The 78Th UNGA Session convenes at a pivotal juncture for the climate and future of our planet. Climate change's effects have been seen all around the world, including disastrous floods, heat waves, and drought. This demonstrates how crucial climate change is and how urgently it must be addressed.
The UN in a release said that this year’s theme, “A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges”, “acknowledges the shared roots of crises such as COVID-19, climate change, and conflict and the need for solutions that build global sustainability and resilience.” Prior to this, a group of 20 leaders gathered on September 9-10 in the heart of New Delhi for the G-20 summit 2023 in what is expected to be the hottest year in human history. As the world meets, the agenda is set against the backdrop of an unparalleled global problem – climate change. This critical catastrophe has left a long shadow over our globe, with increasing temperatures, catastrophic weather events, and ecological upheavals becoming alarmingly commonplace on a daily basis.
At the UN Framework Convention on Climatic Change (COP27) in 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned global leaders that mankind is on a “highway to climate hell with one foot on the accelerator.” The multilateral forums and meetings this year are focusing on critical climate challenges, and advocates that current and future generations can only be affluent if current development, as well as other policy decisions and activities, resolve ecologically friendly practices and equitable economic growth. Three important climate concerns are expected to be accomplished: a push to treble global renewable energy capacity by 2030; weaning economies off fossil fuels, notably coal; and financing for developing-country green transitions.
This sense of urgency to address increasing temperatures and climate change was evident during the G20 Leaders’ Summit, when the nations pledged to accelerate their efforts to address environmental crises and problems, including climate change. Now it is also one of the top agendas of discussions at the 78th UNGA session as climate change-related environmental challenges have not only increased but also become more prominent, ranging from biblical floods in Pakistan to severe droughts in China and Europe. Countries have frequently failed to reach emission objectives, and a coming energy crisis in Europe as a result of Ukraine’s prolonged conflict with Russia is poised to exacerbate the problem. The Global South especially has borne the brunt of major power rivalries. the UN chief appealed for the bloc to support his initiatives to address climate change, sustainable development, the worldwide food and energy crises, and digital transformation. Against such a backdrop, the issue of climate mitigation should be brought up frequently to fight the plethora of issues that these nations face.
Climate Talk Dominates this Year
The United Nations will host a panel debate on what bold decisions are required today to maintain the promise of peace, prosperity, and the Paris Agreement. The drive for renewables might be a bright spot in the discussions, with draft agreements apparently including a vow to fight for a worldwide doubling of capacity by 2030. In the G-20 Summit, the text reaffirmed previously agreed-upon objectives and requested members to contribute an initial $100 billion to the effort; it also established a goal of attaining net zero emissions by 2050.
With India at the helm of the G20, Bangladesh’s participation in the summit opens up a plethora of possibilities. Bangladesh has been lauded for its activism on behalf of the global South, particularly its emphasis on climate change problems. This year, at the 78th UNGA Session Bangladesh under the leadership of PM Sheikh Hasina, is expected to highlight the climate issue, adding that Bangladesh expects that those responsible for global warming will share the responsibility of rehabilitating the victims of climate change. Bangladesh, as a champion of developing nations, may utilize this platform to advocate for third-world countries. The urge for global cooperation is more urgent than ever. The United Kingdom also vowed to contribute US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to assist poor nations in dealing with climate change, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said at the Group of 20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi. African nations also asked for $600 billion in renewable energy projects, to be funded in part by a global carbon price. They also demand debt relief and restructuring, as well as the establishment of a “loss and damage” fund for climate-vulnerable nations as soon as possible. Following the UNGA, leaders will have the opportunity to transform words into tangible measures at a high-level clean energy ministerial held by US President Joe Biden in Pittsburgh on September 22 and 23. Simply put, what leaders pledge to and do not commit to at the UNGA this year will have a significant impact on the success of COP28 later this year.
Building a Healthier World for All
Hope is once again rekindled as the world’s prominent multilateral forums are focusing on climate mitigation. The importance of this conference extends beyond the immediate issues. It lays the groundwork for COP 28 at the end of the year when leaders will focus on consolidating commitments to phase out fossil fuels, treble renewable energy consumption, and mobilize historic levels of energy financing.
Phase out fossil fuels
Treble renewable energy consumption
Mobilize historic levels of energy financing
This year the nations present at the summits focused on climate mitigation to adaption that emphasized the inclusion of creating resilience through technology transfer, global financing, clean, sustainable, affordable, and inclusive energy transitions to enable strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth and to achieve the climate objectives; to deliver on climate and sustainable finance based on the recommendations of the Sustainable Finance Working Group; to adhere to the multi-year G20 Technical Assistance Action Plan (TAAP) to overcome data-related barriers to climate investments; and to recognize the need for incentivization of climate investments from billions to trillions of dollars globally; emphasize the need for developing countries to implement nationally determined contributions of $5.8 to $5.9 trillion in the pre-230 period, and the need for $4 trillion per year for clean energy technologies by 2030 to achieve net zero emissions by 2050; emphasize the importance of healthy ecosystems and address climate change, biodiversity loss.
It enflames a beacon of hope that the leaders have pledged to address climate change issues and environmental catastrophes, particularly those confronting poor populations in LDCs and small island developing nations. However, the entire globe has not yet made adequate efforts to accomplish the Paris Agreement’s goals. As a result, it is critical that all countries work together to achieve ambitious action on all pillars of the Paris Climate Agreement. Wealthy countries have already failed to meet a goal to pay poorer countries $100 billion (S$136.5 billion) in climate funding by 2020, climate financing, international cooperation, collaboration, and assistance, as well as sustainable consumer production, can make this feasible. Time will tell whether leaders will follow through on their commitments and turn their words into action, but one thing’s for certain: We cannot afford to lose hope that progress is possible and that we can still build the world we want.
About the Author
Saume Saptaparna Nath is a Research Associate at The KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA), completed post graduate studies from the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka.