billion.
One of the key announcements of the summit was a new declaration pledging to stop deforestation of natural forests by 2030, and restore millions of acres of degraded land. This is supported by governments, multinational companies, and campaigners, and could save 4.5 – 8.8 billion tonnes of carbon emissions per year. This is equivalent to taking all of the cars in the world off the road! The UK, Germany, and Norway have led this, pledging up to $1.1 billion to pay countries which are able to reduce their deforestation. As well as simply reducing deforestation, which sustains many people’s livelihoods, this money will help support alternatives to deforestation for the local populations, reducing poverty, and improving food security. Deforestation is currently thought to contribute around 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. Maintaining forests is therefore one of the most cost-effective solutions to reducing emissions, as recognised by this new declaration.
The summit provided a global forum for discussion amongst politicians, major businesses, industrial partners, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It is clear that, in order to tackle climate issues in the long-term, all parties need to work together to make their plans a reality. But tackling the impacts of climate change is not just a task for the large international bodies, we all play an important role in our daily lives.