UN Meets in NY but Little is Resolved

Angela Eklund

The United Nations assembled in New York City this week to discuss two major subjects: what is wrong with the world today and how they, as global leaders, can improve it. But leadership was not evident upon hearing dozens of speeches that were intended to inspire. They left little more than disappointment, especially during the Summit on Climate Change.

Despite America’s previous love affair with President Barack Obama, even supporters admit his address to the UN on Sept. 22 was vague. For example, his words displayed the urgency of global climate change but little was proposed in specific solutions. This lack of explicit objectives may be a direct result of Obama’s focus on other problems; he may want to ensure that healthcare reform is the top priority in the White House.  According to the New York Times Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s secretary general, asked world leaders to set aside national concerns in the effort to combat climate change. But critics say that Obama’s presidential legacy relies solely on the success or failure of a new system, in which climate change has not taken precedent.

However, in December the U.N. will meet again in Copenhagen to discuss global tactics against the earth’s warming in the biggest cooperative environmental pact since the Kyoto protocols were signed. If this summit provided any indication as to the new and innovative ideas for halting climate change that will be presented in December, the world should prepare to face a dreary future. Obama was not the only speaker who left behind more questions than were answered this week: China’s President Hu Jintao also spoke loosely regarding China’s plans to reduce its contribution global warming. His claims to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted while producing each dollar of gross domestic product by a “notable” margin by 2020 met widespread criticism. Also, Jintao’s promise to increase nuclear or nonfossil fuels by 15 percent by 2020 provides little hope for reducing carbon emissions. Utilizing China’s strong rivers for hydroelectric power may seem innovative, but giant dams like the Three Gorges Dam, which will drown 244 square miles of carbon-breathing plant-life when finished, can be counterproductive. Since methane, yet another greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere when large areas of forest and farmland are flooded to create new dams, it is ineffective and potentially harmful.

Obama and Jintao lead the two countries that are responsible for 40 percent of the emissions that cause global warming, and yet Japan, who accounts for only 4 percent, provided more innovative ideas than China and the U.S. combined. Obama insisted upon nations with a “strong industrial base” to accept any agreement regarding a decrease in emissions, silently acknowledging countries like China, India, and Brazil in order to reduce the burden on developing countries.

For the sake of humanity, let’s hope Copenhagen is more successful than NY.