Are times changing?

Laura White
Laura White

On 23rd September, heads and leaders of many different countries will meet in New York for the UN Climate Action Summit.

This is a chance for all leaders to come together to lay out exactly what they are doing or are planning to do to keep to the Paris Climate agreement that was set up in 2016.

This agreement was so very important for the world’s climate action as it was a binding agreement that meant all countries involved had to agree to a global set of actions and work together to tackle climate change on a global scale. However, this wasn’t the first of its kind. For a long time, there had always been the argument that the richer countries could afford to invest in cleaner energy, could afford the infrastructure needed for recycling and could afford the more expensive ‘eco’ lifestyle.

What then, was the point in them going to all this effort if the poorer countries were allowed to remain behind the times and continue to pollute the planet while they caught up with the more developed world? It was a good point. This was sorted out by saying that developed countries were responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore it was up to them to lead the way in reducing them now.

The Paris Climate agreement was a further extension of, although separate to, the Kyoto protocol set out in 1997 which bound 170 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after it was agreed that human-caused CO2 was indisputably resulting in global warming. The Kyoto Protocol was an extension of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which was agreed in 1992. The idea behind this one was to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

Kyoto was set up in stages. The first stage ended in 2012, the second is due to end next year. For whatever reason, a number of countries and/or states refused to agree to the targets in the second commitment period, and Canada dropped out altogether.
The Paris agreement signed up 185 states and the EU, with President Obama saying that the accord was “the best chance to save the planet”. Of course, President Trump now wants to drop out. So back to the latest Climate Action Summit.

The Secretary-General has chosen key areas of priority to address, those being –
•    Finance: mobilising public and private
   sources of finance to drive
   decarbonisation of all priority sectors
   and advance resilience;

•    Energy Transition: accelerating the
   shift away from fossil fuels and towards
   renewable energy, as well as making
   significant gains in energy efficiency;

•    Industry Transition: transforming
   industries such as Oil and Gas, Steel,
   Cement, Chemicals and Information

•    Nature-Based Solutions: Reducing
   emissions, increasing sink capacity and
   enhancing resilience within and across
   forestry, agriculture, oceans and food
   systems, including through biodiversity
   conservation, leveraging supply chains
   and technology;

•    Cities and Local Action: Advancing
   mitigation and resilience at urban
   and local levels, with a focus on new
   commitments on low-emission
   buildings, mass transport and urban
   infrastructure; and resilience for the
   urban poor;

•    Resilience and Adaptation: advancing
   global efforts to address and manage
   the impacts and risks of climate change,
   particularly in those communities and
   nations most vulnerable.

There are also three additional key areas:
•    Mitigation Strategy: to generate
   momentum for ambitious Nationally
   Determined Contributions (NDCs) and
   long-term strategies to achieve the goals
   of the Paris Agreement.

•    Youth Engagement and Public
   Mobilisation: To mobilise people
   worldwide to take action on climate
   change and ensure that young people
   are integrated and represented across all
   aspects of the Summit, including the six
   transformational areas.

•    Social and Political Drivers: to advance
   commitments in areas that affect
   people’s well-being, such as reducing
   air pollution, generating decent jobs,
   and strengthening climate adaptation
   strategies and protect workers and
   vulnerable groups. (

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is calling on all leaders to attend with “concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050”.

I’m not saying there hasn’t already been good progress made, but will this gee up the leaders? Will this make any difference? Are we in different times and territory now, what with Extinction Rebellion standing up in the faces of leaders and shouting their demands that something actually be done this time rather than just signing a bit of paper, smiling and shaking hands? We’ll see.