“There is a sense that change is in the air. Climate change is not a far-off problem. It is happening now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives.
Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow.
But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.”
This was part of the blurb previewing this week’s UN Climate Summit in New York, which aimed to advance climate action on five fronts: cutting emissions; mobilising money and markets; pricing carbon; strengthening resilience; and mobilising new coalitions.
So, what has changed this past week or so?
We’ve seen crowds take to the streets in “the largest climate change protest in global history” (see bottom of this post for a selection of #PeoplesClimate snaps).
We’ve seen US President Obama tell the UN that “we are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it”.
We’ve seen the significant news that the Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining the divestment movement, which the New York Times reported as part of a much wider trend.
And we’ve learnt that leading businesses including, IKEA, Swiss Re, BT, Formula E, H&M, KPN, Mars, Nestlé, Philips, Reed Elsevier, J. Safra Sarasin and Yoox, have joined an initiative to encourage major companies to commit to using 100% renewable power.
With the goal that “by 2020, 100 of the world’s largest businesses will have committed to 100% renewable power”, the RE100 campaign will highlight the business and reputational benefits enjoyed by companies who make the commitment to use power exclusively from renewable energy sources.
We’ve also seen celebrities lend their cultural capital to climate change campaigning, including Leonardo DiCaprio telling the UN: “This is the most urgent of times, and the most urgent of messages.”
In New York, NZ, Canada and elsewhere, we’ve seen many health and scientific leaders step up (see also the BMJ and JAMA). In Australia, public health leaders including Professor Fiona Stanley and Professor Rob Moodie addressed the crowds.
Of course, the sector could do much more. Croakey was surprised to learn that climate change was not one of the five rural health priorities pursued by the National Rural Health Alliance in meetings with MPs this week.
Not surprisingly, the Australian Government is MIA, and PM Tony Abbott’s absence from the UN summit was criticised by Australian health and medical leaders who were there.
Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) President Dr Liz Hanna, who attended the invitation-only meeting with colleagues Dr Peter Sainsbury and Dr Lynne Madden, said the PM’s refusal to attend the Summit was “inexcusable”. She said:
“The decision by our Prime Minister not to attend this extremely significant meeting in New York is a slap in the face for the millions of Australians who want effective action on climate change.
The refusal by the Australian government to engage in developing an effective global response to the world’s most significant risk to health by ruling out stronger emissions cuts is effectively saying to children and young people: ‘We don’t care about your future’.”
It’s been a week when poetry moved people to tears (Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a 26-year-old poet from the Marshall Islands, addressed the Summit’s opening ceremony).
And it’s been a productive week for satire.
Meanwhile, some snaps from the #PeoplesClimate events around Australia and elsewhere
Rallies and marches were held in Merimbula, Geraldton, Coffs Harbour and many other rural and regional centres – as well as the capital cities.
Finally – please consider supporting an important cause and Give Now to the Climate and Health Alliance.
PostScript: While writing this post, I was terribly sad to learn of the death of Professor Tony McMichael. Please read the tributes to his life and work in global public health, particularly the health impacts of climate change.