I grew up under the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that were written in 2000 and set for completion by 2015. As a child, I was taught that these goals were ratified by all 189 UN members (now there are 193), and that they would collectively work towards eradicating poverty, increasing the literacy rate, to name just a few. But what struck me was that climate change and global warming was never mentioned. Granted, it was the 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth that went on to win an Oscar and pushed global warming to the forefront of the news; but the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that was only effective from 2005, had been agreed upon in 1997.
Long before the MDGs were set to expire in 2015, countries came together to develop the post-action plan, and the culmination of it was the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Climate Action” was included in this new set of goals, which was adopted in September during the UN Sustainable Development Summit.
Hong Kong is no stranger to the effects of global warming and climate change. A recent article by the SCMP stated: “One of the strongest El Ninos and the onslaught of global warming have put Hong Kong on course for its hottest year on record.” The El Nino effect is a product of the natural world, but many have started to wonder whether the increased frequencies are correlated with the effects of global warming.
Global warming frequently affects the poorest and most vulnerable populations of the world, and countries should take steps to mitigate the effect. China, the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, recently declared that it would adopt a cap and trade programme to curb its carbon emissions. But sceptics point to the fundamental problems of a cap and trade programme – the ability to price carbon emissions accurately – and some argue that this programme directly undermines US policymakers who have long argued that China’s participation in climate mitigation policy is a prerequisite for US action in this arena. If this programme has the ability to encourage other countries to adopt similar aggressive stances in combatting climate change, then this is the correct step forward.
I recently attended a talk by Wendy Sherman, who served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the fourth-ranking official in the US State Department. She spoke mainly on her experiences as the lead negotiator for the US in Iran’s nuclear treaty, but towards the end, in light of the recent attacks on innocent civilians across the globe, she mentioned: “The world will win against al-Qaeda, but the world will never win against climate change.”
In that moment, I was struck by the enormity of climate change, and its far-reaching effects.