For the first time in history, the world united (at last!) under one banner to take on climate change and keep temperatures at a level where society – and ice cream! – can flourish. Next up in the ongoing fight against climate change is the United Nations 22nd session of the Conference of Parties (COP22), which will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, from 7th-18th November.
The Paris Agreement set the stage for countries to work together and transition to the clean energy economy of the future, the key component being the commitment to keep the rise in global temperatures well below 2°C. While the agreement was a big win which set out a plan of action, we still need to keep up the momentum to ensure its swift implementation – that’s where Marrakech comes in.
Here are some of the key issues that we’ll be keeping an eye on at COP22:
1. The Race to Ratify
A pivotal moment came earlier this month when China and the US, jointly responsible for around 38% of global greenhouse gas emissions, formally ratified the Paris Agreement. Following hot on their heels was Brazil, Latin America’s largest emitter. Since the treaty will come into effect only once ratified by 55 countries accounting for 55% of emissions, this is a huge step forward. Following significant pressure, the UK announced that it would ratify within the year, while India, responsible for 5.8%, is expected to do the same. Collectively, the EU is the world’s third biggest emitter so its ratification is key, but since it’s made up of 28 individual member states, the process – like coming up with new ice cream flavour combinations – is a little complicated.
2. The Green Climate Fund
Set up in 2010, the Green Climate Fund is a fair-play mechanism allowing wealthier countries to help developing countries curb their carbon emissions by offsetting the costs of transitioning to renewable energy sources. The fund aims to raise an ambitious $100 billion a year by 2020, and is currently standing at around $10 billion, with major contributions coming from the US, Japan, the UK, Germany and France. Earlier this year, Obama made good on a hefty chunk of the $3 billion US pledge, depositing a cool $500 million into the fund’s coffers, and further contributions from other countries are keenly anticipated.
This will be a critical fund to ensure developing nations make the right choice and invest in clean energy technology rather than dirty coal, oil, or other fossil fuels.
At Ben & Jerry’s, we love water, and not just because it’s a key component of making ice cream! Thankfully the world is beginning to wake up, and water is increasingly becoming a focus as a precious resource, as recently evidenced during World Water Week. Climate change causes a whole host of water-related problems, such as glacial melting and – paradoxically – flooding and drought. This puts huge stress on the world’s water supply and has a knock-on effect that impacts hugely on the planet and its people.
Nowhere are the effects of climate change more keenly felt than in Africa, which combines a high vulnerability with a low capacity to adapt. The continent’s population is set to double by 2050, which is a staggering statistic given that it’s already nudging 1.2 billion! This feeds into the world’s problems with water, as the continent becomes increasingly thirsty, and since access to electricity is very limited in sub-Saharan Africa, around 80% of people continue to cook using solid biomass fuels such as wood, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, malnutrition is on the rise, and the risk of malaria epidemics increases as rising temperatures drive the malaria mosquito to higher altitude areas where people lack immunity to the disease.
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5. Defense risks
Climate disorder puts stress on resources, and when people can’t eat or drink, they have no choice but to move. This causes the displacement of huge numbers of people around the world, which is a major driving factor in the deepening global refugee crisis. It also causes disaffection and political unrest, ramping up tensions and instability in already vulnerable regions and spilling over into the world at large. High-level agencies like the US Pentagon now consider climate change to be a major security risk, which should be a wake-up call.
What next for the fight against climate change?
The Paris Agreement truly was a victory for grassroots activism, showing us what we can do when we get together and make some noise. With COP22 in Marrakech just around the corner, we need to build on the momentum and keep the pressure on our governments to remain aggressive with their carbon-cutting goals.
Despite all these hard-won pledges, the recent backward steps for climate policy in the UK & Ireland show how important it is that we keep a close eye on our leaders to make sure they stick to their promises, so now is the time to act. Without the tireless campaigning of concerned citizens around the world, we never would have come this far, so sign the petition today and add your voice to the millions demanding climate action!