Waiting on the UN

Local environmental action can combat global climate change while the U.N. takes its time to save the world.

Jayme Dittmar

I attended the U.N. Global Climate Change Conference in Mexico last week because I wanted to be present to witness the creation of a global climate treaty, or at least an immediate solution to a dismal environmental crisis. In theory, all the U.N. needs to do is set carbon targets and a reasonable timeline and convince every other country to sign on. How hard can it be? ItâÄôs a small world, right?

These meetings gave me hope. But they also gave me a strong realization that creation of any such treaty is going to take more time âÄî time the world does not have. And especially more time than the islands of Seychelles, the polar bears and other constituents already suffering heavily from climate change impacts do not have.

Here are the problems hindering the U.N. process:

First, the construction of a global climate document is being hung up by the voice of individuals. Gender equality, tribal rights, social structure reformation, economic value of forests and inadequate technological advancements are only some of the complexities of the global climate crises.

A global climate document involves everyone in the world. Everyone has a voice and everyone is shouting as loud they can to have their opinion prioritized. All of the noise creates a dull roar, in which nothing is heard effectively. So much time is placed into prioritizing and issuing all concerns and perspectives that any policy that is created is watered down.

According to Christiana Figueres, the U.N. executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, perfection is holding the process from progressing.

“Perfection is the enemy of the good,” Figures said.

Everyone was exerting themselves in the Cancun process to address all of the global climate change complexities that a foundation was not created. Figueres said that whatever occurred at the U.N. negotiations would be completely insufficient for our current global situation.

However, first the decision regarding the type of treaty âÄî whether legally binding or one that allows creative flexibility to lower emissions âÄî needs to be established. Only then can complexities be considered.

The Cancun agreements neither created the ideal legally binding treaty nor even a decision about what kind of treaty will be constructed. But they did succeed in bringing together over 190 countries participating in the U.N. process.

It brought together Buddhist monks and presidents of consulting firms, discussing the importance of carbon targets and new green technologies. It allowed youth delegations from around the world to come together and tear down the national boundaries that are interrupting negotiations of todayâÄôs world leaders. It re-affirmed the importance for local action to occur while we are waiting for the U.N. to save the world.

Though the U.N. global climate change treaty framework holds great potential, we cannot wait for the U.N. to draft this idealistic treaty. As the U.N. cannot currently perform any sort of action, we need to be responsible for creating localized environmental movements that will create change. Writing to state legislature addressing the importance of environmental policy, teaching others about the importance of recycling or volunteering with a non-governmental organization will all contribute to the fight against global climate change. We need to realize that any action is better than inaction.

 

Jayme Dittmar welcomes comments at [email protected].