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HNMUN 2014 Committees: General Assembly - Climate Change

A farmer prepares his field for the planting season near Nathenje on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi.
Ausaid Photo, Stephen Morrison

"How many lives do we want to lose, not just in the Philippines but in communities that have other climate impacts?"
Naderev Sano, leader of the Philippines delegation to the 19th UN climate change conference four days after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck his island nation


Scientists have begun warning about the drastic consequences of climate change as early as 1979. International politics concerned itself with the issue about a decade later. In 1988 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which should eventually be recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize. The member states of the UN signed an international environmental treaty to establish the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was negotiated at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. The objective of the treaty has been to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." About five years later, in 1997, a protocol to this convention was signed to set binding obligations on industrialized countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. This protocol is widely known as the "Kyoto Protocol".

Since then, however, barely any progress has been made to establish efficient measures to control the causes of climate change. Contrarily, some major countries, such as Canada, have even withdrawn from the Kyoto protocol. The lowest point of this development was the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen where the international community failed to establish a legal framework to follow the Kyoto period. For now, the not very ambitious goal is to establish some form of legally binding deal to take effect in 2020.

In the mean time, however, the consequences of climate change already become apparent. To name just a few examples: In 2005 Hurricane Katharina and in 2012 Hurricane Sandy caused catastrophic damages in Caribbean Countries and in particular in the United States and just recently typhoon "Haiyan" cost 10,000 lives in the Philippines. In addition to these catastrophic events there a also more subtle developments such as desertification and sea level change. Scarce natural resources such as drinking water are likely to become even more limited. Many crops and some livestock are unlikely to survive in certain locations if conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet. The issue of food security is an immediate concern in many parts of the world.

While the international community has proved itself to be unable to control the causes of climate change, it now has the chance and the obligation to at least deal with the consequences of climate change. The objective of this committee is not to be misconstrued as to drafting a new climate contract. On the one hand, delegates will have to comply with the sometimes quite one-sided positions of the countries they represent. On the other hand, they still have to provide the flexibility and courage to find effective measures to help those who are suffering from the consequences of climate change. Specific issues to be addressed are inter alia the coordination of international disaster relief, the question of dealing with climate refugees and finding sustainable ways of helping affected regions.


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