Climate change to remain a top priority after Paris

Addressing an annual informal briefing to the General Assembly last Thursday (Jan.14), United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that 2016 must be a year in which landmark decisions on sustainable development “gain solid footing on the ground.”

Congratulating again UN countries for adopting two milestone outcomes, such as the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he stressed that “if 2015 was a year of global sustainable development action, 2016 must be a year of national SDG traction”. He also add the 2016 is “Year one of the new 15-year agenda” but also the last year of his mandate as UN chief.

He recalls that climate action is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but also good for people and the economy.

Before moving from climate changes to other challenges such as the security and peace issues, he encouraged “leaders to continue providing direct political oversight and guidance on climate” and added “we have no time to lose and much to gain by acting now. I will spare no effort to ensure the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement”. To achieve these results, more and better work needs to be done by the global community.

To calls for action to build a low-carbon and resilient society, also the World Economic Forum, which just few days ahead of the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, released the 11th edition of its “Global Risks Report”. By collecting the opinions of 750 experts and decision-makers, the report assesses 29 global risks for both impact and likelihood over a 10-year time horizon.

As a main message, the report highlights an increased likelihood of all risks, namely environmental, geopolitical, societal, economic, and technological, that will shape the global agenda in the coming years.

However, after remaining in the top five most impactful risks for the past three years, the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation has risen to the top of 2016 most impactful risks for the near future, ahead of weapons of mass destruction (ranking 2nd), water crises (3rd), large-scale involuntary migration (4th) and energy price shock (5th).

 The Global Risks Landscape 2016

 Climate change is also at the top of the risks that could give rise to cascading risks: the potential for climate change to exacerbate water crises, is indeed deemed to cause conflicts and more forced migration, calling for improved water governance to adapt to climate change and accommodate a growing population and economic development.

Building upon the climate-water nexus, a special chapter looks at how changes in climate and weather patterns can threaten world’s food security and agricultural production. It stresses how the most climate-vulnerable countries often depend heavily on agriculture but affirms that, in recent years climate vulnerability started to affect also the of G-20 countries including India, Russia and the United States. The chapter discusses how climate change–resilient crops and supply chain networks, as well as financing and insurance schemes can help mitigate the social, economic and environmental aspects of food security risks related to climate change.

The report also devotes emphasis on possible solutions and best practices in the private, public and non-governmental sectors around the world. As for environmental and climate change risk, Howard Kunreuther, co-director of the Wharton Management Risk Center and academic advisor for GRR 2016, points out that “this year’s Global Risks Report highlights the importance of the Paris Agreement on climate change as an historic turning point with the need for constructing implementable plans to significantly reduce carbon emissions. To encourage developing countries to invest in energy efficient technologies, low- or no-interest long-term loans could be provided through international organizations. Energy efficient technologies such as wind and solar are now cost-efficient relative to standard technologies so they are likely to be utilized by businesses and households.”

“We know climate change is exacerbating other risks such as migration and security, but these are by no means the only interconnections that are rapidly evolving to impact societies, often in unpredictable ways. Mitigation measures against such risks are important, but adaptation is vital,” said Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, Head of the Global Competitiveness and Risks, World Economic Forum.


(Image: Hurricane Sandy Causes Heavy Rains and Floods in Haiti, October 2012. Photo credit: United Nations Photo/Flickr)