New York, 27 August 2014 — Climate change is not a far-off problem. It is happening now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow. But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies, the UN reports.
There is a sense that change is in the air. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action.
He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. Climate Summit 2014 provides a unique opportunity for leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in 2015.
Quick action on climate change could save millions of lives: World Health Organization
Rapid action to limit climate change could result in millions of lives saved each year, according to the World Health Organization, which kicked off a three-day conference on the topic on 27 August 2014., the UN reports.
“The evidence is overwhelming: climate change endangers human health,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “Solutions exist and we need to act decisively to change this trajectory.”
More than 300 people – including government ministers, heads of UN agencies, city leaders, representatives of civil society and experts in health, climate and sustainable development – attended the conference, the first of its kind, at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
According to WHO, changes in policies governing energy and transportation use would cut air pollution and reduce the incidence of disease stemming from inactivity and traffic injury.
“Previously unrecognized health benefits could be obtained from fast action to reduce climate change and its consequences,” said the WHO statement, which noted climate change’s wide-ranging effects on air quality, water quality and availability, food and shelter.
Global warming was causing more than 140,000 excess deaths each year by 2004, according to a WHO estimate. The causes included shifting patterns of disease; extreme weather events, such as heat-waves and floods; the degradation of water supplies and sanitation; and impacts on agriculture, it said.
“Vulnerable populations, the poor, the disadvantaged and children are among those suffering the greatest burden of climate-related impacts and consequent diseases, such as malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition, which already kill millions every year,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health.
“Without effective action to mitigate and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change on health, society will face one of its most serious health challenges.”
The problem is growing: diarrheal diseases, malnutrition, malaria and dengue are all expected to worsen as climate changes grow more severe.
The poor tend to get hit the hardest. People in developing countries and other areas with weak health infrastructure will be least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond, it said.
The meeting comes less than a month before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to host a Summit on Climate Change at UN Headquarters in New York. It is to be attended by more than 100 heads of state and government along with leaders from business, finance and civil society.
“Our focus will be climate, health and jobs,” Ban said in a video address shown to conference participants. “I appeal to you to make the case for governments to adopt and promote clean, low-carbon energy. This is the only option for a healthy future and a life of dignity for all.”
NGOs seeking ambitious partnerships for post-2015 goals, climate change
More than 2,000 representatives of 902 non-governmental organizations convened on 27 August 2014 at the United Nations to discuss climate change and an action agenda for how to proceed after 2015, the target date set in 2000, when UN member states adopted the Millennium Development Goals, the UN reports.
The conference – the largest such gathering since it began annual meetings 65 years ago — marked a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for transformational change,” said Jeffery Huffines, the conference co-chair, to a capacity crowd as well as to thousands more people who were watching the event on video screens in two overflow rooms at UN Headquarters and on the Internet.
“Let us be ambitious and prepare to launch a global partnership for sustainable development in 2015.”
The conference theme is the role of civil society in the post-2015 development agenda with a focus on poverty eradication, sustainability, human rights and climate justice.
It comes less than a month before the Climate Summit, to be held 23 September, in New York, where more than 100 heads of state are expected to be in attendance. The issue of climate change is “more pressing than ever,” said UN Chef-de-Cabinet to the Executive Office Susana Malcorra. “We have a duty to be bold. That is what people want; that is what the world needs.”
The United States’ permanent representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, noted that much progress has been made toward achieving the MDG goals. Since they were set, more than 600 million people have moved out of extreme poverty, girls and boys are now attending primary school in roughly equal numbers and nearly 14 million people have received lifesaving antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS.
But those advances are threatened by an issue that was not even among the goals set in 2000. “Today, thankfully, we understand that if we don’t aggressively rein in climate change, its negative consequences could wipe out all of the progress we stand to make on other fronts,” she said.
Climate change has taught the world that the next set of development goals must consider the needs of people across the globe, not just in individual regions, she said. “Our new goals must be relevant for all countries, just as they must be defined by all countries,” she added. “This time around, our agenda must be a truly universal one.”