Worldwide wednesday| 2019-10-30 Berta Dóra Bella

Eco or ego?

Pollution and the consequential climate change have become two of the most pressing issues of today. We have to pose the question – is an individual’s interest more important than the fate of our planet and the future of the next generations? How indifferent and apathetic can we – or should we – be towards the escalating global crisis?

We’re all experiencing the severe symptoms of climate change. People nowadays feel the negative effects of global warming on their very skin; which is also creating a critical situation in the animal and plant kingdoms. Everyone’s seen shocking pictures about climate change on the Internet or in other media sources. A polar bear, skin and bones, standing on a small ice floe; the remains of dead animals on a coast littered by plastic waste; an orangutan desperately trying to defend its baby after it lost its territory. And these few examples are only the tip of the iceberg.

Wildfires and desertification have become more common due to droughts caused by global warming. If we want to solve this situation already worthy of a disaster movie we need worldwide collaboration- something that can be set up by the UN as a global organization.

 

The United Nations

The UN Charter, the foundational treaty of the United Nations entered into force on 24 October 1945; that day was later declared as United Nations Day. The organization deals with a wide variety of issues, including but not limited to sustainable development, protection of the environment and refugees, disaster risk reduction, counter-terrorism, gender equality, international health issues and the building of a safer future for the coming generations.

 

What do the organizations established by the United Nations do about climate change?

IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is dedicated to analyzing the research data concerning human-induced climate change. According to their factual reports we have reached, or maybe even passed certain critical points that lead to irreversible changes in our ecosystem and climate.

UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that children are the most vulnerable to climate change. The floods in Asia and the droughts in Africa affect about 700 million children. The food- and drinking water shortages brought on by natural disasters only worsen the circumstances of the younger population.

WHO

Does climate change threaten our lives and health in many ways? According to reports by the World Health Organization (WHO) global warming has caused the spreading of mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, and ebola. The extreme weather conditions also negatively affect the quality and purity of air and drinking water. 

What treaties and agreements have been drawn up regarding the fight against climate change?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The main objective of this treaty, adopted in 1992, is to protect the environment from dangerous levels of human interference with climate change by globally limiting greenhouse gas emissions and by stabilizing their concentrations in the atmosphere.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005 as an extension of the UNFCCC, ratified by the majority of countries. Developed states that are parties to the Protocol committed themselves to a 5.2% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012, with 1990 being the base year. The weak point of this treaty, however, is that it only sets a guideline for industrialized nations.

Since multiple countries have withdrawn from the agreement, the treaty now only applies to about 14% of emissions worldwide.

The Protocol also defines flexibility mechanisms concerning the limitations. One of the mechanisms allows the parties to ‘trade’ their commitment to planting forests (regardless of the location of the forest). Another mechanism is funding foreign projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

Paris Agreement

The goal of the agreement, adapted in 2015, is to keep the increase in global average temperature to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels by 2100; and to also try and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. 175 states signed the agreement on 22 April 2016, on Earth Day, in New York, making it the international treaty signed by most countries in one day. Putting the Paris Agreement in effect is the first time when nations across the world made a collaborative effort to fight against climate change.

However, the goals were not met in almost any of the party states; not even in the ones that made an effort to fulfill their commitments.

Research by Climate Action Tracker, updated in September, shows that The Gambia and Morocco were the only two countries whose efforts are still consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 °C limit. Most countries, including Hungary and other EU countries, are currently in the ‘insufficient’ category. These actions of these countries are not consistent with holding the temperature increase under 2°C. The other countries fall into either in the ’highly insufficient’ or ’critically insufficient’ category.

2019 UN Climate Action Summit

The target of the climate action summit held in New York, on 23 September 2019 was to reinforce the objectives of the Paris Agreement and to push for the reduction of the global carbon footprint. Among the speakers at the summit was young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and British natural historian

David Attenborough.

Considering the facts it’s not surprising that a new mental health issue – called eco-anxiety – has surfaced. Eco-anxiety especially affects the younger generations of more developed countries due to their hopeless outlook for the future.

We shouldn’t look to the UN and the world leaders for solutions. The road won’t be easy and everyone must do their parts to save the Earth, all the creatures living on it and our future.