UN Climate Change Summit – Lets talk about results?

September 26th, 2014

The UN climate change summit is over. Lots of press coverage but did anything happen?

  • Well, I loved the people power – hundreds of thousands of people marching in New York and around the globe. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, marched with them.
  • People turned up – world leaders, actors and business people. Okay so maybe this shouldn’t be seen as a great result – but actually sometimes the right people – decision makers – don’t make it to even vital conferences.
  • President Obama said climate change is “the most important and consequential issue of the 21st Century”.
  • Economists and business people talked about the cost of delaying action on climate change and called for urgent action now.
  • There was truth – with Graça Machel (Nelson Mandela’s widow) cutting through the high blown rhetoric and some self-congratulation in the final moments of the conference saying There is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response we heard here today”.

There is a mismatch.

I may be naïve but I find myself believing all of these people – I believe Ban Ki Moon, business leaders, President Obama and the millions of people who took part or who cheered on the climate change marchers. I believe they want to take urgent action. I also believe Graça Machel and find myself asking what’s stopping us from making a substantial response.

The money required is huge – but the cost on inaction is greater. The money also exists. For example in 2012 as a world we spent $1.8 trillion on weapons, that’s roughly $249 for each person in the world and 2.5% of GDP. By contrast one of the most commonly used estimates of the cost of tackling climate change puts it at 1% of annual GDP. So if we as a world find the money for weapons why can’t we find the money to protect our planet? It seems to me the money’s there – it’s about choices.

But what’s stopping action on the scale needed happening? Why do even world leaders feel powerless? I am genuinely not sure, although I worry we have systems in place that maintain the status quo and discourage change – all put there for good reasons but now working against the urgent change required.

Kenyan women march against climate change

Kenyan women march against climate change

I feel passionately about climate change because I’ve seen the impacts of the already changing weather patterns and the increasingly erratic weather on the people Practical Action works with – if you are poor and few resources you are most at risk. Not exactly a surprise!

I came across this quote from Benjamin Morrell: “Morale is when your hands and feet keep on working when your head says it can’t be done.” It seems to me with climate change it’s operating in reverse.

Maybe we need each and every one of us – from Ban Ki Moon and President Obama – to me and you to start to take action now so that it becomes a habit. Then when it gets to the difficult times our hands and feel will keep going on tackling climate change, even if our heads start to say it can’t be done.



5 responses to “UN Climate Change Summit – Lets talk about results?”

  1. Mehrab Ul Goni Says:

    It is really interesting that everybody knows where to spend more, and where to less. Also, everybody knows why spending on weapon increasing each year. In Bengali there is a term called “Gayen Papi”, means “intelligent sinner”. I think, there is no more room for the global leaders to be an intelligent sinner; this is the high time to stand by the peoples’ cause. Thanks for the informative and positively provoking write-up.

  2. Giovanni Rantucci Says:

    People and politics go in opposite directions. Most people know the trillion of $ spent on weapons, nobody knows how to change politics and economy worlwide. Population growth and related activities are the core of the problem. It s even possible that we have already trespassed the treshold beyond which any effort (including the annual UN Summit) is useless and the stuation is no longer controllable. Giovanni Rantucci

  3. S. M. Alauddin Says:

    Dear Margaret,

    Thank you for a very important blog posting! This is for the 3rd time I attempting to make comment on your posting. In fact, when I tried first time, I wrote a big comment, made the submission. But due to temporary problem, the submission was not OK. I tried, the last day also, but due to electricity failure, it didn’t get complete. I don’t know whether I will succeed today. I wanted to say its a very important posting in an appropriate time. We hope for the best as you mentioned and the UN conference expected. Not only climate justice issue, rather ethical issue should be considered. The responsibility, in such consideration, none can avoid. However, the interest of rapidly developing countries (like China, Brazil, S Africa, Russia), most vulnerable countries like Bangladesh, Maldives, etc. and obviously the developed countries i.e. Europe, America, Japan, etc,.should be considered with the justice point of view. This can help the world from the risk of Climate Change due to rapid global worming. This is the expectation of the world and developed countries’ roles are prime here, which UN can negotiate along with the world leaders.
    Thanks once again, Alauddin

  4. Margaret Says:

    Thanks Alauddin

    Sorry about the problems posting.. I agree with your point that climate change must be looked at through the lens of justice and ethics. It also needs to be looked at pragmatically, positively and urgently – which actually ties back to justice. We need action now.

    I’m interested in the movement amongst foundations eg Rockefeller and universities to diverts them selves of fossil fuel investments. Also Simon Zadaks work with the. UN on using the rules surrounding world finance to push sustainability.

    Worried but nervously hopeful for the climate change talks in Lima in December. For justice to prevail we have to both demand and excite with the idea of how our world can be different.


  5. Margaret Says:

    Ps good debate thanks to everyone for comments

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