A Quick Discussion on the Actions of the UN Against Climate Change

Although scientists agree that natural disasters are due to a complex interaction of several factors, they are able to probe into how much climate change can influence the event; with investigative studies being done on disasters showing how it contributed to great increases in their magnitudes e.g. the heatwaves in Europe in 2003 and in Russia in 2010.(1) Of course, the precedent of climate change, global warming, has led to adverse effects globally such as coral bleaching(2) and, on a more severe scale, the melting of the “sentinels of climate change,” the glaciers, which lead to a global rise in sea level as well as changing ocean currents.(3) These outcomes have severe international economic, financial, and security consequences, with each region experiencing distinct problems dependent on their geography; this implies food shortages from decreased agricultural productivity, fiscal damages from disasters, and unemployment amongst other things.(4) As such, it is only logical that the mitigation of climate change be considered in every discussion concerning international matters. As such, since the recognition of climate change as a global problem, the United Nations (UN) has put through several efforts into passing thousands of papers and days of conferences to mitigate the growing problem.

From the recognition of climate change as a global issue during the 1988 UN General Assembly Resolution 43/53, it boded well for any country to actively engage in such “green” activities as it will not only increase coalitions and contribute to ultimate long-term benefits, but will also give rise to its legitimacy in global relations by tackling issues of worldwide concern.(5) And so, a series of conferences led to the birth of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992.(6) This was revolutionary for the battle against climate change for four reasons- (1) developed countries with the highest emissions were given the responsibility to reduce their emissions to 1990 levels by 2000, (2) developed countries with the resources were given the responsibility to provide financial assistance to developing ones, (3) the foundational principles were set for future climate change discussions, and (4) its broad mandate was a strong means to avenue for the cause through the creation of the Conference of Parties (COP), producing policies that set the standards for the international regime such as the Berlin Mandate, Kyoto Protocol, Buenos Aires Plan of Action, Bonn Agreements, Marrakesh Accord, Doha Amendment, and Paris Agreement.(7) These agreements targeted several aspects of the fight, including but not limited to reducing emissions, promoting accountability, factoring in minimal economic losses, and quantifying the actual target goals.

However, in 2009, the Copenhagen Accord, introduced a shift towards flexibility as it wasn’t a COP decision,(8) directing summits towards the direction of being mere platforms for making promises or for ensuring that other countries are fulfilling agreements only to some extent. One could argue that the recent Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement, etc. moved the discussions forward, being able to present a different take on the common but differentiated responsibility principle, considering not only the reduction of historical emissions of a country but also its contributions and needs for future efforts in mitigation and adaptation.(9)

But that’s the thing. Upon review of the previous conferences, one can notice that there is a trend of “compromised” solutions for the problem, trying to minimise the “damages” by lacing elements of business, finances, and economic power into discussions of climate change. With the contrasting political perspectives of the participating countries, the capability of these agreements is questionable due to the fact that in any international policy, the binding power is limited to the willingness of the country to comply; thus decreasing the sharing of responsibility and accountability and increasing leniency towards global projects that, despite their environmental toll, are supposedly “fine” as long as they are threaded with “sustainable elements” to improve the global climate change situation.(10)(11) One example currently, is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that is being pursued by China, building the greatest global infrastructure undertaking as of now.

With the goal of global economic growth and sustainability, these solutions are presented: (1) To decrease flexibility in terms of compliance with climate agreements by setting distinct specific realistic biennial goals based on each state’s economic standing, with incentives for attainment of the goals in form of coalitions and publicity. The states shall be monitored not as a conglomeration of developed countries but with each state being assessed individually, and (2) To fortify the resilience of the internal economy of the state; thus decreasing reliance on the negotiations involved in multilateralism as well as mere compromises. This will direct the focus towards interdependence over codependence or peer accountability during practice of the common but differentiated responsibilities principle.


Footnotes

1 Scientists can now blame individual natural disasters on climate change. <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-can-now-blame-individual-natural-disasters-on-climate-change/>. Accessed 1 July, 2018.

2 What is coral bleaching?. <https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html>. Accessed 1 July, 2018.

3 Why do glaciers matter?. <http://extremeicesurvey.org/why-do-glaciers-matter/>. Accessed 1 July, 2018.

4 Climate Change Could Wreck the Global Economy. Time. <http://amp.timeinc.net/time/4082328/climate-change-economic-impact>. Accessed 1 July, 2018.

5 <http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-357>. Accessed 1 July, 2018.

7 Chen and Tuapetel. “Climate Change”. TEIMUN 2018.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 G20 climate commitments must be turned into action. <http://bruegel.org/2017/08/g20-climate-commitments-must-be-turned-into-action/>. Accessed 1 July, 2018.

11 The climate change promise of China’s belt and road initiative. <https://thediplomat.com/2018/01/the-climate-change-promise-of-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative/>. Accessed 1 July, 2018.

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