Warning lights for planet Earth are flashing redSunday, December 20, 2020
LAST week, the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA) marked its fifth anniversary with a Climate Ambition Summit hosted by the United Kingdom, France, and the United Nations. But with all its lofty ideals, the warning lights for planet Earth are flashing red.
The Caribbean — which depends on a healthy and vibrant climate for its existence, particularly for its lead industry, tourism — continues to experience troubling climate volatility as evident in rising sea levels, more extreme weather events and rising air and ocean temperatures.
These challenges can only be met by international co-operation, obviously through the most important attempt so far to organise multilateral action in the Paris Climate Agreement signed in 2016 and ratified by 196 countries to date.
For its survival the planet seriously needs the climate agreement, which is a template for collective global action to address what is yet the most pressing threat to the existence of mankind.
Signed on December 12, 2015, the Paris Agreement is a pact within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the focus of which is greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance. Its goal is to limit the increase in the average global temperature to 1.5 °C.
The level of progress envisaged by the PCA, based on the agreed targets and the continued deterioration in the planet's environment, has not been achieved. The outlook was not helped by the withdrawal of the United States from the agreement in November 2020 — the only country to do so. However, President-elect Mr Joe Biden has committed to rejoining on his first day in office.
The average global surface temperature is increasing and is projected to reach 1.5°C above the pre-industrial period, perhaps as soon as 2030. The 1.0°C threshold has already been crossed, as seen in the severe climate-related consequences that the global community has suffered in recent years.
A new report from the World Resources Institute and ClimateWorks Foundation finds that to get on track for the emission cuts required by 2030, the world must accelerate the pace of adoption of renewable energy sixfold, coal phase-out fivefold, and electric vehicle uptake 22-fold, compared to current rates.
These shortcomings will accelerate the Anthropocene Epoch when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet's climate and ecosystems.
This will be made worse by the difficulty of developing countries, especially the poorest, in procuring vaccines against the novel coronavirus pandemic, despite the efforts of the World Health Organization COVAX Facility that promotes vaccine access. It is estimated that a paltry 10 per cent of their populations will be vaccinated in the immediate future.
The United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Report for 2020 concludes that: “Warning lights for our societies and the planet are flashing red… Many inequalities in human development have been increasing and continue to do so. Climate change, among other dangerous planetary changes, will only make them worse.”
The global community must now redouble its efforts to prevent, not just slow climate change. All must be involved, all are responsible.
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