Climate deals make 2015 ‘biggest year since 1945’, says UN envoy

Need to update development goals and finalise global CO2 pact make 2015 most important in 70 years, says Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson speaking in March at #GlobalChallenges climate event (Flickr / ODI)

Mary Robinson speaking in March at #GlobalChallenges climate event (Flickr / ODI)

By Alex Pashley

The year’s packed climate action agenda made it the most crucial since World World Two, Ban Ki-moon’s top emissary said on Thursday.

Pending agreements over sustainable development goals, climate finance and the content of a pact to replace the Kyoto treaty meant 2015 was “the biggest year since 1945”, according to UN special climate envoy Mary Robinson.

It’s the year greenhouse gas emissions must peak to stay within humanity’s maximum allowance to stop temperatures rising 2C above pre industrial levels.

Last year a UN panel of scientists said warming above this level will lead to more floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

But plans afoot must be done in the context of sustainable development, respecting human rights and working to lessen poverty, Robinson urged at Imperial College London at the Grantham Institute annual lecture.

“Now isn’t the moment to get cold feet. 2015 is the moment to catalyse (…) it is the time for climate justice,” the former President of Ireland said in a passionate address to an audience of over 300.

As almost 200 nations submit plans to reduce their release of heat-trapping gases, the form of the Millennium Development Goals’s successor and negotiations over climate finance, which give aid to countries hit by climate impacts, will take shape.

The task in hand rivalled the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions and Marshall Plan, which reshaped the global economy postwar.

Sustainable development goals, to come into effect in 2016, and climate change were now “two sides of the same coin”, she said.

Using the plight of the Pacific island state of Kiribati, whose president was forced to buy land to relocate to neighbouring Fuji as rising sea levels threaten its existence, Robinson set her message.

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The country’s “migration with dignity” was clear reason for climate justice, she said.

At the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ drafting, the idea that whole countries could be wiped by climate impacts away didn’t exist, said Robinson, who runs a Foundation for Climate Justice.

Climate finance, directing the world’s estimated $90 trillion of investment in the next 15 years to low carbon development, and leaving two-thirds of remaining fossil fuels in the ground, were all vital to rein in global warming.

Women’s education and better healthcare to lower infant mortality rates could hold down population growth, she added.

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