Every nation needs to address ‘climate urgency’

Inspired by Swedish young girl Greta Thunberg (16), youngsters around the globe are campaigning and demanding their governments address the climate crisis. We cannot delay our actions further. We need to act now…

Greta Thunberg has been named the Person of The Year by the Time magazine for 2019. This award is given to the most influential person, group, movement or idea of the previous 12 months. She has gained international attention for starting a global movement ‘School Strike for Climate’ in August last year. She was a lone protestor a few months ago but her intense and consistent advocacy for addressing climate change issues has inspired millions of school and college-going students in more than 150 countries to demand action from their governments on climate change.
Since the last 16 months, she spent her days camping in front of the Swedish Parliament, protested at the World Economic Forum, addressed heads of state at the United Nations in September this year, met with the Pope, and sparred with the President of the United States of America (USA). Her campaigning inspired four million people to join the global climate strike on September 20, 2019. According to news reports, it was the largest climate demonstration in human history. The issue of climate change is complex and needs attention not just from one government but from everyone around the world. Greta has no magical solution to the problem but she has brought about an attitudinal shift in looking at the issue. She represents the coming generation that is asking for our sincere efforts to save the environment. She has also gained prominence because of her direct, to the point, blunt speeches. Her statements may be harsh but she speaks the truth. Her speech at the UN titled ‘How Dare You’ went viral on the internet. Addressing the world leaders, she said, “You love your children above all else. And yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
Our coming generation will hold us responsible if we do not act now on the climate crisis. From forest fires and floods to ocean pollution and coastal erosion, people world over are living the impact of climate change every day.
Science underlines the urgency
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the Emission Gap Report-2019 in the last week of November in Geneva. The report underlined, “The summary findings are bleak. Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global [greenhouse gas] emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required.” If the countries do not reduce emission, it is very unlikely that the world will be able to handle the negative impacts of climate change. The report also states that only on the current climate commitments of the Paris Agreement, temperatures can be expected to rise 3.2°C this century. Temperatures have already increased 1.1°C, leaving families, homes and communities devastated. Scientists agree that to get on track to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, emissions must drop rapidly to 25 gigatons by 2030 but based on today’s commitments, emissions are on track to reach 56 Gt CO2e by 2030, over twice what they should be. The report further says that collectively, if commitments, policies and action can deliver a 7.6% emissions reduction every year between 2020 and 2030, we can limit global warming to 1.5°C. It is important to note that 10 years ago if countries had acted on this science, governments would have needed to reduce emissions by 3.3% each year.
All of us have witnessed that climate change-induced disasters are affecting human lives. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2019 concluded a “decade of exceptional heat”. Even many European countries faced heat waves this year. In July 2019, all-time heat records were broken in Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Wildfires raged in the Arctic, and Greenland’s ice sheet melted at a record rate. Globally, July was the hottest month ever recorded.
This is evident now that we cannot accept the status quo else we will be doing irreversible damage to the future of our coming generations. Global warming is not just melting glaciers and affecting polar bear but also its impact can be seen in our daily lives. Our food production is also getting affected as we are facing higher temperatures, increased rain, floods and droughts. Studies have suggested that every year we continue to emit Green House Gases into the atmosphere and fail to curb emissions as targeted in the Paris Agreement, the Earth is inching closer to a point of no return. This will alter life on earth and cannot be undone.

Time for action
UN Climate talks in Madrid remained focused on the issue of the carbon market and its rules. If it passes through hurdles, it will enable major carbon emitter countries to buy carbon credits from the countries that haven’t exceeded their emission targets under the Paris Agreement. India is on track vis-à-vis its commitment by introducing a host of schemes for promoting renewable energy and meeting its target of generating renewable energy through solar, wind, biogas and other renewable sources. Indian cities are transforming themselves into smart cities and this is a great opportunity for them to expedite their efforts to build a sustainable environment. Many of these initiatives are aligned to reduce carbon emissions but there is still a need to capacitate officials for better implementation and monitoring at ground level.
I’m hopeful that culmination of the decade and our learning in this period will guide us to a new path of development. All stakeholders-nations, citizens, cities and everyone-will act responsibly because the issues such as climate change know no boundaries. I’m sure that no challenge is too big if each one of us decides to act together and coherently.

  • The WMO declared that 2019 concluded a “decade of exceptional heat”;
  • The UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report stated that the world needs to reduce emissions by 7.6 per cent every year for the next decade to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius;
  • The new UNDP Human Development Report on inequality, launched recently, sets out that climate change presents a seismic shift that, unchecked, could trigger a ‘new great divergence’ in society of the kind not seen since the Industrial Revolution
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