World Unites for Global Climate Week
Nairobi, 25 September 2009 - What unites supermodels, politicians, actors, presidents, school children, postal workers and train drivers from all continents and across all walks of life?
How can you inspire people to partake in candle lit dinners, petition signing, be part of a "mob freeze" in the streets of Geneva, join a business community talking about sustainability, take bike rides, adopt canvas shopping bags and start walking?
The answer is a global call to action - the first ever Global Climate Week led by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) from 21-25 September - that rallied diverse groups, organizations and individuals in around 100 countries. It was all in support of the Seal the Deal! climate change campaign.
Global Climate Week attracted pledges and actions that varied from the quirky, the raucous, the symbolic and the serious. In Nepal, youth social activists, street children, artists, writers and sculptors congregated in a World Heritage site in Kathmandu to paint green messages and one driver went around the capital city on a cycle brandishing the message, "Save Earth, We Have Nowhere Else To Go!!
In China, some citizens declared a "no electricity day", taking buses to airports and a group 20 young Chinese students at an engineering firm in ShangHai discussed how best to lessen their carbon footprint.
Passionate Environmentalist Gisele Bündchen, when designated UNEP's New Goodwill Ambassador as Global Climate week kicked off said: "The environment has always been my passion. I grew up in a small town and I had the opportunity to live surrounded by nature. I couldn't have asked for a better childhood. We must act now, so future generations have the same opportunity. Mother Earth is our fundamental life-support system, and by becoming aware and responsible now, we can assist in preserving the planet."
Shopping malls in Ghana, Bangkok and across Europe took the week to heart and involved customers by asking them to sign the Climate Petition on the Seal the Deal! webpage or send in postcards.
In South Africa, trees and vegetable gardens were planted at AIDS orphanages and Coastal Clean Up rehabilitated penguins and birds that had suffered from oil spills and pollution.
Cities, cooperatives, industry and civil society associations pledged to significantly reduce their carbon footprint and promote greener living by joining the Climate Neutral Network led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The Universal Postal Union will produce the postal sector's first global carbon footprint inventory. The International Union of Railways (UIC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the global conservation organization WWF is launching a symbolic one-month and nearly 9,000 kilometre-long train journey from Kyoto to Copenhagen, to document the impacts of climate change and raise awareness of low-carbon transport solutions.
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: "The growth of the climate neutral movement around the world is a clear sign that people from all walks of life are committed to solving the climate crisis and bringing about low-carbon economies and societies."
2009 may be remembered as the year of global recession, but it will also be noted as a year of initiatives where people came together for a common cause ahead of one of the most critical environmental meetings in December.
The December Copenhagen meeting could change the course of history. We know that Climate Change is already affecting us all. Some of the latest 2009 science is frightening. It's not that we want to scare people, but we do want governments, leaders and industry to wake up and accept that we cannot carry on with "business as usual."
The numbers don't sound big, but their effects could be cataclysmic. A 2C rise above pre-industrial levels would see 20-40% of the Amazon die off within 100 years. A 3C rise would see 75% of the forest destroyed by drought over the following century, while a 4C rise would kill 85%. (Nature Geoscience)
However - there is good news. The worst of global warming can still be avoided if Greenhouse gases levels are cut substantially. We don't have to allow ourselves to continue along a path of no return where Earth's life support systems approach dangerous thresholds.
As the latest UNEP report reveals, the pace and scale of climate change may now be outstripping even the most sobering predictions of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC).
Researchers have become increasingly concerned about ocean acidification linked with the absorption of carbon dioxide in seawater and the impact on shellfish and coral reefs.
Losses from glaciers, ice-sheets and the Polar Regions appear to be happening faster than anticipated, with the Greenland ice sheet, for example, recently seeing melting some 60 percent higher than the previous record of 1998.
In New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that his one-day climate change summit on the 22nd gave fresh impetus to efforts to tackle global warming. Here the heads of state from over 100 countries had gathered to discuss the political and social ramifications of climate change, and how to best overcome the current stall on dealing it.
Mr. Ban in New York added that momentum has shifted in favour of reaching a deal at December's crucial climate meeting in Copenhagen. Let's hope so.