UN actions on climate and environment

Events at COP27

UN News/Laura Quinones

At the end of 2021, as the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) closed in Glasgow, none of the participants could have imagined that the war in Ukraine would throw the world economy into turmoil and cause many countries to abandon their low-cost commitments. -Carbon economy, as they try to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas and buy fossil fuels from elsewhere.

At the same time, numerous studies have pointed to continued global warming and humanity’s failure to reduce carbon emissions and address the existential threat posed by the climate emergency.

Despite this, the UN continues its slow and laborious push for international climate agreements, while putting constant pressure on major economies to redouble their efforts to reduce fossil fuel use and support developing countries whose citizens are most affected by drought, flooding and extreme natural disasters. weather conditions caused by human-caused climate change.

The fires in the western United States have painted the San Francisco sky orange.

© Unsplash/Patrick Perkins

Record heat waves, droughts and floods

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a series of scathing reports throughout the year, including a study from January that declared 2021 to be among the seven hottest years on record.

In the summer, when several European countries reported record heat waves, the agency warned that we should get used to more similar peaks over the next few years; this at a time when Africa, particularly in the Horn of Africa, faces a worsening food crisis and the displacement of millions of people, and at a time when four out of five countries on the continent cannot manage their problems sustainably. Water resources until 2030.

While some regions suffer from water shortages, others have experienced catastrophic floods. At the height of the crisis, Pakistan declared a national emergency in August after severe flooding and landslides caused by monsoon rains covered nearly a third of the country. Tens of millions of people have been displaced.

In August, unprecedented floods in Chad affected more than 340,000 people, and in October, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said some 3.4 million people needed help in the worst floods in a decade in Central West and Southern Africa.

Fossil fuel power plants are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

© Unsplash/Ella Ivanescu

“Stunning” dependence on fossil fuels

In October’s Greenhouse Emissions Bulletin, the World Research Organization detailed record levels of three key gases — carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane — that saw their largest single-year increases in concentrations in the past 40 years, and that human activity is the main driver of climate change.

Yet despite all the evidence of an urgent need to transition to a low-carbon economy, the world’s major economies have responded to the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine by reopening old power plants and seeking new oil and gas suppliers.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned their response at a climate summit in June, calling it delusional, saying that if they had invested in renewable energy in the past, these countries would have avoided price volatility in fossil fuel markets.

At an energy event in Washington that same month, Mr. Guterres compared the behavior of the fossil fuel industry to that of the big tobacco companies in the mid-20th century: tobacco interests, fossil fuel interests and their financial partners must not shirk their responsibilities. ” he said. ” As for the argument that climate action would be dismissed in favor of domestic issues, it rings hollow. “.

Campaign for Sustainable Tourism in Bhutan


A clean and healthy environment, a universal human right

The decision by the United Nations General Assembly in July to declare access to a clean and healthy environment as a universal human right was seen as an important step, reinforced by a similar text adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2021.

Guterres said in a statement that this historic development will help reduce environmental injustices, close protection gaps and strengthen the rights of people, especially human rights defenders, the environment, children, youth, women and indigenous peoples.

The importance of this initiative was emphasized in October by Ian Fry, the first UN special rapporteur on the protection of human rights in the context of climate change. Mr Fry told UN News that the resolution had already entered into force and noted that the European Union was discussing how to incorporate it into national legislation and constitutions.

Marine biologist Maria Fernanda works on Maya marine flora

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Groundbreaking agreements at UN climate conferences

The year culminated with three major UN climate summits – the Ocean Conference in June, the COP27 Climate Conference in November and the COP15 Biodiversity Conference in December – important decision-making meetings that demonstrated that the organization is not limited to condemning disasters. climate conditions and the call for change.

Each measure has made progress both in promoting international commitments to environmental protection and in reducing damage and destruction caused by human activities.

The Ocean Conference provided an opportunity for discussions on critical issues and the exchange of new ideas. World leaders acknowledged their deep concern over the plight of the oceans and renewed their commitment to take urgent action, cooperate at all levels, and fully achieve the goals as soon as possible.

More than 6,000 participants in the conference, including 24 heads of state and government and more than 2,000 representatives of civil society, called for immediate and concrete measures to solve the ocean crisis.

They emphasized the importance of scientific and innovative activities as well as international cooperation to provide the necessary solutions.

financing” loss and damage » for developing countries

COP27, the United Nations Climate Conference in Egypt in November, looked set to end without an agreement, and negotiations continued long after the summit officially ended.

Nevertheless, the negotiators managed not only to agree on the formulation of the outcome document, but also to create a financing mechanism to compensate vulnerable countries for losses and damages caused by climate-related disasters.

Since these countries have been in favor of such a provision for decades, its inclusion in the agreement was seen as a big step forward. Details on how the mechanism will work and who will benefit from it will be finalized in the coming months.

However, little progress has been made on other key issues, notably phasing out fossil fuels and more explicit commitments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

More biodiversity conservation is promised in Montreal

After two years of delays and postponements caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fifteenth UN Conference on Biodiversity, COP15, finally took place in Montreal last December and concluded with an agreement to protect 30% of the planet’s land, coastal and inland areas . waters by the end of the decade. Inger Andersen, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), described this result as ” it is the first step in restoring our relationship with the natural world “.

Global biodiversity is at risk, with approximately one million species threatened with extinction. UN experts agree that unless we adopt a more sustainable approach to our relationship with nature, the crisis will worsen with catastrophic consequences for humanity.

The agreement, officially called the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, contains impressive commitments that must now be translated into action. Methods of implementation have been a major challenge at previous biodiversity conferences, but hope remains that a platform launched at COP15 to help countries accelerate implementation will make the plan a reality.

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