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Earth day 22 April 2020

One unexpected impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been the improvement in the quality of the environment. Due to lockdown, the amount of industrial activity and vehicular traffic, particularly road and air, has decreased very significantly and the benefits have included reductions in -

  • Air pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Greenhouse gas emissions

The reduction in road traffic has encouraged more people to reclaim the road space for walking and cycling in many towns and cities thereby improving air quality.

A number of well known people have observed that once the pandemic is over – “ the outbreak has proven that society in its present form is not sustainable and we need to choose a new way forward”. Greta Thunberg also noted “that the global response demonstrated how quickly change could happen when humanity united and acted on the advice of scientists”.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, observed “that the pandemic was the biggest threat that the world had faced since 1945 but that the environmental emergency was deeper. He believed that the post pandemic recovery should include –

  • Creation of green jobs whose activities would have little or no environmental impact
  • Taxpayer support for sustainable growth
  • End to fossil fuel subsidies

Pope Francis observed that “ the coronavirus has put a spotlight on values. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and learn to understand and contemplate the natural world”. He added “ this is the time to take the decisive step and move from misusing nature to contemplating it”.

COP 25 Madrid December 2 to 13

Almost 200 countries are represented at the 25th meeting of the Conference to the Parties of the Kyoto Agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions being held in Madrid.

Ahead of the meeting, the World Meteorological Organisation announced that greenhouse gas concentrations reached their highest recorded level in 2018 and that the year on year increase in emissions was averaging 1.5%. The UN Environment Programme showed that there was a huge gap between the plans that Governments are currently undertaking to cut emissions and what's needed to keep under 1.5 C limit. Staying within this limit, UNEP suggested will need a five-fold increase in the carbon cutting ambitions of some countries

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned delegates ahead of the meeting "the point of no return was no longer over the horizon". "We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions".

The EU’s Environmental Agency has reported that ‘pursuing economic growth at the expense of the environment was no longer an option as Europe faces unprecedented challenges from climate chaos, pollution, loss of biodiversity and over consumption of natural resources’.

In another analysis led by scientists from the University of California, they reported that ‘climate models dating back to the 1970s are accurately predicting the trend in global heating over the past 50 years’. This suggests projections of future global warming are likely to be accurate too.

[from reports in Guardian newspaper, 01/12/2019 to 04/12/2019]


Climate Action Summit, New York on 23 September 2019

UN Climate Action Summit was held on September 23 at a Special Assembly of the United Nations in New York. The summit was called by UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in response to the possible impact of dangerous global heating due to rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the upper atmosphere. He said by way of introduction that ‘nature is angry with us and we fool ourselves if we think that can fool nature because nature always strikes back.

With climate impacts such as extreme weather, thawing permafrost and sea-level rise unfolding much faster than expected, the urgency of the crisis has intensified since the Paris accord was signed in 2015. There is a cost to everything, but the biggest cost will be doing nothing.

Greta Thunberg amplified these remarks by stating ‘the popular idea of cutting our emissions in half within 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below the 1.5º C and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human contact. A 50% risk, she added, is simply not acceptable to use who have to live with the consequences.

To have a 67% chance of staying below the critical carbon limit, only an additional 350 Gigatonnes of CO2 can be emitted which will be used up in less than 8 and a half years at today’s consumption rate.

She concluded that ‘the eyes of all future generations are upon you and if you chose to fail us, I say, we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this'.

Summit outcome

Major announcements made by government and private sector leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit will boost climate action momentum, and demonstrate growing recognition that the pace of climate action must be rapidly accelerated.

65 countries and major sub-national economies such as California are committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, while 70 countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020 or have started the process of doing so.

Over 100 business leaders pledges to deliver concrete actions to align with the Paris Agreement targets, and speed up the transition from the grey to green economy, including asset-owners holding over $2 trillion in assets and leading companies with combined value also over $2 trillion.

In addition many countries and over 100 cities - including many of the world’s largest - announced significant and concrete new steps to combat the climate crisis.

The summit concluded that ‘Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it. There is still time to tackle climate change, but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society’.
https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/

 

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