GETTY IMAGESWIN MCNAMEE
The world’s governments are not track to meet a goal of the 2015 Paris agreement of capping temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) before the year 2100, according to the United Nations. Patricia Espinosa, head of the Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), invoked the slew of natural disasters that have hit the planet in 2018 as she spoke of trying to avoid “catastrophic events.”
“We have witnessed really devastating impacts of climate change in all regions of the world” warns @UN Climate Chief @PEspinosaC, urging progress at #SB48Bangkok https://t.co/WlwSHbcipC #ParisAgreement pic.twitter.com/FxGInVgI2K
— UN Climate Change (@UNFCCC) September 3, 2018
Speaking in Bangkok ahead of a UN-sanctioned climate change conference there, Espinosa told the Reuters news agency that the goals set in Paris by almost 200 nations in 2015 are proving difficult to meet. First and foremost among those goals was “keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Speaking to Reuters, Espinosa said that “1.5 is the goal that is needed for many islands and many countries that are particularly vulnerable to avoid catastrophic effects. In many cases it means the survival of those countries. With the pledges we have on the table now we are not on track to achieve those goals.”
It’s a sobering statement after a year where hurricanes, heat waves, flooding, and wildfires have captured global headlines. Espinosa is hopeful that recent events will mean governments take a stronger stand in trying to reach these goals.
“It really does make the evidence clear that climate change is having an impact on the daily lives of people,” Espinosa says, speaking of the year’s turbulent weather events. “I do believe that this will create a bigger sense of urgency.”
That sense of urgency is what she will be attempting to provide at Bangkok. The talks in southeast Asia are preliminary, preceding a December meeting in Katowice, Poland. The time in Bangkok will be spent discussing draft text for negotiating the “rule book” of the Paris Accords, determining meant to hammer out the details of certain aspects of the Paris Accords left vague in the original signing.
“These draft texts that we hope can emerge from these talks here in Bangkok are something that we need to build on from the talks in Paris 2015. This is a process that has been ongoing for some time. One of the reasons why this is so complex is because we are talking about … many different areas. One of those areas that countries need to take action on is to reduce their emissions,” Espinosa says.
Although President Trump declared the intent of the United States to leave the Paris Accord in 2017, the earliest possible exit date through official means is November 4, 2020. The White House has said it will respect the four-year withdrawl period.
The climate has been shifting for over 100 years, but scientists say that these next few will be crucial in determining what a new normal looks like for the planet in the future. By the time Katowice rolls around in December, Espinosa is hopeful that the world’s governments will have a sound rule book on which to base their response to climate change.