Environmental concerns at the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting

By Ana Alexandrescu

There is no secret that the environment is increasingly gaining center stage in matters of global security.   The Global Risk Report shows that of the top five risks to the world, four of which  are environmental issues. This sounds alarming, but it is not hard to believe given the events we witnessed over the course of last year or the predictions that environmental agencies make for the future.

Global Risks Report

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting took place earlier this year in Davos and environmental concerns were not absent. The agenda spanned from the protection of elephants and clean energy transition to the reinventing of waste as a resource and geospatial technology’s impact on our planet. Here are some of the most important things to be taken away from the event:

  • The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Global Risks Report, enforcing the idea that climate change is the biggest threat to civilization and calling to action;
  • the feeling that previous leaders have failed and that the next three years are a time for decision makers to redeem themselves were a young climate campaigner’s message;
  • French president Emmanuel Macron declared that coal-fired power stations in France will be shut down in the next few years and climate change will be one of his pillars for economic reform.
  • Other participants from different groups announced the actions they would take to combat climate change, including insurance companies divesting from coal projects.

On a similar but more local note in regard to divesting, if you live in Cardiff or the surroundings you might be aware there is a campaign aimed at making Cardiff University divest from fossil fuel companies as currently some of its endowment fund is invested in these. Many students and student led societies have been vocal in supporting this campaign and this March will see the University’s final decision on the matter. It is hoped to see a shift towards renewable energy sources and an accelerated fight against climate change and environmental degradation.

Going back to Davos and environmental friendly memorable moments, the American delegation argued that Donald Trump is an “only man in this parade” against action on climate change and that 40% of the US economy, represented by 15 member states of the US Climate Alliance, continues to be committed to the Paris Agreement. In regards to  the oceans, The Friends of Ocean Action partnership was launched, a global action reuniting experts and leaders working towards the protection of oceans in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

Overall, there is a universal feeling that we are at a critical point in addressing and solving environmental challenges and time is quite pressing. This year more than ever sees hope lying with the leaders and their decisions and further steps.

References:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/5-things-we-learned-about-the-environment-in-davos-2018

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/the-davos-2018-environment-agenda-online-what-you-need-to-know/

 

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Climate Change: Humanity’s ticking time bomb

By Mushfik Khan

Climate change. I’m sure that most people reading this have heard those words before, but are we as aware or concerned of the causes and impacts of climate change as we should be?  I mean… when was the last time you saw it trending on Twitter?

Firstly, it is important to understand what ‘climate change’ actually means as a concept.

Earth’s climate has been changing for thousands of years and has remained relatively stable whilst doing so- as can be seen from the graph below. Therefore, it is of no surprise that it will continue to change. The thing which concerns scientists around the world is the rapid rate at which the earth’s climate has been changing in recent years.

Climate Change graph

For centuries, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere did not surpass the mark labelled with an arrow on the graph. However since the Industrial Revolution, human activity through the burning of fossil fuels has been increasing the level of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at an  unstable rate.

Studies by NASA have shown that the increasing amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere are ramping up the natural greenhouse effect, causing more heat to become trapped and therefore raising the planet’s surface temperature. It is stated that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by about 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, this may not seem significant but if it continues to increase any further, it will have devastating consequences for all life forms on earth.

We are already witnessing the impacts of climate change around the globe. In recent days the southern states of the USA have been hit with 3 category 5 hurricanes which have become more destructive as a result of climate change. Furthermore, large parts of East Africa are suffering extreme droughts, many areas around the world have experienced record breaking heatwaves and extremes in precipitation patterns.

Climate Change.jpg

Those are only a few of the effects of climate change. It is clear to see that we can no longer ignore the realness of climate change, it is time for nations to come together and figure out solutions and ways to prevent the impacts of climate change from growing worse. This was what the ‘Paris Climate Agreement’ aimed to do, to bring all of the world’s nations into a single agreement to tackle climate change and one of the key elements of the agreement was to keep global temperatures well below 2.0 degrees Celsius. However, despite the agreement being dubbed as ‘historic’, the President of the United States has refused to partake in the agreement, he has already voiced his controversial opinions on Twitter, claiming that climate change does not exist and that it is all a hoax. Without the United States as party to the agreement there is no chance of it succeeding. As the world’s wealthiest nation, it’s funds are vital to support developing nations to leap straight from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy and to set an example to other nations about the seriousness of the issue.

Despite the international stage looking murky on the topic of climate change, I can safely say from the research I have done that Wales as a nation has certainly been trying.

So far, the Welsh Government has passed two acts which both recognise the central importance of climate change. The first one is the ‘Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015’. This act requires public bodies across Wales to think in a more long term and sustainable way by setting seven ‘well-being goals’ which the public bodies must take into consideration when making decisions. Furthermore, ‘The Environment (Wales) Act 2016’ emphasises sustainable management of natural resources and requires public authorities to maintain and enhance biodiversity, it also puts an obligation on welsh ministers to meet targets for greenhouse gas emissions from Wales by calling for a reduction of at least 80% of emissions by 2050.

Clearly there is a lot more work that needs to be done globally regarding climate change but time is running out and we as the future generation need to try our best to do as much as we can to ensure that the planet that we call home now is not an apocalyptic scene in the future.

For more information on what you can do to save our planet, check out the links below:

https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/

https://www.wwf.org.uk/

 

 

Key issues for the UN Climate Change Conference 2017

Flood.jpg

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.

“Don’t be mistaken on climate: there is no plan B because there is no planet B.” Macron

By Joy Wood

International agreements regarding climate change have always proved difficult to execute. The Kyoto protocol of 1997 was the first step on the way to meaningful cooperation between states in regards to  climate change. Despite its good intentions, the Kyoto protocol did not get George W. Bush to ratify the treaty, and developing countries such as India and China were not required to participate.

Paris Agreement.jpg

The Paris Agreement of 2015 however, saw huge steps in the right direction. The agreement was signed by all states, other than war-torn Syria and Nicaragua, who argued that the Paris agreement was not strong enough in the fight against carbon emissions.

At the start of June 2017, President Trump withdrew the United States  from the agreement. He argued that the withdrawal was to protect Americans from a deal which would be detrimental to the American economy. He stated that despite the withdrawal from the agreement, he would enter discussions about changing the agreement, or drafting a new one. However, other members of the G20 such as the newly elected President of France, Emmanuel Macron, said that there was no chance of a regeneration of the climate accord.

So, what does this mean for international cooperation on a whole? Well, the US withdrawal is proving to be a slippery slope. Why should one country do more than another? Why should the US not cooperate? This argument has recently been demonstrated by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who reported to the G20 that his country may be less inclined to ratify the Paris Agreement in the wake of the US decision. International cooperation is difficult.

Ultimately, the huge ratification of the accord can only be positive for the climate and for international relations. Despite the US’s decision to leave, there is still hope that the agreement will make a huge difference in tackling carbon emissions and is a great step forward in international relations.

Regardless of international agreements, making a difference on a smaller scale is still something we should strive for. We can all do more to make environmentally informed decisions.  In my opinion, climate change needs to be tackled on different scales. International agreements are important, but the role of the British government, Welsh  Assembly, right down to local councils and individuals is ultimately hugely important. Despairing at the inability of politicians to agree is not productive, trying to improve in small steps is something we do not need an international agreement to achieve.

Use WWF’s Footprint Calculator to find out how to reduce your carbon footprint.

No vote? Don’t sweat!

By Olivia Richards and Rhiannon Jones 

As the recent turnout of the general election increased by 9.3% compared to 2001, there has also been an increase among individuals who are under 18 and want their say in future elections. Here are some ways to get involved and make sure that everyone has a right to contribute politically:

  • Form a debating group – Each of you can represent a different party and talk about global issues. You might even see another side to the argument and change your mind on certain topics.
  •  Volunteer for charities such as health charities that want to make changes to laws and policies. This is a great opportunity to meet other people who are passionate about the same things as you!
  •  Host a mock election in school – This is beneficial for the whole school, as it lets everyone contribute and form opinions. Having your own polling station will prepare you for the process of voting when you turn 18.
  •  Sign online petitions – There are petitions to change all kind of policies, for example: legislation regarding animal testing. If there are 10,000 signatures to the petition, the government will respond. You could help make up these numbers if there are issues you are passionate on any of these topics.
  •  Campaigning – You could create posters and post on social media to raise awareness of issues that are important to you.petition

There are many benefits towards younger individuals taking part in such activities. One of which is having the ability to develop your own opinion. This ensures that more people will engage in political decision making and vote, as more and more will have a better understanding of how democracy works. Imagine the confidence you will develop by practicing the election process. Creative thinking is also an essential skill for everyday challenges therefore, representing different parties is a good way to come up with various ideas on how to improve the future of others.

Even though you might not be old enough to vote, campaigning is a great way to contribute and make your opinion heard. You never know who you might persuade or influence.

Whatever your age, there are opportunities for everyone. Currently, ‘Youth Parliament for Wales’ are planning to form a youth parliament where younger individuals can express their opinions on various topics that concern us all.

Interested in volunteering for the WCIA like Olivia and Rhiannon? Read about their experiences here.

Volunteering with the WCIA

By Mailys

Being a masters student in international relations and geopolitics and having spent one year studying in North Wales in 2016, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) was the perfect place to do my internship. For three months, I have been given many projects to work on such as:

  • Global Steps project — a project in collaboration with Erasmus + which aims at providing evidence of the skills and competencies developed through volunteering experience in order to facilitate access to quality employment using those skills.
  • Wales for Peace school workshops —I visited Welsh schools in order to run creative workshops and helping pupils to cover their Hidden History.

I also had the chance to attend several events such as Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary conference and Africa Day. Nation of Sanctuary conference was a coalition of charities, debating what and how to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Wales. The idea being pushed forward was to make Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary status, with an emphasis on creating a welcoming safe space for all. Such things as ‘welcoming’ or improving living conditions etc may seem small but a change in attitude and perceptions can create huge differences.

I am so glad for my experience at the WCIA. As a student, I have always been told how international institutions are important for national and international cooperation, to maintain peace. However, when at university, it seems like we are only taught about the United Nations, the OECD and other famous and massive institutions. But no-one seems to be emphasising smaller organisations that have an actual impact on these issues at a local level — like the WCIA. This is why my involvement in the WCIA has been a significant experience for me as it taught me a lot about how charities work and about the impact they can make on social, political and global issues and the extent that Wales is contributing to a greater global community and a fairer nation. To me, creating a change seems difficult by only working at an international level. However, by changing the focus to smaller everyday activities of interactions, at a local level first is what matters and what can work on the long run.

In the WCIA offices, the friendliness of everyone has been amazing. It was  also interesting to see how passionate people are on local and international subjects, on politics… Besides, I figured out there are always new ideas, skills, projects and events to be learnt, to work on and improve.

I am currently applying for my second year of masters emphasising on ‘peace studies’ and I think the internship will be an asset for my upcoming year and my future, especially when I consider the idea and objectives of the WCIA that everyone contributing to a fair and peaceful world.

After this three month internship, I have acquired several skills which improved my way of working, thinking and interacting with other. I also feel more confident about how to implement change, have an impact, talk about global issue and taking initiative than I was before the internship. The knowledge and skills I gained during my time volunteering are extremely useful and the range of opportunities I was offered in the WCIA was great.

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering opportunities with the WCIA, click here.

 

A reflection on the positive developments the world has seen in 2016

By David Hooson

 Every year, December encourages us all to look back on the year as it comes to a close. In 2016 perhaps more than ever, upsetting events have dominated and can naturally dominate our memories of the year. However, there were also plenty of positive events this year, as well as things that can give us hope that the world is still progressing towards peace and understanding between all people. Let’s recall just a few of these positive developments.

The Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which was drafted at the end of 2015, was signed in April and came into effect in November. As the most comprehensive international agreement on climate change, with the most international signatories, it has been hailed as a historic step towards tackling the environmental challenges of the future.

The terrorist group Boko Haram, one of the greatest threats to peace and security in West Africa in recent years, was further weakened this year and now appears to be on the brink of total extinction. The January release of 1,000 women held hostage was a big moment, and a further 600 people have been freed in December. The group are still holding many of the Chibok schoolgirls they kidnapped in 2014, but some have been returned to their families throughout this year.

The 52-year conflict in Colombia, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced, was resolved with a peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group. Negotiations had been ongoing for four years, and the first draft of the deal was rejected by a referendum in October. However, a revised peace agreement was signed by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leaders in November and the Colombian Congress voted to approve the deal. President Santos was also presented with this year’s Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to bring peace to his country.

In June, the United Nations’ 47-member Human Rights Council voted to appoint an independent expert on LGBT rights to monitor violence and discrimination against LGBT people globally. Past attempts to make progress on LGBT issues at the UN have been frustrated or defeated by opposition from countries where the law actively discriminates against LGBT people, so this decision represents a significant breakthrough. An attempt to overturn the decision through the UN General Assembly was defeated in November, giving this new role an even more solid basis to campaign for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals.

The Council of Europe’s ‘Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence’ – known as the Istanbul Convention – was finally ratified by 22 countries, having been signed five years ago. In some of these countries, the Convention is now the strongest protection women have against gender-based violence, sexual violence and domestic abuse. The UK is now in the process of becoming the 23rd country to ratify the Convention.

In stark contrast to divisive media rhetoric and concerning hate crime statistics, refugees from Syria arriving in Wales were warmly welcomed by local communities. The number of refugees allowed into the country is determined by the UK Government, but Local Authorities across Wales have been more than willing to help families and individuals fleeing violence, with refugees being settled all across Wales.

Examples of refugees being welcomed:

Aberystwyth

Wrexham

There will be many challenges for the international community to address in 2017, some new and some continuing, but stories like these should give us hope that we can and will continue to make progress. Hopefully next year the stories of hope and progress will dominate, and 2017 will keep the world on track towards a peaceful future of justice and equality for all.