Why This Week Is Huge For Climate Action


Monday marks the beginning of a week full of national and global action to combat climate change and push for environmental justice. Events ranging from the United Nations’ sustainability assembly to climate change rallies on the National Mall are all happening over the course of this week, in coordination with Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

This week, the United Nations is meeting to adopt a new 15-year plan for sustainable development. The plan outlines 17 broad goals and 169 specific targets to end world poverty, improve health and education, ensure gender and racial equality for all, implement sustainable building and agricultural practices in impoverished countries, conserve world oceans, and take urgent action to combat climate change. These Sustainable Development Goals replace the previously developed Millennium Development Goals and are intended to be achieved by 2030.

Right now there are no specific plans on how to measure the progress of each target. The goals will be discussed at the Sustainable Development Summit scheduled to take place September 25 to 27, preceding the annual U.N. general assembly on September 28 in New York City.

Critics of the Sustainable Development Goals are calling the targets “too broad,” while supporters are saying that “there is no choice but to go big in a world of expanding population, growing inequality, dwindling resources and the existential threat from global warming,” according to the Global Gazette.

The goals clearly emphasize the need to connect the impacts of climate change to gender and racial equality – specifically women in developing and impoverished countries. With women often being charged with providing critical resources such as food and water, as well as making up the majority of the agricultural workforce, sustainability movements have been pushing the importance of women’s rights in the realm of environmental protection.

“I urge partners across the world to embrace the ambition embodied in the new set of goals. I look forward to working together to deliver on the unfinished MDG commitments, tackle inequality and meet the new challenges that have emerged across the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a press conference in New York on September 18.

Complimenting this new season of goal setting, the Climate Group kicked-off its 7th annual “Climate Week NYC” Monday at the United Nation’s Headquarters in New York City. This week-long event is intended to highlight bold climate action from business and political leaders, as well as set sights for furthering renewable energy growth. Leaders such as U.S. Secretary John Kerry, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and Ban Ki-Moon spoke at last year’s conference, making it the largest thus far.

Under-pinning this week’s climate action, “Popemania” is sparking even further public action towards environmental and social justice. Cities across the U.S. East Coast have been anticipating Pope Francis’ first-ever visit from September 22 to the 28. Americans are expecting to hear him speak on the moral case of climate change, along with other social issues. Given his historically progressive stance towards people contributing to climate change, all signs point to Francis making climate a major component of his visit.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day,” he wrote is his 192-page papal encyclical earlier this year. In his words, “climate is a common good” and stronger action must be taken in order to protect it.

Francis will be speaking at the United Nations in New York on Friday, September 25, the day after he plans to deliver a speech to Congress. It is not confirmed that his speech will be centered on environmental action, but several environmental groups have organized a climate rally and free concert on the National Mall at the same time. Over 200,000 people are expected to attend and call on political leaders to follow Pope Francis’ lead in demanding for climate justice.

This week’s wide mix of environmental and global goal-setting are paving the way for further climate action expected at the United Nations climate conference in Paris later this year.

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