For the last 50 years, the United Nations (UN) has been the leading global actor in identifying the problems of climate change and mobilizing efforts to address those problems. The UN has provided a unique and essential platform and infrastructure for its member states and designated agencies to cooperate with Non-Governmental organizations and business and industry and individual actors to deal with the emerging crisis of climate change. The UN along with its Intragovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has provided ongoing up to date research on climate issues for the global community. Much of the data supporting the 2015 Paris Climate Change Accords, the most current iteration of aspired global policy on climate change, was developed by the IPCC.
Progress on nation states’ promises to lower carbon emissions documented in the Paris Climate Change Accords was to be evaluated at a major UN conference in Glasgow this summer 2020. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, “Glasgow”, like many UN major events and conferences planned for 2020, was postponed to a date “to be determined” in 2021. So while individual projects by specific UN agencies serving vulnerable populations carry on, and business and industry work to develop new strategies to develop green renewable energy and reduce fossil fuel and methane emissions, there has not been the long anticipated public reckoning of individual states measured efforts to slow down the rate of climate change and specific reports on states’ policies and practices to mitigate climate change.
We know of course that individual states and their administrations are the biggest political drivers of efforts to reach or forestall the goals of climate change mitigation and adaptation. And in the United States, Donald Trump is posed to withdraw the United States formally from the Paris Accords on November 4, 2020.
However if a different president is elected this November, i.e. Joe Biden, he can again pledge our membership in the Accords soon after he takes office. We all hope we can recapture the momentum of a Green New Deal that was heralded by the likes of Greta Thunberg in the spring and summer of 2019. We need to turn back efforts to start new drilling for oil in the Arctic, invest in green energy and regulate safer emission levels for our vehicles. We need to vote November 3rd to insure that happens.
But what to do in the meantime?. This is where the "You-N" comes in. The UN also has a suggestion for that. The UN has a simple plan called ACT NOW, for individuals to do their part in combating climate change. ACT NOW offers 10 simple suggestions for individuals to practice in their daily lives to address climate change. One can find many similar lists.
The UN ACT NOW program encourages individuals to record their actions such as shutting lights, taking shorter showers, driving less, eating less red meat on its website. It’s a behavioral way to keep track of our individual efforts to slow down climate change. It works like our own individual “Fitbit” for climate change and helps measure our behavioral changes.
If one didn’t want to take time for that exercise, but still wanted to hold oneself accountable one might develop their own Paris Accords support group. Just like nation states pledging specific actions on proposed policies and practices, you and your friends and family could put in writing the changes you hope to implement in your daily lives. Once a year, or monthly you could report back to your fellow group members on your progress. Just like nation states you would have to be honest and transparent, and like UN member states reacting respectfully to one another, everyone in your group would pledge to be most diplomatic in offering feedback and accountability. It would help us all understand the difficulties of making a global compact work.
And as mentioned above, along with personal changes, it is critical, it is existential, it is really important to elect a President this November 3rd who accepts the science of climate change and who is willing to provide the very hard work of leadership in bringing our country along to make personal and policy changes necessary to address climate change to save our planet.
We are much better off and feel much better if we adopt a vision of letting go what we cannot control and changing only what we can control. We can always learn from Mahatma Gandhi who offered this:
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do”.