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New Year resolution: tackle long-standing global issues


It’s that time of year again. With Christmas behind us, we start wondering what 2015 will bring and whether we will be able to keep our New Year resolutions.

This year, it will be particularly important for political leaders to set ambitious New Year resolutions, and to see them through. Two major threads come together in 2015 which will shape all of our futures in profound ways.

In September, new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) will replace and enhance the existing Millennium Development goals, and in December, the long-running climate negotiations should conclude in a deal that will determine global greenhouse gas emissions for the decade from 2020 and financing for the measures poorer countries will be able to take to adapt to climate change.

So 2015 gives us an unprecedented opportunity to safeguard the natural world, tackle climate change and eradicate poverty – and hence contribute to sustainable development.  This is critical to our mission of building a world with a future in which both people and nature thrive.

Replacing the UN’s Millennium Development Goals with new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) presents an unprecedented opportunity to develop an integrated strategy to tackle environmental and development issues together.

Twitter quote - Christiana FigueresTwitter quote – Christiana Figueres

Good environmental stewardship is central to achieving poverty eradication, and vice versa, and we will be championing the need for the new SDG’s to include targets that safeguard our forests and oceans. The clear-felling and degrading of forests affects the lives of over one billion people who depend on forests for their livelihoods, destroys the habitats of wildlife, and is also a major contributor to climate change.

The outcome of the recent Lima climate talks were disappointing. We went to Lima with hopes that recent momentum on climate change would result in a positive agreement and a clear road map to an effective climate deal in Paris in December 2015.

After all, the recent IPCC report on the science, likely impacts and suggested responses to climate change gave the most robust evidence to date for decisive and urgent action.  The September UN Secretary General’s Summit on climate change, and the marches including 400,000 people (of whom I was one) in New York were hopeful signals. The signs looked encouraging with the US and China agreeing to address their emissions, pledges to the Green Climate Fund and the EU reaching a framework for emissions cuts by 2030.

But what happened was that delegates kicked the can down the road, leaving much to do in 2015.  They also ducked spelling out what action they will undertake before 2020, apparently prepared to burden the politicians who succeed them with this challenge. This is a crucial issue as it is at the heart of the ‘emissions gap’ between what countries have committed to do to reduce their emissions by this time and what the science tells us is necessary.

Having returned from Lima and taken stock of events, I have not lost my optimism and I hope that this time next year, when we have returned from Paris, we will be celebrating the conclusion of a successful and effective climate change agreement.

Like others, I think that 2015 will be a special year and an extraordinarily busy one for environmental and development NGOs. As we enter 2015, we could be – despite the Lima talks’ shortcomings – just about on track to achieve something momentous for how humanity co-exists with the rest of nature on this planet.

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