FULL of bureaucrats from across the globe, the UN usually runs diplomatic campaigns. So you know it’s serious when they choose a decidedly political slogan for World Environment Day 2014: Raise Your Voice, Not The Sea Level.
The pressure for climate action has been building, and the UN’s call to arms is a signal of its frustration.
In 2012, the usually conservative World Bank released its report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided because slow negotiations were putting the planet on track to warm 4 degrees.
In 2013, the always conservative World Economic Forum released its Global Risks 2013 report, highlighting continued carbon pollution as a major risk for the global economy, and runaway climate change an X-factor that multiplies and exacerbates all risk.
In April 2014, the International Panel on Climate Change released the last report in the series Climate Change 2014, on the latest science on physics and impacts of climate change.
The message is clear: human activities, particularly carbon pollution and forest clearing, are the dominant cause of our changing climate. Our oceans are warming, glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.
Scientists tell us that this is the critical decade to act, otherwise extreme weather events – bushfires, floods and drought – will become more frequent and severe.
There is some hope.
Negotiators from around the world are currently meeting in Germany to design the climate agreement that will be adopted next year in Paris and operate from 2020.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is pushing countries to reduce carbon pollution quickly and deeply before 2020, and has expressed his approval of the recent US announcement that it would reduce carbon pollution.
The US EPA regulation would put the US within range of its 2009 Copenhagen climate summit commitment.
In a similar way, the NSW EPA can regulate carbon dioxide under its pollution-licensing scheme. But does it have the courage to do so?
This year, the UN is highlighting the challenge faced by the small island developing states, collectively home to more than 63million people and feeling the full force of climate change.
The small island developing states account for less than 1per cent of the world’s carbon pollution but they are taking up the challenge of a low carbon future, from wind power projects in the Dominican Republic to projects that capture methane in Papua New Guinea.
We need to raise our voices for climate action and get political, just as the UN insists.
Ask your local, state and federal politician where they stand on reducing carbon pollution and stopping forest clearing.
Ask them about their position on the controversial Maules Creek mine in the Laird State Forest, or CSG drilling in the Pilliga Forest, or the increasing flood risk in suburbs such as Carrington and Swansea.
If you don’t like their answer, find a way to get your voice heard.
In September, the UN Secretary-General will host a climate summit of world leaders to advance climate action. The position of the Australian negotiators will, in large part, depend on your action.
Michael Osborne is a Greens councillor on Newcastle City Council