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January 12, 2015
Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Thompson, Jane Goodall, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon all together on the streets of Manhattan. What brought all these celebrities and political powerhouses out to the streets? The biggest threat ever to our planet: climate change.
Now universally accepted, climate change is here and poised to be the most significant challenge to industrialized and developing countries alike. Not only are coastal regions in danger, but so are other areas as weather patterns alter, temperatures rise, air quality diminishes and greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar. And this is only the beginning. As a result of man-made carbon emissions and deforestation, the world will drastically change forever.
Ahead of the 2014 UN Climate Summit held in New York this past September, hundreds of thousands of protesters, activists and concerned citizens openly voiced their concerns over climate change and pushed for a comprehensive and inclusive plan to bind all nations to fight climate change together. Over 300,000 people took to the streets in New York alone and demonstrations occurred in 156 countries worldwide. Also known as the People’s Climate Change March, it was by far the largest outcry against climate change and carbon pollution to-date.
These protests came on the heels of the historic June 2014 roll-out of the EPA’s Clean Air Act Section 111, which establishes a mechanism for controlling air pollution and carbon emissions from new and existing power plants. The EPA’s actions, coupled with the People Climate Change March, have been catalysts for action. Change is in the air.
The Summit marked the largest climate meeting of world leaders on climate change where more than 2,000 mayors and city officials announced major policy changes. The private sector threw their hat in the ring by committing over $200 billion in green investments. All this activity is leading up to a new universal climate agreement. The groundwork is being laid for passage of such an agreement in December 2015 in Paris, officially called the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or for short, UNFCCC COP 21.
2015 could be the year in which global leaders come together and agree on a plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Governments, businesses and grass roots organizations are beginning to come together and collective optimism is high. Even the world’s most influential figures such as President Obama and Pope Francis are getting involved. However, memories of the climate changes failures of Copenhagen in 2009 are still looming as a reminder of how difficult it can be to build binding consensus.
We’ll have to wait until the end of the year to find out if the UN can achieve compromise on a plan to save the planet.