Every 22nd day of April, the world comes together to celebrate Earth Day, which has been described as the world’s largest secular holiday in the world. It also features a series of Google Doodles that depicts the earth’s diversity. Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a nationwide demonstration in the United States on behalf of the environment and everyone was invited to participate. About 20 million Americans participated in the first ever Earth Day, that is now nearing its 50th anniversary. Some of the activities include clean-up efforts, protests and marches calling for action to preserve the environment.
This year’s Earth Day celebration however will be one of a kind. Over 130 countries are expected to formally sign the landmark Paris agreement at the UN headquarters to tackle climate change. One of the major issues to be tackled by the world leaders gathering in Paris today is the effort of countries to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and a significant reduction in global temperature as well.
The UN said signatures from over 130 countries, with more than 60 heads of state and government present, including French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Trudeau from Canada, would surpass the previous record of 119 signatures on the opening day for signing an international agreement. It will take effect 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the secretary general.
The UN also says that the expected record turnout for the signing shows overwhelming global support for tackling rising temperatures – a move that is necessary in sustaining our already struggling generation.
There are several reasons why we should pay attention to the Paris agreement:
- An effort to reduce global emissions
Our generation has experienced some of the most drastic environmental disasters, from increased global temperatures to significant decline in rainfall in most parts of the world, all owing to factors like increased emissions. An example of this is China that has been on the receiving end of an increase in complaints in the amount of dense and filthy air choking many of its cities. The country once saw it closing one of its airports due to dense pollution, making it impossible for aircrafts to fly. Its most recent debacle was when the country had to buy bottled air from a Canadian start-up company. Its first shipment of 500 bottles of fresh air were sold in four days.
- Temperature goal
There has been an increase in use of fossil fuels which consist mainly of petroleum products. The UN Environment Programme estimates that if everyone keeps burning the fossil fuels at the current rate, then we will see a global average temperature rise of up to 3C.
The ‘tipping point’ in the world’s climate is marked by a limit warning of 1.5C. At this level, scientists believe that the worst effects of climate can be avoided. The goal is to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C as was agreed almost seven years ago in Copenhagen. This 1.5C aspiration is meaningless if there aren’t measures for hitting it and this is also one of the important issues to be tackled in the conference.
- Individual targets
Countries are required to set national targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. They are meant to report on their progress and update their progress every five years. The first cycle begins in 2020. This is an agreement that is mostly in accord to developed countries like the US and China which together make up almost 40% of global emissions.
- Financial support to poor countries
The agreement says that wealthy countries should continue offering financial support to help countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change. This paves the way for economies such as China to contribute, on a voluntary basis, since the agreement doesn’t legally require them to do so.
Though the Paris agreement represents perhaps the most important moment for our climate in our most recent years, scientists still argue that it doesn’t go far enough. Why? Most people don’t even understand the urgency of the effect that climate change has on our environment. We need to continue to ignite passion and motivate people to action in doing more to conserve the environment.
The movement continues. What are we waiting for? The time is now.