Let's Talk Climate as We Bid Farewell to 2020

Five years have passed since the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), that witnessed the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015. But to what extent were the goals of the Paris Agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries on December 12, 2015, reached? Why did the states who refused to sign the treaty did so, and how far did signatory countries go in their promises in the fight against climate change? According to climate change activist Greta Thunberg, no headway has been made, and on top of states not meeting their commitments to halt climate change, the global situation is getting more critical by the minute. Then how will the world overcome this crisis of climate change?
It’s impossible to forget the sweet rush and the motivation I saw in people when I arrived at the conference centre in Paris where COP21 was held on December 8, 2015. The conference was a series of meetings where everyone was hopeful, and it was a massive summit that saw the participation of leaders from all walks of life and every industry. While we were discussing the final impact women had on climate change, based on the situation in Turkey, in a panel that was addressing gender equality, energy efficiency and climate change issues hosted by India, we had come to the conclusion that the key to winning the battle against climate change was through behavioural changes and raising awareness. On this panel, we also had the opportunity to discuss how Turkish women could contribute to climate change efforts as well as create a positive environmental impact and generate savings for both their own and the state’s budget by reviewing and optimizing their family’s consumption habits as “the economist of the household”. There was great interest in this session. The questions we received after our presentations were mostly about methods that would enable behavioural change on climate change. The questions asked and the comments made pointed out that climate change was not only a global problem in the global environment, but that it could be solved with a collective consciousness to be questioned individually. COP21 hosted hundreds of panels, interviews, and meetings like this one, and saw annual climate change conferences follow.

2015 was also the year when the United Nations announced its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But to what degree were the actions taken in the past years sufficient to change the mentality and behaviour on “mitigating climate change”, also known as Sustainable Development Goal 13? In fact, concerns abound about the extent to which the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which were in a way is a survival package for the global population, can be realized in the era of COVID-19. The COVID-19 crisis is expected to postpone the schedule of the SDGs expected to have been met by 2030 by at least 10 years. The fight against climate change has also received its share from changing balances due to COVID-19. Even in the world’s developed economies, we are seeing COVID-19 making vulnerable groups more vulnerable, and deepening inequalities.
COVID-19, on the other hand, showed how the whole world can unite and seek solutions to a global crisis, and also underlined how important sustainable development really is. We realized that economic growth can only be achieved if it is sustainable. It is believed that with the SDGs projected to be realized until 2030, 380 million jobs could be created worldwide and economic growth equivalent to 12 trillion dollars could be achieved. However, achieving this goal will only be possible by basing investments on sustainability, strengthening social justice and inclusiveness, and mitigating climate change.
While the COVID-19 crisis had not yet reared its ugly head, the “European Green Deal”, which was brought to the agenda by the European Union as an important step in combatting climate change, was adopted in December 2019 as the bloc’s new economic growth strategy. As part of the cooperation to be made within the framework of this strategy, the bloc aimed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, while the Paris Agreement and the Green Deal would form the basis of future commercial agreements. Within the framework of the Green Deal, and with the Climate Target Plan adopted in 2020, the bloc envisioned all laws included in EU legislation to be revised according to climate change criteria and to draft new legislation on topics such as circular economy, biodiversity, agriculture, innovation and restructuring. The investment financing program needed to implement the policies within the Green Deal is expected to cost at least 1 trillion euros. To achieve the targets listed in the deal, an investment of 260 billion euros is expected to be made every year until 2030.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26, which was to be held in Glasgow in November 2020, was postponed a year to November 1-12, 2021 due to the pandemic. On one hand, the global struggle against COVID-19 continues, and on the other hand, it seems that the main theme of the next climate conference will be how to deal with inevitable disasters brought on by global warming such as water shortage, drought, and famine. The G7 meeting to be chaired by the U.K. and the G20 meeting to be held under the leadership of Italy are expected to create international opportunities to bring the issue of climate change back on the agenda and spur mobilization until COP26 is held in November 2021.
The climate crisis, which has been at our doorstep for years, is also waiting to be solved for the countries of the world who went on full alert with the COVID-19 crisis and realized that they can work around a global problem by swiftly developing policies through cooperation. While countries such as China, India, South Korea, and Japan are expected to increase their production capacities, this shifting of economic activities to the east will also incur responsibility on the countries in question regarding their carbon emissions, which will be the outcome of burgeoning economic activity, and these countries are also expected to assume this responsibility.
In the post-COVID-19 era, it is imperative that we take into account environmental constraints in the fight against climate change and make our resources sustainable in order to maintain stable global economic growth. The global population, which is expected to reach 9.2 billion in 2050, will increase greenhouse gases, especially in growing economies, making green technologies and environmental protection necessary. Global awareness on combatting climate change must now be complemented by decisions, actions, consumer preferences, technologies, and regulations that will prevent climate change — right now, before it is too late.


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