CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE UN: WHAT YOU CAN DO
Climate Change has become an acknowledged global problem in the last decade, with almost 195 countries committing to working against it in last year’s Paris Agreement. In this article, we tell you more about the climate change journey, Australia’s role in it, and what you can do as a citizen to help the planet.
Climate Change is likely to be the most important question of the coming generation of human beings. There are two sides to the climate change debate, and there are two aspects to it (first, is the Earth’s climate changing, for which the answer is most likely yes; second, is it caused by human beings, for which the answer is less clear). Whatever the answers to these aspects are, it is important that as a species we either reduce the damage we’re doing to our planet, or we equip ourselves with technology that can help us react to climate change.
The UN has facilitated climate change discussions between countries for about ten years now.
The Paris Accord
The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) that deals with the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation, and adoption of cleaner fuel starting from the year 2020. As of December 2016, 194 UNFCC members have already signed the treaty and 117 of them have ratified it. So as of this writing, Climate Change is a global problem that all countries of the world have agreed to fight together with a framework in place.
Fossil fuel divestment
What goes hand in hand with the Paris Accord objectives is steady divestment from fossil fuels at a global scale. This will result in a peaking of greenhouse gas emissions on the world stage. However, this becomes an economic and geopolitical problem because current oil-rich countries do not want to let go of their stranglehold on the world economy. Also, the United States, with its newly discovered oil and coal reserves, wishes to become energy independent through fossil fuels.
The ‘Trump’ factor
Donald Trump, the United States President Elect, has repeatedly spoken of Climate Change as a ‘scam’ during his campaign speeches. The UN is worried that if Trump walks the talk, he might just end up undoing all the good done by ten years of climate diplomacy and agreement between countries. Though Trump has since backtracked on his climate change stance, it remains to be seen what kind of middle ground he seeks between keeping his voters happy (manufacturing and mining jobs require lots of fossil fuel) and keeping the geopolitical landscape green.
What kind of money is required?
The Paris Agreement has taken affirmation from all the signing countries to mobilise 100 billion dollars per year by 2020, and continue to finance at this level until 2025 to support climate action in developing countries. This adds up to a 90-trillion dollar investment in global infrastructure over the next fifteen years. However, reports suggest that even this level of money is not enough to reach the goals that have been laid out in the Paris Agreement. In short, we’re fighting an uphill battle.
What is Australia’s stance?
Australia has not yet managed to pull its weight as a country when it comes to climate change. It is ranked among the worst developed countries with regards to climate change action. It’s ranked fifth-worst for emissions and policies among developed countries and among the six worst countries in the G20 when it comes to climate action.
Much of Australia’s energy comes from fossil fuels, and as the government continues to support the mining industry, the world’s eye is drawn towards Australia for being a laggard in fighting climate change.
What can Australia do?
As a country, Australia has been blessed with abundant natural resources, and if there is political and public will, the country can invest for the future and be a world leader with clean and sustainable forms of fuel. But once again the problem becomes political and social in nature, with current mining cities like Perth unwilling to give up their monopoly on creating fuel unless there is a dire need to do so. Therefore, the environmental and the political should meet half way somewhere for the good of the planet.
What can you do?
Even as citizens of a country, we can all take steps to reduce emissions so that we do our bit to make the world less harmful to the environment. Here are a few lifestyle choices we can make in order to contribute to Australia’s place as a climate change proponent:
- Reduce car emissions by choosing a smaller car, making walking and cycling a habit, using public transport and choosing to car-pool.
- Reduce emissions in the house by turning off lights and appliances when not in use, replacing regular light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs, insulating the home to reduce your heating and cooling bills etc.
- Reduce your carbon footprint while shopping by buying local and seasonal food, buying minimal packaging, using sustainable low-impact materials, and by buying second hand items rather than new where possible.
- Longer term choices for being energy efficient include buying appliances that are ‘green’, using solar-powered water heating systems, moving to an area where all amenities are within walking distance, and making changes at work so that you can ‘telecommute’ via telephone and email.
- Make climate change a regular topic of conversation with your children so that they grow up knowing the risks of human activity on climate, and so that they carry on the journey toward cleaner, more sustainable lives in the future.
- Make climate change a community activity by sharing sustainable food practices, setting up recycling weekends with children and parents, and by organising a Walking School Bus with the people of the community so that the small habits are inculcated early. There is also a sense of social bonding that happens around sustainable living.