It’s time for action to seriously address climate change

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019 00:00 |
Climate change. Photo/Courtesy

World leaders, diplomats, civil society and philanthropists gather in New York this week for the 74th annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), with climate change on the agenda.

UN secretary general Antonio Gueterres told yesterday’s UN Climate Action Summit to urgently address the global climate change “emergency” with hard pledges rather than the usual rhetoric.

The summit will focus on new commitments from governments amid growing media coverage and warning bells of the threat of man-made climate change.

For long, the media has remained silent or got the climate story wrong. Journalists and news organisations have sidelined climate stories as too technical, too political or too depressing, according to an article in the Columbia Journalism Review last week.

“Spun by the fossil-fuel industry and vexed by their own business problems, media outlets often leaned on a false balance between the views of genuine scientists and those of paid corporate mouthpieces.

The media’s minimisation of the looming disaster is one of our great journalistic failures,” Wudan Yan wrote in the journal.

These concerns prompted the journal and The Nation magazine in the US to launch Covering Climate Now, a project aimed at encouraging the media across the globe to up their game on climate coverage.

It is said to be the biggest effort ever undertaken to organise the world’s press around a single topic.

This week’s UNGA has major implications for Kenya even as the country lobbies for a slot in the UN Security Council after its candidature was endorsed by the African Union. 

As host of UN Environment headquarters, Kenya remains a focus of international attention as it grapples with its own share of environmental challenges attributed to climate change.

 During the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi earlier this year, world leaders laid the groundwork for a radical shift to a more sustainable future, where innovation will be harnessed to tackle environmental challenges.

More than 170 UN members delivered a bold blueprint for change that will be on the agenda at the 74th UNGA.

The world needs to speed up moves towards a new model of development in order to respect the vision laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Other than climate change, the UNGA will also tackle universal health care (UHC) and financing SDGs.

The initiative has been embraced by more than 250 large and small print, digital, TV and radio platforms, with a combined audience of over a billion people.

The climate story is not going away, and as focus turns to the forum, related issues including UHC and financing SDGs will be on the front burner. 

In July, governments drafted and approved the first international agreement that commits them to providing UHC access.

A fundamental change in approach is needed to ensure all people can access health care.

With at least half of the world’s population lacking access to essential healthcare services, it is expected that governments will adopt the agreement at the assembly.

A report by The Business and Sustainable Development Commission states that it requires around $2.4 trillion a year of additional funding to achieve the SDGs by 2030. 

It is a good thing that on Thursday, UNGA will hold a high-level dialogue to mobilise additional capital for financing the SDGs and the global climate agenda.

The private sector, financial institutions and philanthropists are expected to join governments in concerted efforts to attain these goals. [email protected]

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