This week, the United Nations General Assembly meets in New York to discuss the current state of affairs in climate change. The UN has organised the Climate Action Summit this year to bring world leaders together to discuss the emergency crisis affecting millions on our planet.
Prior to the summit, activists around the world have begun to come out in droves to have their voices heard. Last Friday, climate marches took place in over 163 countries where more than 4 million people protested in streets demanding active solutions for climate change. It is said to be the largest world demonstration recorded in history.
The face of the fight against climate change has been Greta Thunberg, who has urged leaders time and time again over the past year, to act as if “our house is on fire”. Her words and passion for our planet has inspired the youth to take it to the streets. She began her activism in Sweden, where she stood outside the Swedish parliament for days on end demanding something to be done.
In 2015, world leaders signed the Paris Agreement to commit actions towards limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. 197 countries signed the Paris Agreement where 185 have ratified the agreement. However, many of these countries have only paid lip service to the agreement. National Geographic has published a Climate Change report card that highlights the countries who have kept their commitments as well as those who have barely tried.
The most recent report published in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body that carries out research on climate change, discuss the impacts of a 2 degrees Celsius change against a 1.5 degrees Celsius change. The IPCC report is a clear message to world leaders and policy makers that by aiming for 1.5 degrees Celsius, more significant damages to our planet can be reduced. It is also important to remember that the IPCC has reported that in less than 12 years, our actions against the climate will be irreversible.
Currently, PBI provides support for defenders of land rights, culture and natural resources in countries across the world. These are individuals and organisations who defend their land and territory against the imposition of economic projects that will damage nature and contribute to climate change. These human rights defenders deserve the platform Greta Thunberg has, however, in the contexts PBI works in, these people are at huge risk and speaking out often brings with it threats, attacks, stigmatization and criminalization. We must stand in solidarity with these people to ensure they can continue fighting to protect our climate and planet.