The United Nations Climate Summit took place Sept. 23 in New York City, where world leaders came together to draft a framework for their fight against human-induced climate change. Upon analyzing the meeting’s outcome, some people in the Ithaca College community felt the draft could have been more comprehensive.
The U.N. will carry this draft forward at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, in December. The organization plans to finalize this consensus at its 2015 meeting in Paris.
The Summit succeeded a worldwide People’s Climate March, which attracted thousands of people in more than 2,000 locations across the globe. The march was intended to urge the U.N. to come to a concise agreement at its meeting.
During the opening session of the Summit, President Barack Obama said the magnitude of the climate march emphasized the gravity of the issue and could not be ignored.
The Summit generated a multitude of announcements from the 100 Heads of State and Government and more than 800 leaders from business, finance and civil society who attended. The U.N. committed to limit global temperature rise to fewer than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, but after reading about the meeting’s outcome, sophomore Peter Zibinski said he feels no concrete plan was identified.
“While I was glad to see so many world leaders attending the Summit and speaking about the urgent need to address the climate, I was disappointed with the lack of workable strategies or concrete initiatives being discussed,” Zibinski said. “World leaders were quick to point out their country’s existing initiatives and to speak generally on energy conservation, but very few offered any sort of emission limit or plan of action.”
To maintain the limitation of temperature increase, many countries plan to significantly cut greenhouse-gas emissions in key sectors. Leaders advocated for a peak in emissions before 2020, considerably lowered emissions thereafter and climate neutrality in the second half of the 21st century. Virginia Mansfield-Richardson, associate dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and an active member of the Park Sustainability Initiative, said this plan will not likely be effective.
“While there were several impressive initiatives launched at the United Nations Climate Summit, I am still concerned that the significant reductions to carbon emissions that must happen quickly are not being tackled,” Mansfield-Richardson said. “Ultimately, I don’t think enough has been done to educate the citizenry of all countries on how long carbon stays in the atmosphere. It is not something that can be changed overnight, or even within 100 years, by gradually lowering carbon emissions.”
In addition, the Summit stressed interest in moving markets across sectors and mobilizing funds for low-carbon, climate-resilient growth. A coalition of governments, business, finance, multilateral development banks and civil society leaders declared that it would mobilize over $200 billion for the cause. Senior Gabriella Antonia said she appreciated that financially unstable areas were taken into consideration.
“I was happy to see that the U.N. discussed the importance of strengthening finances in places that are already ‘high risk,’ such as the Caribbean and Africa,” Antonia said.
Many leaders announced their support for carbon pricing through their alignments with the new Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition and the Caring for Climate Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing. According to the U.N., placing a cost on carbon will give markets the policy signals necessary to invest in climate-change solutions.
“In essence, all of the initiatives made by the U.N. are promising and moving in the right direction,” Antonia said.
Summit leaders devised a number of climate and financial resilience initiatives that will help strengthen communities in the issue of climate change, such as offering user-friendly climate information to countries around the world. However, junior Jessie Braverman said these ideas do not address the root of the climate-change problem.
“The outcomes of the U.N. Summit focused primarily on the issue of climate change, which is a very narrow understanding of a very deep and complex issue,” Braverman said. “They fail to acknowledge the connections between the degradation and commodification of the earth and the exploitation and systematic oppression of historically silenced groups of people, and the Summit’s outcomes provide very simplistic and non-confrontational solutions to very urgent problems rooted in capitalism, colonialism, white supremacy and patriarchy.”
The coalitions produced to motivate the fight against climate change will specialize in specific initiatives to help resolve the environmental issue at hand.
Antonia said she thinks the only way to successfully fight climate change is to follow through with plans.
“The U.N. acknowledges how government agencies, businesses and civil societies must work together to fight climate change,” Antonia said. “That is all great, but the only way we will know if the U.N. is making the fight against climate change is if these initiatives are carried through.”