Awareness of the Abyss

Massive media coverage and strong statements by more than 120 heads of state and government that attended, including King Felipe VI, but a lack of concrete resolutions in the sphere of global commitments: this is the balance of the Climate Summit convened by the United Nations. But the majority of the voiced opinions give reason to hope that things are changing; what happened at the New York Summit shows that the realization is starting to get through the rulers that the time to avoid the effects of climate change is running out, and it is happening faster than expected.

In the last few weeks, large public mobilizations aimed to pressure governments and international agencies to replace the policy of gestures with a policy of actions have been added to the warnings coming from the scientific panel that monitors the health of the planet. A set of sectorial agreements and conventions of variable geometry enabled the summit to finally become something more than a “festival of the word,” as Ban Ki-moon had requested. Rich countries agreed to significant donations to the Green Climate Fund, which seeks to mitigate the effects of climate change in the most vulnerable areas; 230 cities, which total more than 400 million inhabitants, signed an agreement to reduce their emissions by 12 percent annually; 36 countries signed another agreement — in which Brazil’s absence is regrettable — to stop deforestation and restore hundreds of millions of acres of degraded land, and the U.S., represented by President Obama, got even more involved by making a commitment to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 2020 to 17 percent below those of 2005.

But to “move the world in a new direction,” as the United Nations proposes, we need to go much further in making commitments. The planet cannot afford for the summit planned in Paris at the end of 2015 to be a failure, like the Copenhagen one in 2009. There are 15 months left to define and settle on a new global agreement that substitutes the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. The challenge is as crucial as it is urgent — the countries committed to the Kyoto Protocol now account for just 15 percent of emissions. And it is vital that the new agreement encompasses the biggest polluters, including China, the United States and India.

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