This article is written by Ridhi Mittal, a student of Symbiosis Law School, Noida. It talks about what are the different long-term targets framed in order to reduce the changes occurring in our climate.
Climate change basically refers to the change in temperature and weather patterns of a particular place. It is a long-term shift in the patterns. Often the weather is confused with climate but the basic difference that lies between the two is that weather changes are short-term changes but climate changes take a long time to evolve; they witness pattern changes for decades and centuries. These climate changes have gone worse due to problems like global warming, ozone layer depletion, and an increase in pollution. To curb the climate change, many measures are taken by different countries, separately as well as collectively with other nations. Countries soon realised that coming together and ensuring measures is better since it is not the problem of one but all. Some of the conventions formed by every country joining hands against climate change are the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Rio Earth Summit.
Cause of climate change
The average global temperature has touched heights. From the period of 1906 to 2005, it rose for about 0.74 degree celsius. Then from pre-industrial time to 2015, the temperature got 1 degree warmer. These changes in climate occur due to a number of reasons, some of which are listed below :
- Human activities have been one of the prime reasons for climate change. Humans have been digging up fossil fuels like coal and oil for the purposes of generating electricity and running vehicles. Even doing agriculture beyond limits that release gases like methane and carbon dioxide, thereby causing harm to the environment. These gases are usually absorbed by plants and trees but due to the increased rate of deforestation in the world for industrial development, it has also become a contributing reason for climatic changes due to human activity.
- Pollution has been yet another factor for such negative changes in the climate. Pollution basically refers to the substances that are dangerous and poisonous for the environment. Pollution can be noise, water and air pollution. Polluting water can be dangerous and harmful for the climate as marine life gets destroyed with water pollution. Air pollution has a direct connection to the climatic changes. The air that we breathe gets polluted by smoke from industries or by vehicles on the road which in turn affects the environment.
- When there is a gradual increase in the Earth’s overall temperature and is generally attributed to the causing of greenhouse effect by the increased levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, it is referred to as global warming. Due to this increase in temperature the natural balance of Earth goes wrong as it becomes hotter and also this high temperature leads to melting of glaciers and mountains.
- The ozone layer is the outer layer of the Earth that protects it and its people from direct sun radiations. But because of the melting of ozone layers, the sun’s extreme heat is now coming in contact with the Earth which leads to high temperatures in the states.
Measures to curb climate change
Climatic changes have a negative effect on the environment. It is absolutely mandatory for everyone to take measures in order to cope with the changes and not let them get any worse than how it already is. Both individual and state-level measures are required to do so. Some of the measures that can help in maintaining the climatic changes are as follows:
- At an individual level, one can start by installing solar panels to their house. It is beneficial for both the environment as well as individuals themselves as solar panels generate electricity through the solar radiations or the sun’s rays. Companies like Tesla have contributed immensely in installing solar panels.
- Replacing light bulbs with LEDs is again a great measure as LED bulbs last 25 times longer than light bulbs and use 75 percent less energy than the others.
- Avoiding the use of plastic would create a lot less pressure on the environment which, in turn, would reduce the negative effect on climatic changes. Instead reusable things like jute bags or tupperware bottles should be used as they are not use-and-throw items and can be reused.
- Using cold water or fresh water instead of warm water for washing clothes is highly advised and also beneficial. It is because the warm water tends to loosen the fabric of the cloth and destroys it if washed a lot. Also, using warm water has negative effects on the environment because the heat produced contributes to increasing greenhouse gases and the use of electricity for warming water puts a pressure on the environment.
- Unplug the electronic devices when they are not in use; just because a device or any gizmos appears to be off doesnt mean its not drawing power, things like your cable box, laptop and even your speakers maybe using almost as much power when they are off but plugged in as when they are on.
Role of International Law in improving the climate
Due to the exhaustive human activity on earth, climate changes took a negative turn therefore, most of the countries came together and started working upon climate changes and took measures to curb them. One such conference was the Rio Summit or we can say the Earth Summit. The Rio Summit can be referred to by other titles as well, namely, ‘The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development’ or ‘Rio 2012’ or ‘Rio+20’ or ‘Earth Summit 2012’. This summit was the third international conference discussing sustainable development by aiming at reconciling the economic and environmental goals of the global community.
The Rio Summit was held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with the objective of sustainable development. This conference marked the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio in 1992. States participating in the 1992 meeting politically endorsed the objective of “sustainable development” as achieving economic, environmental, and social development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In Rio, member states decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post-2015 development agenda.
Green economy policies were adopted at the conference. An intergovernmental process was also established by the state parties under the General Assembly in order to prepare strategies for sustainable development financing. Governments also agreed to strengthen the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on several fronts with action to be taken during the 67th session of the General Assembly. A High-Level Political Forum for the purpose of sustainable development was also decided to be established. A request by the government for the United Nations Statistical Commission was made in consultation with relevant United Nations system entities and other relevant organizations. This was done to launch a programme of work in the area of measures of progress to complement gross domestic product in order to better inform policy decisions. A 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption was adopted by the state parties.
The Rio+20 organizers indicate that state parties were expected to adopt clear and focused practical measures for implementing sustainable development, based on many examples of success they had seen over the last 20 years. However, they were mixed views among participants and certain issues were as follows:
- The aspects of the green economy with adequate emphasis on social aspects like fairness of sustainable development.
- Whether the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should replace or supplement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); it was agreed by the U.N, General Assembly in 2000 and expected to end in 2015, as well as how SDGs might be negotiated, and what priorities might be set among them?
- How to reform international environmental institutions, especially if strengthening of the United Nations Environmental Program should be done?
- What actions, if any, might lead to improved implementation of existing sustainable development goals, given slow progress so far?
- Whether governments may commit to greater financial and technological assistance to low-income countries to assist their sustainable development?
Effectiveness of the measures taken
Two highlights of the Rio summit were an agreement to develop a set of global sustainable development goals (SDGs) and to establish a high-level political forum on sustainable development. Using the green economy for the purpose of achieving sustainable development was discussed as an outcome. Promotion of corporate sustainability, strengthening the United Nations Environment Programme, and taking steps to go beyond the gross domestic product to assess the well-being of the country were also talked about. The desired future has its focus on improving gender equality and recognising the important role that indigenous knowledge plays in sustainable development. The measures taken are pretty effective, for instance, the decrease in the use of plastic. It was one of the measures to reduce the use of plastics as plastic is hazardous to both health and the environment. We can see how almost every country has started to become a plastic-freeze Nation. This is also a clear example of the positive effects of long-term goals. Setting long-term goals is a great measure as to when we talk at the state level. Bringing a change is a process that takes time, therefore, setting long-term goals should be the prime objective and to achieve these long-term goals, short-term goals should be framed.
To conclude, we can say the climate is what we expect and the weather is what we get. Nowadays, the climatic changes are getting worse due to the inconvenient behaviour of mankind which lead us to global warming and depletion of the ozone layer. Also, doing agriculture beyond limits releases gases that can be very harmful to the masses and to the climate. A solution to this was that a few steps were taken to protect the climate like installing solar panels and using LED lights instead of bulbs. Moreover, to improve the conditions, conferences like the Rio Summit took place which were very effective for the climate and brought a change in human life. The conference held was the third international conference that was set up to discuss sustainable development in respect of environmental goals of the global community which also adopted the green economy policies; besides many more policies were acquired to shape the environment. In the end, it had a consistently positive impact on oceans which was helpful to restore the health and reliance of ocean and marine ecosystems and also maintain biodiversity.
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