What the World Needs from the Paris Climate Talks
The UN climate conference, to be held in Paris in December, represents the culmination of decades of complex climate negotiations that began in 1992. The COP21, as the conference is known, may well be the endgame—our last, best chance to achieve a global, legally binding climate agreement.
We desperately need an agreement in order to curb fossil fuel emissions, put a price on carbon and drive investments in climate-smart practices and technologies. But a Paris treaty must take a much bolder approach than simply reducing fossil fuel emissions. In most of the world—nearly 60 developing countries—deforestation and agriculture generate far more greenhouse gas emissions than the burning of fossil fuels.
How land is used—agriculture, forestry and other land-altering activities like suburban sprawl and mining—is therefore a key piece of the climate puzzle. Land use accounts for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, including approximately 10 percent from clearing forests for crops and grazing and another 10 to 12 percent from conventional methods of tilling the soil, raising livestock, applying chemical fertilizers and burning fields. These emissions could be greatly reduced through more sustainable practices.
Our decisions regarding land use have lasting and profound consequences. Reckless development can lead to major carbon emissions, while smart conservation strategies create important opportunities to fight global warming. Healthy forests and ecosystems actually pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in trees, plants and soil. Forests have the potential to capture and store 10 to 14 percent of gross carbon emissions from the atmosphere, while the land sector as a whole could sequester more than 25 percent.
At this juncture, the world needs developing countries with intact tropical forests to make a huge, positive contribution to fighting climate change by conserving their workhorse ecosystems. This despite the fact that developed countries like the U.S. are among the world’s biggest polluters, past and present; for example, the average per capita carbon emissions in Latin America are about one-seventh of U.S. per capita emissions.
Yet while tropical forests in the global South store the most carbon and harbor the most biodiversity in the world, they’re also under the greatest pressure to be cleared for timber and agriculture to meet the rising demands of our growing global population. And these regions tend to suffer the most from the impacts of global warming, such as climate-related diseases and extreme weather.
Previous COP meetings have foundered over the injustice of this asymmetry between developing countries and developed countries. Yet although this issue is still important, it is no longer as divisive as it once was. There’s now broad consensus that we must fight climate change with everything we’ve got and forward-thinking land use is one of our most powerful tools. The major role forests play in climate protection is now so widely acknowledged that hundreds of major companies have promised to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains (meaning that they’ve pledged to stop sourcing materials from suppliers who cut forests down). Many have signed onto pledges like the New York Declaration on Forests or the Consumer Goods Forum. Of course, there’s much more to protecting forests than simply making a “deforestation-free” declaration, but it is encouraging to see these companies taking action.
COP21 must build on this momentum by defining exactly how to cut emissions and sequester carbon on farmland and forestland. The challenge is for world leaders to find a way forward that balances food security and social and economic impacts—including the livelihoods and rights of people in developing countries—with the demands of a population that is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050.
To fight climate change effectively through land use, we will have to apply a full range of sustainability strategies beyond “zero-deforestation,” including climate-smart agriculture, increased yields and livelihoods for farmers on existing cropland (so they don’t resort to clearing more forest) and economic incentives to keep forests standing. We must also protect water and non-forest ecosystems. Finally, we have to restore lands degraded by irresponsible farming and livestock production. Concerted efforts in these areas could sequester more carbon—but more importantly, they are essential to protecting whole landscapes of viable, interdependent ecosystems.
Better land use is mission-critical for building a sustainable and just global economy—and imperative for protecting the world’s rapidly disappearing forests, habitats and species and as well as to reducing emissions. One of the more hopeful aspects of COP21 is that the delegates heading to Paris recognize this. This time around, land use issues are likely to be consensus-builders instead of deal-breakers.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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