Climate-change summit a step further, but where to?

ROME—The United Nations Climate Change Summit in Bonn is a step further, most experts say. Fine, but toward what?

On the one hand, the organizers—the  UN, Fiji and Germany—express strong hopes that it will speed up the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

On the other, a giant contributor to global warming—the United States—decided to desert that milestone agreement. Meanwhile, major European powers have been, again, prodigious in unmet promises.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn is the next step for governments to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerate the transformation to sustainable, resilient and climate-safe development, said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on this major event, in the former German capital, from November 6 to 17.


As such Convention, the Bonn-based UNFCCC is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent “dangerous human interference” with the climate system.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement entered into force in November 2017 and the era of implementation has begun, reminded Espinosa, emphasizing that the Bonn conference will further clarify the enabling frameworks that will make the agreement fully operational and the support needed for all nations to achieve their climate-change goals.

“It is also an excellent example of the cooperation and collaboration between nations that will truly meet the global climate-change challenge…This meeting is incredibly important.”

The conference—known as the signatory countries, or Contracting Parties 23 session (COP 23)—is presided over by the government of Fiji with support by Germany.

Prior to its opening, Espinosa encouraged governments, the private sector and civil-society organizations to be ready to work together to “accelerate implementation and take the crucial next steps toward transformative change.”

“We all have a role to play, and COP 23 will shine a light on both action under way and the many possible actions every individual and institution can take moving forward.”

Polluters do (not) pay principle

This is on the one hand. On the other, the US administration announced that it would promote coal, natural gas, fossil oil and nuclear energy as an answer to the climate-change challenge.

And US President Donald J. Trump spelled out in September this year his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

In spite of this negative development, the UNFCCC executive secretary expressed optimism ahead of the last Group of Seven more industrialized powers (G7)—the web of Paris cannot be broken by one missing link, she said on July 7.

The point is that is it is not about the US only. In fact, other major contributors to global warming and gas emissions, such as many European highly industrialized countries, have been heralding day after day their formal commitment to reduce gas emissions, expand the use of alternative sources of energy and a long etcetera.

So far, major carmakers have been very active promoting the sale of vehicles moved by electric and hybrid engines.

For now, China as a key source of pollution seems to be addressing the need to slow down the fast process of climate change in a serious manner.

Visible dangers

Meantime, the grave impacts of climate change are visible on almost all fronts.

At the same time, the leaders of two top UN specialized organizations have been warning that climate-change migration is reaching crisis proportions.

Another major UN organization has recently explained the reasons of the massive displacement of people.

One key cause of the growing dangerous impact of climate-change is the prevailing economic model consisting of voracious depletion of natural resources in both production and consumption patterns has proved to be one of the world’s main killers due to the huge pollution it causes for air, land and soil, marine and freshwater.

And the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has warned that pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capita.

On top of this and that, the United Nations weather agency announced on October 30 that the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, issued this warning in Geneva, at the launch of the organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

The report indicates that CO2 concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, up from 400 ppm in 2015. “We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon-dioxide concentration,” Taalas said.

The WMO chief said, “We are not moving in the right direction at all… In fact, we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement…”

A common cause, really?

The UNFCCC explained that the Paris Agreement builds upon this Convention and—for the first time—brought all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C.

The central aim should definitely be to prevent the growing everyday human drama—such as the loss of food security and means of survival, the forced need to abandon their homes and families to face death and brutality at the hands of smugglers and human traffickers, to be exploited as “modern” slaves, and to prevent the world’s seas and oceans from being home to more plastic than fish.

Suntrust banner2
Turning Points 2018