On September 23, 2014 world leaders met for the global climate summit hosted in New York by the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The goal of the meeting: to bring awareness to the issue of climate change and encourage political goodwill for a legal universal agreement in Paris next year.
Beneath the glamour of celebrity spokespeople for climate change, like U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio, and pledges to donate money, more than 120 world leaders talked about their plans for climate change and listened to speeches made by representatives from communities that are being affected by climate change.
It should be noted that the goal global climate summit last month wasn’t to sign a universal climate treaty. The climate summit wasn’t even a part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was a unique event that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a longtime advocate for the awareness of climate change, planned and implemented. Unlike 2009’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen, which ended in failure, this year’s meeting was met with enormous public support and a general sense that things were going to get done.
And things did get done, sort of. Companies and governments pledged to cut emissions. Investors pledged money toward green investments. Gas and oil industry leaders planned to reduce methane emissions by the year 2020. The partnerships and dialogue between politicians and companies was great. Who wouldn’t want to see a world less ravaged by smog and deforestation?
However, pledges aren’t binding agreements and it’s unclear whether or not companies, such as those that deal with oil, gas, and coal reserves, who pledged their support will even make an impact if they don’t act quickly. And there’s another problem too. Fossil fuel companies aren’t looking to change their policies regarding climate change. The Guardian reported that both ExxonMobil and Shell said they would continue doing business in fossil fuels for years to come regardless of government policies. It’s hard to see the positive impact of the climate summit meeting when there is still a lack of response from companies that make a huge amount of money dealing in materials that are bad for the environment.
It all comes down to economics. Countries and industries don’t want to cut emissions, which is considered bad economics, in case they fall behind their rivals. This results in nations that don’t want to change their climate policies. And pledges sure aren’t going to help either. Yes, it is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough.
How can there be an international agreement next year when Russia still produces massive amounts of coal and Germany burns more coal than ever? And lets not forget about Japan’s rising emissions from the Fukushima disaster or the United States and China who are the top two carbon emitting countries.
Perhaps the best course of action isn’t a burden-sharing global treaty, but self-interested nations taking actions on their own to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels and start investing in low-carbon alternatives. This would result in economic growth and a chance for countries to pour more money into high-tech and efficient alternatives.
Regardless of whether it’s a universal agreement or unilateral plans, rising CO2 emissions don’t stop for anyone and the sooner nations take action the sooner we can save our environment