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Climate change

Choking the planet: The problem with plastic
We follow the journey of a plastic bottle to find out what it takes to truly recycle the product creating zero waste.

Recycling Revolution
One enterprising company is pioneering ways to recycle the non-recyclable.

India: A matter of waste
Recycling electronic waste is big business in India, but at what cost to the environment and public health?

Georg Kell, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact
While responsibility to drive climate change solutions that address the needs of the poorest and the most vulnerable rests primarily with governments, it has become increasingly clear that business will be an essential partner.

Climate change is no longer a distant threat, but has emerged in our time as a massive global challenge. Companies must prepare for and respond to the impacts of a changing climate and go even further to help build a global green economy.
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The five commitments of the Caring for Climate Statement
All signatories of the C4C initiative must endorse the Caring for Climate Statement, which includes five commitments to action:
1. Reduce emissions, set targets and report annual performance;
2. Devise a business strategy to approach climate risks and opportunities;
3. Engage with policy-makers to encourage scaled-up climate action;
4. Work collaboratively with other enterprises to tackle climate change;
5. Become a climate-friendly business champion with stakeholders.

An Introduction to Climate Change
Carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants are collecting in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, trapping the sun's heat and causing the planet to warm up.

Although local temperatures fluctuate naturally, over the past 50 years the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. Scientists say that unless we curb the emissions that cause climate change, average U.S. temperatures could be 3 to 9 degrees higher by the end of the century.

The United States Global Change Research Program (which includes the Department of Defense, NASA, National Science Foundation and other government agencies) has said that "global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced" and that "climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow."

Climate change is a complex phenomenon, and its full-scale impacts are hard to predict far in advance. But each year scientists learn more about how climate change is affecting the planet and our communities, and most agree that certain consequences are likely to occur if current trends continue.

In addition to impacting our water resources, energy supply, transportation, agriculture, and ecosystems, the United States Global Change Research Program concludes that climate change also poses unique challenges to human health, such as:

Significant increases in the risk of illness and death related to extreme heat and heat waves are very likely.
Some diseases transmitted by food, water, and insects are likely to increase.
Certain groups, including children, the elderly, and the poor, are most vulnerable to a range of climate-related health effects.
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In the 19th century, an awareness began to dawn that accumulated carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere could create a “greenhouse effect” and increase the temperature of the planet. A perceptible process in that direction had already begun — a side-effect of the industrial age and its production of carbon dioxide and other such "greenhouse gases."

By the middle of the 20th century, it was becoming clear that human action had significantly increased the production of these gases, and the process of “global warming” was accelerating. Today, nearly all scientists agree that we must stop and reverse this process now — or face a devastating cascade of natural disasters that will change life on earth as we know it.

Much of the evidence already seems apparent to the layman as well. Most of the hottest years on record have occurred during the past two decades. In Europe, the heat wave in the summer of 2003 resulted in over 30,000 deaths. In India, temperatures reached 48.1 degrees Centigrade — nearly 119 degrees Fahrenheit.

Two years later, the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina in the United States was attributed in large part to the elevated water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. And in one of many terrain changing developments, 160 square miles of territory broke away from the Antarctic coast in 2008 — its bindings to Antarctica having literally melted away.

The UN family is in the forefront of the effort to save our planet. In 1992, its “Earth Summit” produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a first step in tackling the problem. In 1998, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide an objective source of scientific information. And the Convention’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set emission reduction targets for industrialized countries, has already helped stabilize and in some cases reduce emissions in several countries.

"We must limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees. We are far from there, and even that is enough to cause dire consequences. If we continue along the current path, we are close to a 6 degree increase".

"Too many leaders seem content to keep climate change at arm’s length, and in its policy silo. Too few grasp the need to bring the threat to the centre of global security, economic and financial management. It is time to move beyond spending enormous sums addressing the damage, and to make the investments that will repay themselves many times over".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations (February 2013)
The UN has consistently taken the lead in taking on climate change. In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to former United States Vice-President Al Gore and the IPCC "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".

The Kyoto Protocol set standards for certain industrialized countries. Those targets expired in 2012. In the meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions from both developed and developing countries have been increasing rapidly.

The Copenhagen Accord was agreed to by Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers and other heads of delegation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.

In December 2010, climate change talks in Cancún concluded with a package of decisions to help countries advance towards a low-emissions future. Dubbed the “Cancún Agreements,” the decisions include formalizing mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to protect the world's forests.

In 2011 the world population reached 7 billion. It is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2043, placing high demands on the Earth’s resources.

There is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed. Ecosystems as diverse as the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic tundra, may be approaching thresholds of dramatic change through warming and drying. Mountain glaciers are in alarming retreat and the downstream effects of reduced water supply in the driest months will have repercussions that transcend generations.

In 2011 the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa produced the Durban Platform . In Durban, governments decided to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, but not later than 2015.

In December 2012, after two weeks of negotiations at Doha conference, nations moved forward on climate change and extended the Kyoto Protocol. The renewal will keep existing climate targets until a new international agreement comes into effect in 2020, pending a new pact to be decided on by 2015.
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Tackling The Global Climate Challenge
International efforts to deal with climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, with the adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change — a treaty signed and ratified by the United States. This agreement makes all countries responsible for working to avoid “dangerous human interference” with the climate system.

Under the treaty, developed nations — responsible for most of the emissions of greenhouse gases over the past 200 years — are committed to leading the fight against climate change, though all nations are charged with contributing to solve the problem.
In 1997, an implementation agreement of the Framework Convention was adopted. The Kyoto Protocol, which now covers 170 countries, committed developed countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by five to seven percent from 1990 levels by 2012. The U.S. is the only nation to have signed but not ratified it.

Forging A Scientific Consensus
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program in 1988 to assess scientific, technical, and socio-economic data on climate change, its potential impact, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

Drawing on a consortium of hundreds of experts from leading academic and research institutions, the IPCC is considered the world’s most authoritative scientific effort to understand and address changes in the Earth’s climate.

To date, the IPCC has released four Assessment Reports which each provide increasingly dire warnings about the impacts of climate change on our globe’s environment, society, and economy if serious action is not taken immediately.
The IPCC has recently come under attack because of a small number of errors in its Fourth Assessment Report regarding projected impacts from climate change.

While these mistakes have in no way undermined the underlying science of climate change, the Panel has expressed regret for these inaccuracies and is developing a new, more robust review process in order to avoid future errors.

From Bali To Copenhagen
An agreement was struck in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 on a process for reaching a new climate change treaty by the 2009 Copenhagen summit.
Intense negotiations took place over the course of the two intervening years, and while a comprehensive agreement could not be reached in Copenhagen, the conference succeeded in raising the climate issue to a new level, with more than 120 national leaders participating and recognizing the imperatives of the science and the need for action.

More than 100 countries, representing more than 80 percent of global emissions, have associated themselves with the Copenhagen Accord — particularly significant because of the engagement of rapidly growing economies like China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.
The Accord’s central achievement was establishing a registry of national actions — a scorecard by which nations will be judged. The Accord also commits developed countries to providing $10 billion a year in mitigation and adaptation financing over the next three years, growing to $100 billion per year by 2020.

What Next ?
Copenhagen has set the stage for making progress on a number of key issues, including avoided deforestation, technology cooperation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and finance.
These are the core elements to any meaningful progress in the fight against climate change, and they are areas in which all the countries of the world can and should want to engage for the sake of economic growth, national security, and environmental sustainability.

Looking forward to the December 2011 climate summit in Durban, South Africa, the international community can build on the Copenhagen Accord to ensure that collective action on these five topics is commensurate with the commitments countries made under the Accord.

The Un Secretary-General’s Leadership
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made cooperation on climate change one of his top priorities, and has been working with countries to help them reach an agreement since he took office prior to the 2007 conference in Bali.

To assist him in this effort, the Secretary-General has convened a high-level Advisory Group on Energy & Climate Change to provide him with strategic advice and formal recommendations for the negotiating process.
In the wake of Copenhagen, the Secretary-General also set up a high-level advisory panel to mobilize funding for developing nations in the battle against climate change.

The panel, which is being led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg, will specifically seek to marshal new and innovative resources to reach the Copenhagen Accord’s goal of $100 billion per year by 2020.
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Climate Change and Global Warming
Global warming and climate change is looked at in this section of the global issues web site. Introduced are some of the effects of climate change. In addition, this section attempts to provide insights into what governments, companies, international institutions, and other organizations are attempting to do about this issue, as well as the challenges they face. Some of the major conferences in recent years are also discussed.

The climate is changing. The earth is warming up, and there is now overwhelming scientific consensus that it is happening, and human-induced. With global warming on the increase and species and their habitats on the decrease, chances for ecosystems to adapt naturally are diminishing.

Many are agreed that climate change may be one of the greatest threats facing the planet. Recent years show increasing temperatures in various regions, and/or increasing extremities in weather patterns.

This section looks at what causes climate change, what the impacts are and where scientific consensus currently is.
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