Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Earth Today | ‘Rapid-fire adaptation a must’

Calls for scaled-up response actions amid new WMO data

Published:Thursday | June 20, 2024 | 12:50 AM

WITH THE World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) reporting an 80 per cent likelihood that the average global temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for at least one of the next five years, there is an urgent call to action to double down on climate change interventions.

“These events and scientific findings are reminders that we must urgently increase action and ambition on the crises we face, the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss and desertification, the crisis of climate change, and the crisis of pollution and waste, to help protect the most vulnerable populations,” said Inger Andersen, executive director for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), speaking at the recent 166th meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) in Kenya.

“This is what member states and UNEP are working on together, and what we must push harder to achieve by pushing harder to fulfil the commitments we have made,” she added.

Andersen urged the gathering of the CPR to recall, among other things, the commitments of the sixth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6).

“It is important to remember what we have set ourselves to achieve. At UNEA-6, you, the member states, adopted 15 resolutions that target pressing environmental challenges – with a focus on addressing issues that affect the most vulnerable in our societies. We saw a resolution on aligning the extraction and management of minerals and waste with the 2030 Agenda … on environmental assistance and recovery in areas impacted by armed conflict. We saw resolutions aimed at improving air quality – through regional cooperation on air pollution and tackling sand and dust storms; a resolution that asked UNEP to back efforts to combat desertification and land degradation; resolutions on highly hazardous pesticides, on improving water quality and on strengthening ocean governance,” she said.

“We had the Ministerial Declaration, which reaffirmed member states’ commitment to effective, inclusive and sustainable multilateral action on these environmental challenges. And, of course, we brought together the Multilateral Environmental Agreements to deliver a united push on the three crises I have mentioned. Please allow me to thank you once more for delivering yet another successful UNEA. The UNEA president will now transmit the outcomes of UNEA-6 to the High-Level Political Forum in July,” she added.


These are in addition, Andersen said, to a range of other things, including the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), also known as the Biodiversity Plan – all of which require leadership to get them all done.

“The GBF is our collective plan to restore biodiversity. But a plan is only a paper exercise without implementation,” she said.

“We know that restoration boosts livelihoods, lowers poverty and builds resilience to extreme weather – supporting the Sustainable Development Goals. We know that restoration increases carbon storage, making it a key tool for achieving the Paris Agreement. We know that restoration avoids species extinctions, making it a vital tool to achieving the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework,” she added.

“So, we need to get behind the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which is backing commitments to restore one billion hectares of land, and the UNEA-6 resolution to strengthen sustainable land management is an important tool to do this,” the UNEP boss said further.

Local players have themselves flagged for prioritised response data from the WMO, which includes that it is likely that at least one of the next five years will be the warmest on record, beating 2023.

“It is very unfortunate that after so much time, so many years of talking about 1.5 and what it means for us, that we have dropped the ball and it has come to this … that within the next five years we will see greater impacts, including hotter temperatures. It is disheartening having worked on climate change myself since 2005,” said Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, a long-time climate justice advocate.

“Having been out there and working with the scientists, it is unfortunate. However, we know that small island developing states (SIDS) have to adapt, so it makes no sense crying over where we are,” she added.

According to Mclymont-Lafayette, SIDS must now “prioritise rapid-fire adaptation to see what we need to be putting in place over the next two years”.

“The next two years are critical as an island, as a region. We need to ramp up our adaptation response. It means finding money to ensure that at the individual level we can secure water, energy, etc. We have to get up and run,” she insisted.