‘All Hands on Deck’ Declares Ban Ki-moon at UN Climate Summit
The issue of climate change skyrocketed in public awareness this week as the UN Climate Summit yesterday in New York City, and the historic People's Climate March Sunday joined by 400,000 people, attracted attention and news coverage around the world.
The UN Climate Summit was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who invited world leaders from government, finance, business and civil society "to galvanize and catalyze climate action." The event was not intended to strike binding agreements but to build momentum for the December 2015 UN climate conference in Paris.
“The human, environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable," Ban said at the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Summit. “We need a clear shared vision."
Ban asked the hundreds of attending leaders to bring announcements of proposed actions to "reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015."
“To ride this storm we need all hands on deck. Today we must set the world on a new course."
"The summit delivered," said Ban at the end of the day.
Following the opening ceremony, where New York Mayor Bill De Blasio welcomed the visitors to his city and reiterated his city's intention to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 which he announced a few days earlier, leaders from global nations delivered their statements. His city was among 200 around the world, representing 400 million people, who signed the Compact of Mayors pledging to accelerate their efforts to combat pollution.
Of course, all eyes and ears were on President Obama, since the U.S. is one of Earth's largest contributors to climate change-causing emissions and therefore in a position to do more to address the problem than most countries.
“There's one issue that will define the contours of this century more than any other," said President Obama. “That is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate."
In addition to previously announced carbon-cutting initiatives, Obama unveiled a new executive order mandating federal agencies to consider climate resilience in their international development work and investments, and an initiative among U.S. agencies to make data used in predicting weather patterns more available.
China, represented by Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, made a pledge for the first time to cut its carbon emissions, saying it would reach peak carbon emissions as soon as possible and reduce its levels by 45 percent by 2020 over 2005 levels. While China has previously dragged its feet on addressing the issue, excessive pollution levels in its cities have increased public demand for action.
Together, the U.S. and China are responsible for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Countries such as France, South Korea and Norway stepped up with financial offers to the UN Green Climate Fund. In all about $2.3 billion was committed by governments yesterday and Ban Ki-moon said he expects more commitments to come. Leaders in the financial sector pledged their own investments.
“A new coalition of governments, business, finance, multilateral development banks and civil society leaders announced their commitment to mobilize upwards of $200 billion for financing low-carbon and climate-resilient development," said Ban. He said that private banks announced they would issue $20 billion in Green Bonds and double the market to $50 billion by next year. And 30 companies announced their support of the Caring for Climate Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing agreement.
Deforestation, a major cause of climate change, was on the menu, as dozens of governments, businesses and civil groups stepped up with a the New York Declaration on Forests, a promise to cut deforestation in halve by 2020 and end it entirely within the following decade, beginning the process of restoration. Participants included the worlds largest palm oil companies, as well as user companies like Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme. And more than 50 governments, businesses and organizations pledged to join the new Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, while aims to feed more people while reducing agriculture's carbon footprint. Even coal and gas companies stepped up with promises to reduce methane emissions.
While leaders from countries like Monaco, Tanzania and Mauritus might have been unknown to the public, Leonardo DiCaprio, newly appointed UN Messenger of Peace, provided a celebrity hook for the event. He spoke to the opening session saying, "As an actor, I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters, solving fictitious problems. I believe that mankind has looked at climate change in that same way as if it were a fiction. As if pretending climate change wasn't real would make it go away. But I think we know better than that now."
"This body perhaps more than any other gathering than human history now faces this difficult but achievable task," he said. "You can make history or you will be villified by it." He called for "decisive, large-scale action" that went beyond asking people to change their lightbulbs and buy electric cars.
Reaction from environmental organizations was generally positive, although most encouraged further action and pressed for follow-through.
“The more than 400,000 people in New York and many, many more across the globe who marched on Sunday represent a broad, engaged and powerful climate movement demanding jobs, justice and a prosperous clean energy economy free of fossil fuels," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "We have the momentum and will use it to ensure that our leaders' words today are matched by effective action."
“Following Sunday's impressive showing of more 400,000 people calling for action on climate change, we've seen some action from world leaders today, but not enough to match the energy of the people marching for their children's future," Naidoo said. "To preserve the health and safety of our planet and the human race, we must meet targets dictated by science—not agreed by politicians."
Rainforest Action Network director Lindsey Allen decried the exclusion of local community leaders at the summit while saying, "It is encouraging that big corporate players have taken the opportunity of the Climate Summit to publicly acknowledge their responsibility in forging a new path toward climate stability, even if many of these are re-statements of existing commitments. These corporations still must turn these statements into actionable policies and demonstrable shifts in practice throughout their global supply chains. It is time for globally binding commitments, the recognition of the traditional and customary rights of forest-dependent communities, and the actionable enforcement of these policies."
Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, New York City, sounded a hopeful note. "Something extraordinary happened at the United Nations Climate Summit on Tuesday," she said. "One world leader after another took to the podium and described what his or her nation is already doing to reduce climate change pollution. After years of delay, the pace of climate action is picking up. This week confirmed that our voices are being heard. The past three days alone have shown that climate action is growing at every level of society. Joining 400,000 people calling for climate action on Sunday, I felt renewed hope. If concerned citizens and local and national leaders continue to raise our voices, we can respond to the climate threat just in time."
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.