On 22 April (Earth Day) 2015, a total of 175 countries (out of 195) agreed to join the Paris Agreement as a commitment to reduce their emissions and work together to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Each country committed to a single fundamental point: to keep global temperatures stable and limit the rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and not more than 2. Today the number of countries rose to 189. Each of these countries agreed to assess and track their progress every 5 years and report to each other and the public on how they are implementing climate action.
‘A world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free.’
These were the words of Barack Obama, in 2015 when the USA signed the Paris Agreement, an ambitious global action to fight climate change. But Donald Trump put that future in jeopardy when he withdrew the USA from the accord in November 2020. Luckily, on his first day as President, Biden gave the executive order to officially rejoin the Agreement in February 2021.
What are the impacts of climate change and why is this Agreement so critical to our future?
Climate change affects our weather pattern which in return affects our quality of life. We cannot lead a normal life with extreme weather conditions that climate change brings; such as hurricanes, tsunamis, freezing temperatures, droughts, and regular other catastrophes with the power to destroy cities and kill many people and animals. At 2 degrees Celsius, glaciers will melt bringing further global health emergencies; while the rising sea levels will submerge coastal towns, leading to mass immigration, food scarcity, hunger, lack of fresh water, poverty, species and habitat loss…
According to the world’s most prominent historian of our times, Yuval Noah Harari, climate change poses a great threat to humankind (together with nuclear war and Artificial Intelligence). In his latest book, 21 lessons for the 21st Century, Harari describes how these natural disasters will ensue economic cracks leading to the fall of governments, unrest, martial law, and wars.
Now, we don’t want to turn all dark and gloomy because as Sir David Attenborough says at the end of his beautiful film documentary ‘A Life On Our Planet‘, there is HOPE. Less than a year after the signing of the Paris Agreement, the UN created the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, listing a set of solutions; better known as the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs are a universal call to action not just to protect the planet, but also to end poverty, and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. It is a map to make the world a better place!
1. No poverty
End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. Zero hunger
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
3. Good health and well-being
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
4. Quality education
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5. Gender equality
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Clean water and sanitation
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7. Affordable and clean energy
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8. Decent work and economic growth
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
10. Reduced inequalities
Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Sustainable cities and communities
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12. Responsible consumption and production
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13. Climate action
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14. Life below water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
15. Life on land
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17. Partnerships for the goals
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Each goal typically has 8-12 targets, and each target has between 1 and 4 indicators, used to measure progress towards reaching the targets. Today, progress is being made in many countries across the world, but, overall, action to meet the Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required. We are only 9 years to reach the target.