Did you know there’s a UN Climate Summit in exactly one month?
I have to admit it slipped my mind, and I like to think of myself as in the environmental loop.
I’m not sure what the news coverage has been like in other countries, but in the UK it’s definitely been nowhere near the top of the agenda. I know this because preparations for my dissertation have seen me rifling through the top four serious newspapers of the land for the last couple of weeks. I was looking for articles on sustainable development, in order to analyse how the concept is construed in the news print media. And yet I barely found any.
I wasn’t too surprised. I though to myself, “oh well, what do you expect. Sustainability only comes into the news in a major way when there’s some big event, like the run-up to a UN summit or the aftermath of a natural disaster”.
Only the other night I realised it was the run-up to a big UN summit.
And still not a peep out of The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph or The Independent. Absolutely hopeless. I mean to be fair the Gaza situation took up a lot of the prominent space. But there was still plenty of pointless crap in the papers which could have been swapped for some hard info about this upcoming global Climate Summit.
Anyway. This Climate Summit is taking place on 23rd September 2014, at the UN headquarters in New York, USA. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has invited all the world’s heads of state, plus key leaders in business and civil society.
The point of the Summit basically seems to be as a spring-board for the all-important Climate Summit in Paris next year, where apparently a global and legally binding climate deal will finally be sealed. I think Ban Ki-moon senses it will be a tough one to negotiate (that’s putting it lightly. “Fucking nightmare” might be more appropriate) – so he wants to get everyone started now. A wise move, I’d say.
On the UN website it says this Summit aims to “galvanize and catalyze climate action”. A somewhat vague but admirable goal. As part of this, world leaders are invited to provide “bold announcements” of their country’s actions on climate change.
So which countries are attending? Well, every nation is sending a representative, but not every one is sending their head of state. This is problematic because ministers can’t make claims or agreements that other parts of their government may not agree with. Only the prime minister/president/whatever can speak for everyone – the ministers can only speak for their department.
According to The Guardian (yes, they have mentioned it on their website) the leaders of the USA and China are both going to attend the summit. This is fantastic news because these two countries are the biggest CO2e-emitters in the world, so any meeting without their leaders is critically incomplete, and almost pointless. I’m very happy to see Barack Obama and Xi Jinping taking climate change seriously enough to get their butts to the meeting.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the UK’s David Cameron. He is still undecided on whether to attend, apparently. I have of course signed a petition calling for him to attend. If you feel like not only signing but sharing, that would be great, because it’s size isn’t looking too healthy just yet.
Despite an acute lack of interest on the print media’s part, clearly many people do know about this Summit, because there’s a huge climate march planned to descend on Manhattan just before the meeting kicks off. The so-called People’s Climate March will take place in NYC on the 21st September, and if you’re in that neck of the woods I strongly urge you to go along. Over a million people have signed up! Their aim is to put pressure on the world leaders to deal with climate change head-on, to show public support and garner media attention. There’s also meant to be solidarity marches at the same time in London and other key cities, but I’ve heard much less about that.
Ultimately, this is all just part of the run-up to Paris 2015. That Summit will determine the fate and future of our planet. I’m not even being melodramatic. Next year, an agreement will be made that will shape our climate policy for several decades. We shouldn’t need reminding of the urgency of the situation. Climate change is already happening, and we are heading straight for the infamous tipping point. We need a huge and concerted global effort to divert this lethal course and instead lay the foundations of a sustainable world.
It is absolutely imperative that Paris 2015 results in a global legally binding agreement that is scientifically informed.
A successful 2014 Summit is what we need to build political momentum to that end.
Come on politicians, do us proud for once.