Green Our World!

Vol. XLIV No. 2 2007

Climate change has finally taken hold in the public consciousness. With it, inevitably, comes a sense of urgency that decisive action is needed now, before it is too late. This special issue of the UN Chronicle offers, through a range of unique perspectives, a comprehensive snapshot of where we currently stand with regard to climate change."

Every year in the past two decades, more than 200 million people, on average, have been affected by natural hazards. Disasters have caused a massive loss of life and negative long-term social, economic and environmental consequences. Vulnerable societies have been deeply affected, particularly in developing countries with less coping capacity.

The Sustainable Future Campaign is a programme designed by an international team, in coordination with the United Nations Youth and Student Association of Austria, to provide educational platforms to engage global youth and encourage environmental development efforts.

Sustainable development is an important requirement of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) set up under the Kyoto Protocol. It helps to maintain environmental integrity and should be assessed rigorously prior to any investment in a CDM project. The benefits include certainty in CDM application, reduction of risk to investors, developers and owners, and the provision of cost-free assistance to developing countries, which could reduce the enormous divide between the North and the South.

Youth and children, as the next generations, have the right to a clean future-they do not wish to inherit a toxic, radioactive, dirty and carbon-driven world. We demand a clear definition of sustainable energy and time-bound targets for the implementation of a sustainable energy policy that will free us from respiratory ailments, air pollution, climate change and a radioactive legacy.

In 2001, I read a Time magazine article on climate change, which stated that in the next 100 years the Earth's temperature could rise by 3? to 11? Celsius. It then dawned on me that this was within my children's lifetime. How would these changes impact the world they live in? Will they be left to deal with the consequences of our behaviours?

The Arab region is comprised of 21 countries, extending from North Africa to South West Asia, over an estimated total area of 14.1 million square kilometres. Its vast terrain includes physiographic features of plains, plateaus, dry valleys and relatively limited highlands and mountainous areas.

In an increasingly carbon-constrained world, solar energy technologies represent one of the least carbon-intensive means of electricity generation. Solar power produces no emissions during generation itself, and life-cycle assessments clearly demonstrate that it has a smaller carbon footprint from "cradle-to-grave" than fossil fuels.

Current scientific evidence increasingly shows that the benefits of strong early action far outweigh the costs of inaction. If we do not drastically and promptly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions now, we are risking a catastrophic disruption of the complex of interlinked environmental, economic, health, moral, political and social systems that sustain civilization as we know it.

Imagine the scene: the year is 2027-China is responsible for 15 per cent of the world's energy consumption; California has imposed permanent water rationing; relief agencies warn that late rains again raise the spectre of widespread hunger in southern Africa; and cases of malaria are being reported among holidaymakers in Greece and Turkey.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that the increase in global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) is primarily due to fossil fuel use and, in a smaller but still significant level, to land-use change.

China's massive industrial sector is an economic juggernaut, helping to drive national gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates of around 10 per cent per year. But while the country's highly productive factories and plants may be boosting national prosperity, their rapid expansion carries with it a serious environmental burden and costly energy inefficiencies that are increasingly becoming a barrier to China's sustainable development, thus contributing to climate change.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) characterizes the circumpolar Arctic as the world's climate change "barometer". The 160,000 Inuit who live in northern Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Chukotka in Russia have witnessed the changing of the natural environment as a result of global warming for almost 20 years.

Alpine ski resorts are churning out artificial snow, wrote Laura MacInnis in her story, "Fake Snow in Alps, Moscow Blooms: Green Christmas?", published by Reuters News Service on 13 December 2006. Daisies are blooming by the Kremlin and retailers are fretting that Europeans are simply too warm to go Christmas shopping in a record mild winter.

We have been trying to address the ill effects of modern energy-depleting technology by inventing new technologies in architecture. While such a quest is inevitable, I propose combining solutions developed by our ancestors with contemporary technological innovations to achieve significant results in sustainable architecture.

Global climatic change will affect all aspects of social life in the twenty-first century. The measures necessary to confront the challenges brought about by global warming and to mitigate its impact go far beyond the indispensable technological transition in the production process and changes in consumption habits of individuals. The future of cities and what we now call "urban" will also undergo transformations.

Twenty years after the Brundtland Report asserted it was in the common interest of all peoples and nations to establish policies for sustainable development, the pace of sustainability is finally accelerating. Notwithstanding a number of serious political and security issues that politicians are struggling to effectively address, the case for sustainability in a global context has become more apparent, and even mainstreamed in some countries, during the last few years.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988 to recognize the problem of potential global climate change.

Climate change has emerged as one of the biggest environmental challenges facing the world. Twenty years ago at the United Nations, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway's former Prime Minister and former Director-General of the World Health Organization, first drew global attention to the threats posed by climate change to the earth and its inhabitants.

Climate change is transforming the way we think about security. "This will not be the first time people have fought over land, water and resources, but this time it will be on a scale that dwarfs the conflicts of the past", said the Congolese representative at the UN Security Council debate in April 2007. The French called it the "number one threat to mankind".

The issues of sustainability, particularly climate change and clean energy, as well as energy security and access, are compelling concerns of our times. Through the issues raised by climate change, the goal of sustainable development has been given a tangible core and a renewed sense of urgency.

The most recent meeting of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD 15) examined global climate change, along with energy, air and industrial development, as a comprehensive cluster of issues. The risk of climate change commands the most widespread preoccupation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Governments throughout the world.

Over the coming weeks and months, the three Special Envoys on climate change appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be making whistle-stop tours of key capital cities to build a solid and sustainable consensus on action over climate change.

If there is one issue that strikes at the heart of my nation, Tuvalu, it is climate change. Tuvalu is a small coral atoll nation located in the middle of the South Pacific. Our lives are closely linked to the marine environment and we live off the bounty of the ocean, with fish being our main source of protein.

The imminence and severity of problems posed by the accelerating changes in the global climate are becoming increasingly evident. Heatwaves are increasing in severity, droughts and downpours are becoming more intense, the Greenland ice sheet is shrinking, sea levels are rising and the increasing acidification of the oceans is threatening to disrupt the marine food chain.

Climate change is an issue so large in scope and so potentially overwhelming in importance that it might be helpful for us to pause and focus our attention on practical steps we can take to adapt to a warming planet and reduce its negative impacts.

Ever since I attended the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change in 1997, I have been fascinated by the development of the international debate on this issue. There are few forces that can literally reshape the global landscape as climate change can. Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, lakes that are drying up and rainforests that become savannahs are just some of the changes that are wrought by climate change.

Climate change is recognized as a most serious threat facing humanity. No one is immune to its effects. The impact of climate variability and climate change on human and natural systems poses serious challenges to our objective of reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development.

Global warming has become everyday news, often featured in alarming statements by Heads of Governments, scientists or environmental activists. We now know that melting glaciers, erratic global weather patterns, droughts, raging wildfires and creeping invasive species of flora and fauna in new localities are all unmistakably the effects of climate change.

In the midst of the current international debate on global warming, it is instructive to note that it has taken the United Nations and the international community some two generations to reach this point.

The lines were drawn as the industrialized nations of the Group of Eight gathered in Heiligendamm, Germany on 6 June 2007. The forces mustered to fight global warming were divided into competing camps.