• China This Week
    Immediate action, collective efforts needed to address climate change
    By Amina J. Mohammed | Updated: 2018-11-23 10:47

    Editor’s note: This article is an abridged version of the speech Amina J. Mohammed has given at Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Tsinghua University. The ICCSD was founded in 2017, headed by China’s Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs Xie Zhenhua.

      Amina J. Mohammed

    Climate change is the defining global challenge of our time. It is real, and it is happening now.

    The last three years have been the warmest on record -- one of many signs of climate change, which poses exceptional challenges on a global scale. More worrying, climate change is running faster than our actions to stop the current trajectory of 3 C.

    The recent Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that natural disasters will increase in frequency and severity, including floods and storms, with resulting declines in food security and prosperity.

    Competition over scarce resources—such as water—could lead to more conflicts. Around the world, we can already see how devastating such situations can be.

    For example, on a recent visit to Nigeria, my home country, I saw the impact that climate change and environmental mismanagement can have first-hand. Lake Chad, the beating heart of life in the region I grew up in, has shrunk by more than 90 percent since the 1960s, leading to increased competition over scarce resources.

    As a result, the economy has suffered, leading to massive declines in livelihoods. This has, in turn, helped create a fertile ground for extremist groups such as Boko Haram.

    The violence caused by such conflicts hits the most vulnerable hardest. Communities in the region have had to deal with political, economic, and environmental challenges for years.

    Without accelerated climate action, we will see increases in the number and intensity of such conflicts. The IPCC report made it very clear: We have a limited amount of time to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 C.

    This brings us to another point, which is that we will need innovative solutions for climate action at all levels – in universities, homes, cities and businesses.

    The good news is that we are not starting from scratch. We have all the mechanisms we need to tackle climate change.

    Nations of the world pledged to collectively address climate change in the early 1990s through the establishment of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and, most recently, through the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development -- Goals 13-15.

    By signing the Climate Convention and the Paris Agreement, nations of the world committed to lowering their emissions and creating a more sustainable and resilient future through the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs).

    The potential of the Paris Agreement, however, has yet to be fully unleashed by implementing the NDCs.

    Based on the emissions reductions that countries have pledged so far, we are currently still on a trajectory to reach at least 3 C of global warming. And that would lead to nothing less than global destabilization, with disastrous and irreversible consequences.

    This is completely unacceptable—especially considering that we have the means and resources to address climate change and shift our current trajectory. It is especially unfair to today’s youth and to our future generations.

    The Paris Agreement is our path forward. But much work remains to be done to fulfill its potential. And we can only change direction if we work together.

    At the upcoming G20 meeting in Argentina and Conference of Parties (COP 24) in Katwoice we would be looking to the 20 big emitters to continue to work towards achieving their set climate targets and keeping the momentum on climate action.

    A message I want to highlight is that working together to address climate change has many benefits. Indeed, we have to solve climate change with collective effort so that our world remains viable for us and the future generations.

    Against this background, I want to emphasize that the world is looking to China for leadership and for action.

    China is not exempt from the impacts of climate change.

    Rising sea levels are already threatening coastlines here in China, for example in cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou. If sea levels rise by one meter, more than 92,000 square kilometers of China’s coast could be flooded. This could potentially displace 67 million people.

    Almost two-thirds of the ice in Asia’s glaciers could vanish if average global temperatures rise beyond 1.5 C by the end of the century. If that materializes, the impacts on China will be felt in multiple areas, from water availability, to agriculture, and to biodiversity.

    The good news is that countries such as China are clearly on board for strong leadership. While emissions in China remain high, China has become a global leader on climate action.

    For example, within the last five years, China has deployed more solar and wind capacity than any other country in the world. China is also the largest clean energy investor in the world — spending some $130 billion in renewable energy in recent years.

    The development of electric vehicles is particularly inspiring in China. More than 50 percent of electric vehicles in the world are sold in China. And China is now a world leader in both manufacturing and the deployment of clean energy technologies.

    China is also supporting infrastructure development in other countries. This offers the opportunity to leapfrog outdated technologies and ensure that newly-built infrastructure is sustainable in the long term. China’s leadership is not confined to any one specific sector, though; climate action has been embedded in the country’s plans at the highest of levels.

    Since 2007, China has emphasized harmonious environmental, economic and social interactions, breaking new ground in collectively and systematically advancing global sustainability.

    The vision of “ecological civilization” is forward-looking and innovative, promoting harmony between people and nature and calls on new, low-emission ways of living on a daily basis.

    This means considering s new way of life consuming fewer goods, living in balance with our environment, carefully considering our needs vs our wants, promoting afforestation and conservation and low-carbon development.

    Ecological civilization has become the cornerstone of China’s long-term development strategy, much like climate action is integral to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

    China has also pioneered an increasingly prominent policy through promoting a model of the circular economy, going beyond the current linear pattern of take-make-dispose.

    In this context, I particularly commend China on its “circular economy development strategies action plan”, which galvanizes action towards circularity at three levels of the economy -- companies, industrial parks and cities or regions.

    By incorporating specific targets for 2015 and 2020, this plan showcases China’s concrete commitments to climate action and sustainable development. For example, reclamation of Gobi Desert linked to sustainable livelihood and carbon sink.

    China’s experiences and continued efforts demonstrate a concrete example of pursuing a climate-resilient and low-carbon development pathway. This is an inspiration for all countries to follow.

    And we look forward to continued leadership of China in this area.

    In conclusion, there is no more urgent time to solve climate change, and we have all the tools we need to create a new reality. In particular, I call on all young people to take a stand and advocate for more ambitious climate action and sustainable living. Let us join hands and use this as an opportunity to strive for a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for all.

    Amina J. Mohammed is the deputy secretary-general of United Nations. The author contributed this article to China Watch exclusively. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of China Watch.

    All rights reserved. Copying or sharing of any content for other than personal use is prohibited without prior written permission.

    Editor’s note: This article is an abridged version of the speech Amina J. Mohammed has given at Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Tsinghua University. The ICCSD was founded in 2017, headed by China’s Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs Xie Zhenhua.

      Amina J. Mohammed

    Climate change is the defining global challenge of our time. It is real, and it is happening now.

    The last three years have been the warmest on record -- one of many signs of climate change, which poses exceptional challenges on a global scale. More worrying, climate change is running faster than our actions to stop the current trajectory of 3 C.

    The recent Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that natural disasters will increase in frequency and severity, including floods and storms, with resulting declines in food security and prosperity.

    Competition over scarce resources—such as water—could lead to more conflicts. Around the world, we can already see how devastating such situations can be.

    For example, on a recent visit to Nigeria, my home country, I saw the impact that climate change and environmental mismanagement can have first-hand. Lake Chad, the beating heart of life in the region I grew up in, has shrunk by more than 90 percent since the 1960s, leading to increased competition over scarce resources.

    As a result, the economy has suffered, leading to massive declines in livelihoods. This has, in turn, helped create a fertile ground for extremist groups such as Boko Haram.

    The violence caused by such conflicts hits the most vulnerable hardest. Communities in the region have had to deal with political, economic, and environmental challenges for years.

    Without accelerated climate action, we will see increases in the number and intensity of such conflicts. The IPCC report made it very clear: We have a limited amount of time to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 C.

    This brings us to another point, which is that we will need innovative solutions for climate action at all levels – in universities, homes, cities and businesses.

    The good news is that we are not starting from scratch. We have all the mechanisms we need to tackle climate change.

    Nations of the world pledged to collectively address climate change in the early 1990s through the establishment of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and, most recently, through the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development -- Goals 13-15.

    By signing the Climate Convention and the Paris Agreement, nations of the world committed to lowering their emissions and creating a more sustainable and resilient future through the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs).

    The potential of the Paris Agreement, however, has yet to be fully unleashed by implementing the NDCs.

    Based on the emissions reductions that countries have pledged so far, we are currently still on a trajectory to reach at least 3 C of global warming. And that would lead to nothing less than global destabilization, with disastrous and irreversible consequences.

    This is completely unacceptable—especially considering that we have the means and resources to address climate change and shift our current trajectory. It is especially unfair to today’s youth and to our future generations.

    The Paris Agreement is our path forward. But much work remains to be done to fulfill its potential. And we can only change direction if we work together.

    At the upcoming G20 meeting in Argentina and Conference of Parties (COP 24) in Katwoice we would be looking to the 20 big emitters to continue to work towards achieving their set climate targets and keeping the momentum on climate action.

    A message I want to highlight is that working together to address climate change has many benefits. Indeed, we have to solve climate change with collective effort so that our world remains viable for us and the future generations.

    Against this background, I want to emphasize that the world is looking to China for leadership and for action.

    China is not exempt from the impacts of climate change.

    Rising sea levels are already threatening coastlines here in China, for example in cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou. If sea levels rise by one meter, more than 92,000 square kilometers of China’s coast could be flooded. This could potentially displace 67 million people.

    Almost two-thirds of the ice in Asia’s glaciers could vanish if average global temperatures rise beyond 1.5 C by the end of the century. If that materializes, the impacts on China will be felt in multiple areas, from water availability, to agriculture, and to biodiversity.

    The good news is that countries such as China are clearly on board for strong leadership. While emissions in China remain high, China has become a global leader on climate action.

    For example, within the last five years, China has deployed more solar and wind capacity than any other country in the world. China is also the largest clean energy investor in the world — spending some $130 billion in renewable energy in recent years.

    The development of electric vehicles is particularly inspiring in China. More than 50 percent of electric vehicles in the world are sold in China. And China is now a world leader in both manufacturing and the deployment of clean energy technologies.

    China is also supporting infrastructure development in other countries. This offers the opportunity to leapfrog outdated technologies and ensure that newly-built infrastructure is sustainable in the long term. China’s leadership is not confined to any one specific sector, though; climate action has been embedded in the country’s plans at the highest of levels.

    Since 2007, China has emphasized harmonious environmental, economic and social interactions, breaking new ground in collectively and systematically advancing global sustainability.

    The vision of “ecological civilization” is forward-looking and innovative, promoting harmony between people and nature and calls on new, low-emission ways of living on a daily basis.

    This means considering s new way of life consuming fewer goods, living in balance with our environment, carefully considering our needs vs our wants, promoting afforestation and conservation and low-carbon development.

    Ecological civilization has become the cornerstone of China’s long-term development strategy, much like climate action is integral to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

    China has also pioneered an increasingly prominent policy through promoting a model of the circular economy, going beyond the current linear pattern of take-make-dispose.

    In this context, I particularly commend China on its “circular economy development strategies action plan”, which galvanizes action towards circularity at three levels of the economy -- companies, industrial parks and cities or regions.

    By incorporating specific targets for 2015 and 2020, this plan showcases China’s concrete commitments to climate action and sustainable development. For example, reclamation of Gobi Desert linked to sustainable livelihood and carbon sink.

    China’s experiences and continued efforts demonstrate a concrete example of pursuing a climate-resilient and low-carbon development pathway. This is an inspiration for all countries to follow.

    And we look forward to continued leadership of China in this area.

    In conclusion, there is no more urgent time to solve climate change, and we have all the tools we need to create a new reality. In particular, I call on all young people to take a stand and advocate for more ambitious climate action and sustainable living. Let us join hands and use this as an opportunity to strive for a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for all.

    Amina J. Mohammed is the deputy secretary-general of United Nations. The author contributed this article to China Watch exclusively. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of China Watch.

    All rights reserved. Copying or sharing of any content for other than personal use is prohibited without prior written permission.

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