United Nations: The United Nations, a world organisation with its network around the globe and countries from across continents represented at its headquarters, is like the disaster central, bringing home the impact of weather-related catastrophes.
Humanity is facing an existential threat from climate change, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned the world year after year, and this time with added urgency as he surveys disasters, from the flooding in Pakistan last year and in Libya and the US this year, to the drought in the Horn of Africa, and from the wildfires in Canada and the US to the storms in the Mediterranean and the typhoons in East Asia.
Yet recent developments on combating climate change have not met expectations.
A recent UN report found that the world was off-track regarding limiting global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius, a mark set by many scientists to avert climate meltdown.
“As the reality of climate chaos pounds communities around the world – with ever-fiercer floods, fires and droughts – the chasm between need and action is more menacing than ever”, Guterres said.
“It is time for a climate ambition ‘supernova’ in every country, city, and sector”, he said, and the UAE climate conference starting later this month would be the place to ramp up commitments.
Another UN report said that the Green Climate Fund was set up to help developing countries adapt to climate change.
Guterres had convened a Climate Ambition Summit in September to get countries to raise their commitments to fight climate change, but it failed to get the leaders of the four countries that put out the most greenhouse gases to attend.
Guterres’ ambition is for developed countries to get to ‘net zero’ by 2040 and developing countries by the next decade. (‘Net zero’ is getting a balance in emissions by limiting the emissions of greenhouse gases to what is removed from the atmosphere so that additions are zero.)
After these setbacks, the UAE meeting known as the Conference of Parties or COP-28 numbered with the edition, will take up the climate challenge under the cloud of more immediate crises – the Ukraine War and the Gaza conflict.
The COP-28 meetings take stock of the progress made in fighting climate change and look forward to what needs to be done.
It flows from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty adopted in 1992 to fight climate change to limit global temperature increase.
It was the first major global effort at fighting climate change, a pioneering effort by the UN when the problem had not reached the level of urgency seen today when it has 198 signatories.
The Kyoto Protocol, a legally-binding commitment for industrialised nations to limit emissions to set targets, originated from the UNFCC in 1997, and the Paris Agreement reached in 2015 to take steps to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius while aiming for a 1.5-degree target.
The UN’s overarching programme, the Sustainable Development Goals, which run a gamut from poverty eradication to social justice under 17 heads, are bound by the aim of ensuring that development is also sustainable.
Adopted in 2015 by the General Assembly with a 2030 target, two of the key elements in it that deal explicitly with global warming are ‘responsible consumption and production’, and ‘climate action’.
Driven by small island nations that are in danger of being drowned by rising sea levels as a result of global warming, the General Assembly considered whether climate change is a human rights issue.
In March, it referred the matter to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on international obligations based on human rights obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The court was also asked to give its opinion on the accountability of countries that have “caused significant harm to the climate.”
The Security Council made an unsuccessful attempt in 2021 to link climate change to issues of threats to international peace and security, on which it can take enforceable actions.
It was opposed by India as a form of mission creep by an unrepresentative Council usurping more powers. Russia vetoed the resolution.