The United Nations’ leading role in tackling the climate emergency | Letter

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The United Nations’ leading role in tackling the climate emergency

Prof Abiodun Williams says we must not forget that the international organisation has helped our understanding of the issues facing the environment

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan

Letters

Last modified on Tue 6 Jul 2021 14.13 EDT

There is a curious anomaly in Alice Bell’s otherwise illuminating article on climate change (Sixty years of climate change warnings: the signs that were missed (and ignored), 5 July). It makes no reference to the United Nations. Yet the UN has advanced our understanding of climate change through the assessment reports of the intergovernmental panel on climate change created by the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988.

The UN has also facilitated the creation of the climate regime based on three international treaties: the 1992 UN framework convention on climate change, the 1997 Kyoto protocol, and the 2015 Paris agreement.

It is also worth noting that successive secretaries general have warned about the dangers of climate change. In 1997, Kofi Annan said: “The risks of climate change pose the most critical and pervasive environmental threats ever to the security of the human community and to life on Earth as we know it … On an issue that could have such a decisive effect on the future of humanity, we must act on the principle that precaution now is wiser than panic later.”
Abiodun Williams
Professor of the practice of international politics, the Fletcher school of law and diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, US

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