College Green Magazine: The Promises and Pledges of Climate Change

Since Al Gore’s infamous film An Inconvenient Truth thrust the idea of global warming into everyday American politics, climate change has become a highly-contested, highly-controversial issue.

Despite results from the “Global Carbon Budget of 2014” (recently published in the journal Earth System Science Data Discussions) indicating global greenhouse emissions have risen 2.3 percent from 2012 to 2013, a number of people still refuse to accept the reality of climate change.

United Nations, the globe’s leading body of international leaders, aspired to change that climate change rationale on Sept. 23 at the 2014 Climate Summit. Held in New York City, United Nations headquarters, the summit coincided with a number of other events hosted by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that occurred throughout the week.

Over 100 Heads of State and Government leaders, along with 800 influential business, finance, and civil society guests, attended the “Catalyzing Action” Climate Summit. Key areas of discussion included: tackling rising emissions; mobilizing both money and markets in a climate change world; the globalized debate of pricing carbon; strengthening resilience in developing countries; and mobilizing new coalitions for attaining results.

“No one is immune from climate change,” Ban emphasized at the summit. “Not even those United Nations headquarters, which were flooded during Superstorm Sandy.”

Disregarding #Climate2014 trends and proclamations from state representatives via Twitter throughout the event’s coverage, little evidence surfaced in the form of concrete, tangible results— as by design.

Last Tuesday’s event was merely the passionate prep-work for the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Paris, France next year. The goal of this year’s Climate Summit was to segue into a “meaningful universal climate agreement in Paris 2015,” according to the Chair’s Summary on the 2014 Climate Change event.

A number of influential global representatives still attended this promotional event, publicly declaring their country’s future investments in climate change technologies.

One of the largest coalitions formed during the conference was the New York Declaration on Forests, a 150-partner commitment, including 28 international governments and 16 indigenous peoples’ nations. Together, along with 35 global companies (Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Johnson & Johnson, and Walmart to name a few), are aiming to cut the rate of natural land deforestation in half by 2030. While the initiative is strong and supported by a number of primary country leaders, Brazil, a country known for its considerable rates of deforestation, was not a member of the coalition.

President François Hollande (France) pledging $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund via Yuvan A. Beejadhur on Twitter.

Another notable contribution to international climate agendas came from France, whose President Francois Hollande dedicated $1 billion (US) to Green Climate Fund (GCF) efforts. A meager financial investment five years ago, Green Climate Fund’s goal to supply developing countries with clean power technologies and fatal climate consequence resources gained substantial notice at the Climate Summit last week. In addition to France’s contribution, Germany also donated $1 billion to the fund’s efforts, as did South Korea ($100 million), Luxembourg ($5 million), Mexico, Denmark, and Norway. Six other countries are expected to supply funds to the GCF by Nov. of this year.

Even with a new Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture and sustainable investments in the global palm oil industry, these proclamations won’t hold favor with the public audience if concrete actions are not delivered, and soon.

Sparking just two days before the 2014 UN Climate Summit, 350.org organized a massive climate march through the streets of New York City on Sept. 21. Thousands of climate activists rallied for climate awareness, including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In the event on Tuesday morning, United States President Barack Obama spoke out about the climate march and its significance to the summit. “Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”

Hundreds of global leaders attended the UN climate event, but the implications of such attendance will not be actualized until substantial agricultural, business production, and transportation alterations are applied for a more sustainable world. An empty promise on climate change may discredit a policymaker’s reputation, but his or her inaction ultimately affects every global citizen struggling to survive shifting climate trends.

Actions, not pledges, will save the planet from human self-destruction.

This story also appears on College Green Magazine