ENVIRONNEMENT

The future of the Earth and its inhabitants at stake: the issues and challenges of climate action

Written by Dr. Florence Akano

Every person, country, and continent is set to be impacted by climate change in some shape or form. The looming climate cataclysm presents a dire warning, and current global preparedness falls short of what is required to mitigate its potentially devastating consequences.

A Global Crisis Unfolding

Climate change, primarily fueled by human activities, poses an imminent threat to life on Earth. The acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions has led to climate change occurring at rates far surpassing earlier predictions. The consequences are dire, manifesting in extreme and changing weather patterns and rising sea levels.

If unchecked, climate change threatens to reverse the developmental progress achieved over the past years, triggering mass migrations that may lead to instability and conflict. To limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, emissions must be decreasing, and a nearly 50% reduction is required by 2030. However, the world is significantly off-track from achieving this target. Urgent and transformative action, beyond mere plans and promises, is necessary. This involves raising ambition, covering entire economies, and moving towards climate-resilient development while outlining a clear path to achieve net-zero emissions.

The Current State of Climate Action: The 2023 Report

The global response to climate change is falling drastically short of the required targets. The pace and scale of current climate action plans are insufficient to tackle the crisis effectively. Extreme weather events already impact every region on Earth, with rising temperatures intensifying these hazards, posing grave risks.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stresses the need for deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors. Urgent and transformative action is critical, going beyond mere plans and promises. This requires raising ambition, covering entire economies, and moving towards climate-resilient development while outlining a clear path to achieve net-zero emissions.

The latest IPCC synthesis report unequivocally states that human activities, notably burning fossil fuels, unsustainable energy and land use, and untenable consumption and production patterns, have led to global warming of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. Vulnerable communities, though least responsible, bear disproportionate consequences.

Between 2010 and 2020, highly vulnerable regions, home to billions of people, experienced 15 times higher human mortality rates from floods, droughts, and storms than less vulnerable regions. The adverse impacts include substantial ecosystem damage, food shortages, housing and infrastructure loss, and population migration.

Urgent Need for Global Cooperation

The world is at a critical juncture. The effectiveness of adaptation measures diminishes with heightened warming, and without strengthened cross-sectoral policies, the world risks surpassing the critical 1.5°C tipping point by 2035. The choices made today will determine how livable the world will be for current and future generations.

Rapid, deep, and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions are vital to curb climate change. This requires global climate-resilient development action, accelerated adaptation and mitigation measures, and leveraging synergies with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Increased finance, political commitment, coordinated policies, international cooperation, ecosystem stewardship, and inclusive governance are urgently needed for effective and equitable climate action.

Record-setting rising sea levels, driven by high greenhouse gas concentrations, severely threaten millions of people globally. Approximately 90% of the heat trapped by these gases is absorbed by the oceans, leading to unprecedented sea-level rise. Even with efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C, global sea levels are expected to continue rising, posing significant hazards to coastal communities worldwide.

Small island developing states and low-lying urban areas face profound risks, with approximately 900 million people living in coastal zones at low elevations. Sea-level rise and climate impacts are already forcing relocations, emphasizing the urgent need for global greenhouse gas emission reductions to avert the 1.5°C tipping point.

The Finance Gap: Are We Investing Enough?

Climate finance is crucial for addressing the climate crisis, yet current efforts fall short of what is needed. Despite an increase in global climate finance flows, reaching an annual average of $803 billion in 2019–2020, an uneven distribution remains across regions. Fossil-fuel-related flows exceeded climate financing for adaptation and mitigation in 2020.

Developed countries’ commitment to mobilize $100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020 through 2025 has not been met. Establishing the Loss and Damage Fund at the 2022 United Nations Climate Conference (COP 27) is a step forward. Still, there is an urgent need to reconstruct climate finance delivery schemes and design new goals to improve quantity and quality.

Cop 28.

The Global Climate Action at COP 28 held in Dubai in November 2023 demonstrated a comprehensive commitment to addressing climate change, encapsulated across various pillars. The introduction underscored the global impact of climate change and the urgent need for preparedness, acknowledging the shortfall in current global efforts. The approach involved a meticulous overview of key outcomes based on COP 28 Presidency documents, the Yearbook of Global Climate Action 2023, and daily newsletters from High-Level Champions.

In the realm of fast-tracking a just, orderly, and equitable energy transition, COP 28 witnessed the launch of significant initiatives. The Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, backed by 130 nations, aimed to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency improvements by 2030. The High-Level Champions actively contributed to this transition through initiatives like the Utilities for Zero Alliance, while collaborations such as the Global Cooling Pledge and Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter addressed sectoral emissions.

Climate finance emerged as a pivotal theme at COP 28, with commitments from 13 nations endorsing the UAE Leaders’ Declaration on a Global Climate Finance Framework. The High-Level Champions presented outcomes related to climate finance, emphasizing the need to improve the scale, quality, and pace of investments supporting the climate change agenda, particularly in developing countries.

The focus on people, lives, and livelihoods was accentuated through the progress under the Sharm el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda. A report highlighted outcomes in health, food and agriculture, and nature-related domains. COP 28 saw financial commitments related to climate relief, recovery, peace, and declarations on climate and health, sustainable agriculture, and resilient food systems.

The commitment to inclusivity was evident throughout COP 28. Efforts were made to engage youth with the Youth Climate Champion and the Dubai Youth Dialogue. Initiatives like the COP 28 Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership were launched to ensure gender equity. Inclusivity was also extended to Indigenous Peoples with the launch of the Podong Indigenous Peoples Initiative. Technology and capacity-building played crucial roles, with initiatives like the AI Innovation Grand Challenge and the 5th Capacity-building Hub fostering inclusivity.

Climate Education Gap: A Call to Action

Students and youth globally demand comprehensive and quality climate education to prepare for a greener future. Despite claims that climate change education is included in curricula, evidence suggests otherwise. Nearly half of national curriculum frameworks do not mention climate change, and many teachers struggle to effectively explain its effects.

Youth emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary, action-oriented education that is globally relevant and tailored to local realities. The current state of climate education is inadequate, leaving one in five youth feeling unprepared for climate change. Urgent efforts are required to bridge this education gap and empower the next generation to address the complexities of the climate crisis.

The Role of Advocacy and Awareness Campaigns

Advocacy and awareness campaigns are integral to mobilizing communities, governments, and businesses for climate action. The global community must be informed, engaged, and inspired to take meaningful steps towards a sustainable future. Here are key strategies for effective advocacy and awareness campaigns:

  • Educational Initiatives: Implement comprehensive educational programs to inform individuals, communities, and businesses about the causes and effects of climate change. Emphasize the importance of sustainable practices and each person’s role in mitigating climate impacts.
  • Media Engagement: Utilize various media platforms, including social media, documentaries, and news outlets, to disseminate information on climate change and its impacts. Create compelling narratives that resonate with diverse audiences, fostering a sense of urgency and responsibility.
  • Policy Advocacy: Advocate for policies that promote sustainable development, reduce emissions, and enhance resilience. Engage with policymakers, urging them to prioritize climate action and fulfill international commitments.
  • Community Engagement: Involve local communities in climate action initiatives, ensuring their voices are heard in decision-making. Highlight the tangible benefits of sustainable practices and encourage grassroots movements for change.
  • Corporate Responsibility: Encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. Highlight the economic and business sense of lowering emissions, emphasizing the long-term benefits of responsible corporate behavior.

Time for Action

The time for decisive action is now. The world must significantly raise its ambition at all levels, transforming energy, industry, transport, food, agriculture, and forestry systems. The commitments made in the Paris Agreement are a crucial first step. Still, more actions are critically needed to meet the targets and secure a sustainable future for future generations.

Businesses, investors, governments, and individuals all play a role in reducing emissions and promoting sustainable practices. The $100-billion-a-year climate finance goal must be met, and efforts to close the climate education gap are paramount. The climate crisis continues unabated, and only through urgent and transformative action can we hope to avert catastrophic consequences and build a resilient, sustainable future. The world’s response to the climate challenge will define the legacy we leave for future generations.

About the author

Dr. Florence Akano

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