Ban Ki-moon, the outgoing secretary general of the United Nations, urged the world leaders to take immediate actions to combat the effects of climate change in order to save the planet and all its life forms.
“There is no time to waste,” he said at a press conference following a high-level meeting on the enforcement of Paris Agreement on climate change at the UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday.
He said 31 additional countries had deposited their ratification instruments for the agreement at the meeting.
He expressed hope that the agreement would be implemented by the end of this year.
“I am confident that, by the time I leave office, the Paris Agreement will have entered into force,” he said. “This will be a major achievement for multilateralism.”
What is delaying Paris Agreement?
According to the clauses of the agreement, it will come into force 30 days after it is ratified by at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of the greenhouse gas emission in the world.
Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that 60 countries officially joined the agreement since it was signed by world leaders in April.
China and the US – the two countries which together represent 40% of global greenhouse gas emission – joined the agreement earlier this month.
With 31 new ratifications on Wednesday, the total number of countries ratifying the agreement stands at more than 55, but the combined greenhouse gas emission of these countries stands at 47.5% - 7.5% less than the required mark.
The scale of damage due to climate change
The impact of climate change has been severe over the last two decades. Rise in global temperature has resulted in rapidly melting ice shelves at the Arctic Circle and Antarctica, holes in the ozone layer in the atmosphere, extreme weather, and disastrous effects on agriculture, according to experts, who say use of fossil fuels is the major reason behind the rise in temperature.
In its latest report published in 2014, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the global warming of 2.5°C would cost the equivalent to losing between 0.2-2% of annual income.
The report was based on Stern Review in 2006, which said delay in restricting the impact of climate change would increase the cost, and stressed putting effective measures in place to combat climate change as soon as possible.
According to a World Bank report published in May this year, climate change will cause water crisis at countries in South Asia, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, which in turn will severely affect these countries’ economies.
The report predicts a fall in the GDP of these countries to 6% on average by 2050, all due to water crisis.
Bangladesh is one of the countries that are high at risk of the impacts of climate change. The rise of sea level and extreme weather events have already resulted in migration of population towards the north from the coastal areas.
The report further states that lack of preventive action by 2050 will put around 1.3 billion people at risk due to rapid increase in climate change-related natural disasters.
According to a report published by UK-based medical journal Lancet in March this year, rise in global temperature will cause deterioration in the nutrition levels of food, resulting in the death of more than 500,000 people every year by 2050.
‘There is still hope’
Before the high-level meeting at the UN headquarters, the number of countries that joined the Paris Agreement was 29.
With the addition of 31 new countries, one of the thresholds of the agreement – ratification by at least 55 countries – was met in one day.
Ban Ki-moon congratulated the countries for their continued efforts in pushing forward the pact’s entry into force.
“This means we will cross the final barrier for entry into force of the Paris Agreement,” he said.
He also warned that fast action was necessary to ensure prevention of climate change impacts. “Climate impacts are increasing. No nation or community is immune, but the vulnerable are feeling the effects first and worst.”
Lauding the continued global efforts behind the agreement, he called on the world leaders to capitalise on the momentum to ensure the pact’s enforcement by this year.
However, a number of scientists and experts are sceptic about the effectiveness of Paris Agreement in combating climate change. Many believe that the agreement does not comprise specific guidelines and will be too costly to implement.
Dr James Hansen, former Nasa scientist and an adjunct professor at Columbia University, who is considered the pioneer in raising awareness of climate change, dismissed the agreement, calling it “a fraud.”
“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he told the Guardian in December last year. “‘We will have 2°C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”