DUBAI 12 February 2019: Governments around the world need to act now before the devastation wrought by climate change on the planet is irreparable, senior international leaders said at the Climate Change Forum on the stage of the seventh World Government Summit (WGS 2019).
Despite the Paris Agreement struck in 2015, mounting scientific evidence shows that climate change is wreaking more havoc on the planet’s resources than it was four years ago, experts warned.
The high-level plenary hosted by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (Moccae), entitled ‘Climate Action in a Multilateral-Skeptic World’, was headlined by María Fernanda Espinosa, President of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, and Laurent Fabius, President of the French Constitutional Council. Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Harrison Ford, Vice Chair of Conservation International, attended the session.
The increasingly severe effects of the rise in global temperatures are being felt everywhere, through extreme weather events and natural disasters. Last year alone, at least 5,000 people died and 28.9 million needed emergency assistance or humanitarian aid because of extreme weather, according to the Centre of Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
María Fernanda Espinosa said: “For millions of people around the world, there can be no future without effective, coordinated and ambitious climate action. The 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the Paris Agreement are undoubtedly among the most unifying and important outcomes of multilateralism. Both instruments are interconnected and have shared aspirations for people around the world. Multilateral responses to transboundary threats, such as climate change, can only come from collective action. The main home for the multilateral system is the United Nations.”
She added: “The latest IPCC report highlighted international cooperation as a critical enabler for climate targets, particularly for developing countries. We need more cooperation in all aspects, most importantly in climate finance, to make the transition feasible.”
Implement Paris Accord
Laurent Fabius said: “Some people question the value of the Paris Agreement. I say to those people; the Paris Agreement is very valuable. It was the first time that a worldwide agreement was reached, defining the aims and means to master climate change. However, Paris was not the end of the story. It was a turning point. Now, we have to implement it.
He added: “The figures today are scary. Unfortunately, the US Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is dangerous, not only because the US is a powerful part of the world, but also because its withdrawal gives a sort of authorisation to other states not to comply with the accord’s objectives and commitments. However, we must consider that the position of the US people is different from that of the government. We have to leave the door open.”
Among other events, hurricanes caused massive destruction in the US, while typhoons rocked the Philippines, Guam and South China. Heavy rainfall contributed to flooding and landslides in Africa, India, Japan, Korea, and in the Caribbean, displacing millions of people from their homes and leading to outbreaks of disease. The US state of California experienced the most destructive wildfires in its history.
The Paris Agreement, an accord within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was struck in 2015, with the UAE being the first country in the region to ratify the agreement. Last year, two UN reports showed that countries haven’t committed to big enough carbon pollution cuts to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The US government has announced that it will withdraw from the agreement as soon as it is legally allowed to do so.
33% of Arabian Gulf’s marine species face extinction in 70 years
The waters of the Arabian Gulf are home to a rich variety of marine species. Sadly, over 33% of this biodiversity could be lost by 2090, scientists explained at the Climate Change Forum at the seventh World Government Summit (WGS 2019). Researchers also warned that oceans are heating up faster than previously expected, and the shallow basin of the Arabian Gulf makes it especially vulnerable to warming.
The high-level plenary hosted by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) entitled ‘Climate Change and the Health of our Oceans’ was headlined by Dr. M Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, and William McDonough, an architect, designer, thought leader, advisor and a globally recognised leader in sustainable development. Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment; Laurent Fabius, President of the French Constitutional Council; and Harrison Ford, Vice Chair of Conservation International, attended the session.
During the session, panelists stressed that oceans, already beset by habitat destruction, overfishing and pollution, now face the specter of climate change. There is also widespread scientific consensus that if human behaviors and government policies remain as they are, oceans will lose the ability to provide the benefits people have relied on for millennia: food, livelihoods, and climate regulation.
The experts discussed efforts that need to be exerted to protect oceans and their products against the mounting pressure of climate change.
Preserve Oceans or…
Dr. Sanjayan said: “We are a terrestrial species, but unless we preserve the ocean, we are doomed. International accords are calling for 10 percent of coastal and marine areas to be conserved through systems of protected areas. However, the conservation community made a bigger call to protect 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.”
He added: “Today, we are seeing that there is a rising commitment from governments around the world to protecting the oceans. Over 30 countries are willing to make big scale commitment to oceans. That is a unique opportunity to make a big leap forward in ocean protection, given that there is less than 5 percent of the world’s oceans protected now.”
McDonough said: “We live on a water planet, with 70 percent of the earth being covered with water. However, because of climate change, the atmosphere is contaminating the oceans with toxic carbon. Carbon from plastic is the most dangerous. That’s why we need to eliminate the concept of waste. When we finish using something, we should think what’s its next use. We shouldn’t throw it away. Nowadays, we have moved away from the 3R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle, to making products reusable, recyclable and compostable. We need to make sure that waste is not discarded but goes back to the industry or to nature.”
He added: “Approximately, 40 percent of ocean plastics come from rivers, and 90% of these plastics are from only 10 rivers in the world. We are working now on mechanisms to collect waste at the mouths of those 10 rivers to cut it off before it hits the ocean.”
Held annually in Dubai, WGS serves as a global platform for leading voices from the private, public and non-profit sectors to discuss and showcase innovations, best practices and smart solutions to shape the future of governments – inspiring creativity to overcome challenges facing people and communities around the world.
The three-day World Government Summit 2019 runs until February 12 at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. The landmark event has convened more than 4,000 participants from 140 countries, including heads of state and governments, as well as top-tier representatives of 30 international organizations.