Aneeqa Memon

EVERY year 22 April is celebrated as Earth Day that marks the anniversary of the inception of modern environmental movement in 1970 in the United States of America which is going to be celebrated this year globally with the slogan “Together We Must Invest in Our Planet”.

This environmental movement was triggered by Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller “Silent Spring” in 1962 which raised environmental consciousness among Americans and brought environmental concerns and climate change in the limelight.

Soon the global community realized that climate change is one of the defining issues to save Earth and vowed to meet Sustainable Development Goal-13 (SDG-13) to combat hazards of climate change.

In this backdrop, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 which led to the formulation of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 and its extending institution Koyoto Protocol which is considered as game-changer to cut the emission of Green House Gases (GHGs) from the environment.

UNFCCC introduced Conference of Parties (COP) to implement its mandate which led to the formulation of Paris Climate Accord, negotiated between 196 parties in COP-21 commenced in 2015.

Last year in November-2021, COP-26 was held which was participated by 196 state representatives to “save the one planet that we’ve got”.

This shows that the international community has been putting collective efforts on climate change action for the last three decades, however, factors such as national interests, threat to sovereignty, power politics, financial constraints, anti-climate change regime, etc negatively influence these efforts.

A few states believe that climate change response transgressors their sovereignty and are obstacle for their national interests.

Brazil’s stance on Amazon forests is a case in point. Amazon forests in Brazil that are considered as world’s lungs to absorb carbon dioxide, are very significant for mitigating climate change hazards and improving earth’s environment.

However, these forests are great source to flourish timber business in Brazil which is significant source of income for Brazilians.

Therefore, to meet the interests of its citizens, Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, converted carbon sink into carbon sources in Amazon by massive deforestation.

Brazil conveniently breaches climate change protocols because following them adversely affects the interests of its citizens.

Moreover, the decision to follow or unfollow climate change protocols also determines regimes in some states.

For instance, in Australia, which is world’s largest exporter of coal, mining policies can decide election outcomes.

Therefore, the present government is determined to put minimum efforts in combating climate change hazards.

Same is the case with Poland where limiting coal mining for climate change concerns adversely influence election outcomes.

In addition, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, in 2017 brought slab of coal in parliament, declaring ‘don’t be scared’ of coal, which consequently erupted protests against climate change policies that are considered as detrimental to public interests and sovereignty of states.

These harsh responses of some states make it difficult for international community to achieve SDG-13 and mitigate hazards of climate change and global warming.

Climate change and global warming have devastating consequences; intense droughts, floods, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, warming oceans, health issues, land-sliding, wildfires, less crop yield, insufficient food supply, and many more.

In 2021, there were many environmental hazards across the world such as volcano in Indonesia’s Java Island and Italy’s Mt.

Etna spewing lava, wildfires ravaged Patagonia, Argentina, Spain, Western Australia, USA, Russia and Algeria, sandstorms in Beijing, northern China, Mongolia, and Kuwait, tropical cyclone Serojain Indonesia and cyclone Yaas in Bangladesh, forest fires in Turkey and Greece, tropical storms in Alabama and New York, hurricane Grace in Mexico and hurricane Ida in south-eastern US states and many more.

These disastrous hazards killed hundreds, injured thousands and rendered millions of people homeless across the globe.

Against this backdrop, there is a dire need of a substantial and collective effort with sincere output from all stakeholders to minimize climate change damages.

Sustainable development policy mechanism should be promoted to protect the environment in this era of hyper-industrialization.

Environment-friendly technology should be developed for all sectors (energy, transportation, agriculture, waste management, and forestry), encouraging eco-friendly sustainable development.

Nations should integrate climate change measures into their national policies to minimize adverse impacts of climate change on state’s national economy, environment and health sectors.

There is also a need of more environmentally conscious regimes who do not compromise climate change protocols for their vested and short-term national interests.

Environment and climate literacy campaigns should be organized for improving awareness-raising for climate change concerns and curtailing the protests against climate change protocols.

International community specially developed countries should take responsibility to minimize emission of GHGs and mobilize enough amount of money to address the need of developing countries in moving towards a low-carbon economy.

On Earth Day 2022, international community should vow to join hand-in-hand to save “the only planet that we have got” from environmental hazards.

(Courtesy Pakistan Observer)