Key issues for the UN Climate Change Conference 2017

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The UN Climate Change Conference takes place on 6-17th November in Bonn, Germany and will be presided over by the Government of Fiji.

The location of the conference, the Fiji Islands, are among a number of nations around the world that are at risk of flooding as a result of higher sea levels, due to climate change. But what are the some of the issues that will be discussed at COP23 Fiji?

Flooding of low-lying islands

A rise in global temperatures results in the melting of glaciers, which contribute to sea level rise. This means low lying islands around the world are at high risk of flooding, with many inhabitants of these islands being required to migrate to higher ground, for good.

One report, written by the Environmental Research Letters journal studied the impacts of sea level rise on the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The report found that:

‘at least eleven islands across the northern Solomon Islands have either totally disappeared over recent decades or are currently experiencing severe erosion.’

This has a profound impact on the welfare of local inhabitants. According to an IPCC report, the risk of flooding has brought ‘social problems of economic insecurity, inadequate water supplies, and lower health standards.’ As a result, local inhabitants have had to relocate either to higher ground, or leave the islands completely. The impacts of forced migration are wide ranging: it can cause psychological stress and trauma, cause the separation of families, and can result in migrants losing their traditional culture in favour of adopting their host country’s culture. This can leave them feeling marginalised and alone.

The inequality of climate change

According to a study by Oxfam, findings indicate that “the poorest half of the global population is responsible for only 10 percent of total global emissions while nearly 50 percent can be attributed to the wealthiest 10 percent.”

This inequality is mostly out of a difference in lifestyles: the wealthier a person gets, the more the quality of their lifestyles improve. Moreover, the presence of large scale industrial centres in richer countries enhances their part in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

It is important that the UN COP23 address the rising inequalities of climate change, which can have generational impacts.

The United States’ Position on Climate Change

Following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the United States’ position on climate change has changed, with many questioning the nation’s commitment to fighting the issue.

This issue was further intensified following the US’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which sets targets for nations to lower their carbon dioxide emissions. As the United States is the second biggest global contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, the issue of addressing its role in fighting climate change is imperative.

In the journal Nature, Thomas Stocker, former co-chair of climate science for the IPCC, stated that “Trump’s decision to ignore scientific facts of climate disruption and the high risks of climate-change impacts is irresponsible not only towards his own people but to all people and life on this planet.”

Overall, as climate change continues to bring varying impacts to regions all around the world, it is hoped that this year’s Climate Change Conference will shed light on some of the issues faced, and allow the space for different countries to devise strategies on how best to respond to them.