Climate Change and Politics: How Politics can steer Climate Action?
Political discourse is the voice of the masses & has the power to instil positive action for the planet. Learn how climate change & politics affect each other.
Climate change was first known to many of us as global warming, a phrase dating to the 1950s. It indicated “a long-term rise in Earth’s average atmospheric temperature.” Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist, proposed the idea that global warming in 1896.
Climate change emerged as a political issue in the 1970s when the topic shifted from being solely discussed as a scientific concern. It gained attention as a point of political discussion due to increased activism around environmental crises on a global scale. In 1970, Earth Day was the first large-scale environmental movement that called for the protection of all life on earth. Ever since then climate change has been a hot topic during political discussion.
In the 21st century, the close relationship between climate change & politics is rather evident. Every global summit, political rally or meeting has attendees discussing climate change. While several bills, protocols, and action plans have been created over the years, the momentum for climate action has been sluggish. However, we can not ignore the power politics & global cooperation have in steering the wheel for a better planet.
Let us look at some instances from the past where global cooperation or political agendas have resulted in climate action.
Power of Politics in Climate Action
Climate change is an issue that affects the entire planet. Thus, all those that live on the planet will face the consequences of climate change. It is because of the global nature of the issue, formal political debate on the planet’s environment began in June 1973 with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) in Stockholm. The UNCHE identified the need for states to collaborate in order to solve global environmental issues.
Policies & Global Cooperation for Climate Change
- Montreal Protocol, 1987
The Montreal Protocol was a historic environmental agreement that served as a framework for future environmental diplomacy. It required countries to stop producing ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The protocol was successful in removing nearly all of these ozone-depleting substances.
- UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, 1992
The UNFCC agreement, ratified by 197 countries, was the first global treaty to explicitly address climate change. It established the Conference of the Parties, or COP, as an annual forum for international discussions aimed at stabilising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These conferences resulted in the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
- Kyoto Protocol,1997
The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 and ratified in 2005, was the world’s first legally binding climate treaty. It required developed countries to cut emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels by 2020, and it established a system to track countries’ progress.
- Paris Agreement, 2015
The Paris Agreement requires all countries to make pledges to reduce emissions. Governments establish targets known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) with the goal of preventing global average temperatures from rising 2°C (3.6°F) above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to keep them below 1.5°C (2.7°F). It also intends to achieve global net-zero emissions or carbon neutrality by 2030.
- The Glasgow Climate Pact, 2021
The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first climate agreement to explicitly plan for unabated coal use reduction. The agreement also included a pledge to provide climate finance to developing countries.
Importance of Global Cooperation in tackling Climate Change
Since the early 1990s, countries have debated how to combat climate change. Several important agreements like the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement have emerged from these negotiations. Governments generally agree on the science of climate change, but they disagree on who is most to blame and how to set emissions-reduction targets.
Climate change affects the entire planet. The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the threat of climate change, has made global cooperation and its actors, such as the United Nations, more important than ever.
As we work to recover from the crisis, we must learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them. We need to build better means of repairing that repair both our economies and our planet.
International cooperation was essential to overcome the pandemic and is thus necessary for addressing climate change. Just as the virus disregards all borders and unleashes its devastation without regard for borders, so does carbon emissions, rising temperatures and melting glaciers.
Climate change is a significant threat multiplier, acting as a catalyst for destabilisation and conflict, particularly in the most vulnerable states. Climate change has an impact on global economics, and climate degradation magnifies already volatile situations.
Natural disasters increased pressure on natural resources, loss of livelihood, forced displacement or rising social and political unrest disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. Global warming is not a “soft threat,” and we must all work together to address it.
How can individuals help steer Policy Changes?
Political discourses are not happening in a vacuum but a way to represent the voice of the people. We can be actively involved in steering the direction go global politics by consumer activism. Consumer activism entails putting the responsibility for changing policies and systems on governments and corporations rather than the consumer.
Some ways in which you can help steer climate change and politics includes:
- Vote wisely. Choose candidates that will represent your opinions, voice concerns and also ensure climate action.
- Sign Petitions. This can seem like an insignificant step but signing petitions is a direct display of large numbers coming together for a cause. So continue to do so.
- Write to your Local Representative, Brand or Organisation. Voice your concerns in an official letter of complaint. Let those in charge know what values you appreciate and what changes you would like them to make.
- Talk about it and spread the word. Climate conversations are essential for positive change. getting more people involved only means more numbers for steps 1-3!
- If all else fails, run for office. After all, we live in a democracy where every individual has a right to express their views and represent the views of a group. Take a chance, take the stand.
Let us all become consumer advocates and steer the political discourse around climate change in a direction that ensures a habitable planet for future generations to come.
Sanjoli is currently working as a Content Strategist and has a Master’s degree in Fashion Journalism. She has contributed to publications like MensXP, Mindless Mag and Sustain: The Mag in the past. Conscious Charcha is her way of learning more about sustainability and spreading the word about a sustainable lifestyle.