World Leaders Must Move Faster on Climate Change

by Clare Gallagher

The UN chief described climate change mitigation negations as moving at a “snail’s pace.”

At a high-level United Nations General Assembly meeting on climate change in New York on Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon reiterated that world leaders must give clear, decisive instructions to their ministers and lawmakers for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

More individuals need to be held accountable for the outcome of climate change negotiations.

The US, the European Union and other countries currently offer weak plans for reducing their emissions.

They “provide a floor, not a ceiling,” and will not prevent global temperatures from rising another two degrees, which is the goal for an international agreement to be signed by countries at the end of this year.

The country responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions is China, with 24 percent of global carbon emissions. Its leaders are due to realize their plans for ambitious emissions cuts “very soon.”

Yet, decisive and impactful plans should be out already.

This recent meeting was held in anticipation of the COP21, which is short for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Also referred to as “Paris 2015,” the conference will occur in Paris from November 30to December 11.

It is the critical opportunity for world leaders to sign a new international agreement, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

One of the most contentious issues on the agenda is how rich countries plan to contribute $100 billion to poorer, developing countries.

This money is necessary in order to help the poorer countries cut their carbon pollution and to protect their people from consequences of climate change, like sea level rise, increased severity of typhoons and hurricanes, drought leading to food and water scarcity and other human health issues caused by climate change.

UN Chief Ki-Moon called on presidents and prime ministers to make better, more deliberate pledges on how they are going to mobilize this money.

So, in order for the COP21 to be successful in December, the UN is relying on world leaders to make their countries’ climate change reduction plans now, which isn’t happening.

Or at least the plans that have been released are vague, weak and do not stand up to the severity of climate change.

As the Pope recently called for heightened global attention and action to mitigate climate change, this is a close-to-catastrophic, planet-wide issue that needs pledges and agreements as soon as possible, in order to curb global warming at no more than 2°C.

This figure is agreed upon and urged by scientists worldwide to be a threshold we don’t want to cross.

So, what can we do?

Other than cutting personal greenhouse gas emissions, like driving a fuel-efficient, low-greenhouse gas vehicle, we can sign petitions for stopping fossil fuel extraction (i.e. divestment [petitions: The Guardian, Avaaz, GoFossilFree]).

We can send letters or sign local petitions to congressmen and congresswomen, urging them to support bills that cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately, earlier this week, the Supreme Court blocked an ambitious initiative proposed by the Obama Administration to limit power plant emissions.

But, never fear, negotiations on a constituent and global level will continue, as long as citizens like us continue to put pressure on leaders.

The negative pressures of climate change are increasing, so our efforts to mitigate climate change should also be increasing.

This isn’t a debate; this is a race to stop a ticking time bomb.

Let’s encourage world leaders to pick up the pace and make the COP21 a global success.