Internationally, the United Nations Climate Summit convened recently in New York, on September 23. Attendees included world leaders, celebrities, businesses, and activists who expressed their devotion to the cause and declared visions and plans to curb emissions. Many leaders advocated a timeline in which greenhouse gas emissions would reach a peak before 2020, then decline to a level of climate neutrality after 2050. Public and private sources pledged contributions totalling 2.3 billion US dollars to the Green Climate Fund, and many others vowed to make contributions by November 2014.
A newly formed coalition of “governments, business, finance, multilateral development banks, and civil society leaders” also declared to mobilize more than 200 billion US dollars for the purpose of financing “low-carbon and climate-resilient development.” The first Global Agricultural Alliance was also formed with the purpose of enabling 500 million farmers to practice “climate-smart agriculture” by 2030. Many attendees also committed to reducing methane emissions by 2020.
The Compact of Mayors coalition was also launched at the summit. Comprised of more than 2,000 cities, the coalition has a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 454 million tons a year. The cities involved plan to meet this goal through knowledge sharing, transparency, and accountable means. This move is quite significant since, according to the UN, up to 70% of global carbon emissions is produced by cities. Among the coalition members, 15 cities including Copenhagen, London, and Washington DC vowed to cut more than 70% of their emissions by 2050.
The main motive of the summit was to generate enthusiasm and concern in the hopes of reaching a meaningful agreement at the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris. This conference is also referred to as “COP21” as it is the 21st Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The objective of COP21 is to achieve “a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all nations of the world” – an unprecedented feat in over 20 years of UN negotiations.
Prior to the summit, the UN Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) also submitted a policy brief to the UN Secretary General. In the brief, SAB listed the barriers to and challenges of making climate change policies and made recommendations to bridging the gap between science and policy, both locally and globally. SAB, comprised of 26 scientific experts, was created early this year to advise the UN Secretary General and the Executive Heads of UN branches, in recognition of the importance of science in global sustainability issues and policymaking.
The Nagoya Protocol is coming into effect on October 12. Signed four years ago by 92 UN member nations in Nagoya, Japan, this international agreement aims to protect developing nations from biopiracy. Under the protocol, researchers must not only obtain permits to collect samples from some countries, but also arrange for “access and benefit sharing” (ABS) agreements. Though some laud the protocol’s potential to enhance trust between scientists and local people and its protection of minority rights, others are concerned about the red tape that would ensue. The protocol may impede monitoring of diseases, hamper research in synthetic biology (as it requires the combination of several different genetic codes), and make international collaboration difficult due to different regulations in countries.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Grand Challenges in Global Health program, a 458-million-US-dollar program created to fund studies that contribute to global health. At its anniversary event, the foundation announced three new initiatives – “All Children Thriving”, “Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development”, and “Creating New Interventions for Global Health”.