What's the Paris Agreement and why is it such a big deal?
For the first time ever, 195 countries have joined forces and agreed to do something about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement recognises that climate change is a worldwide problem and that the time to act is now.
The plan, starting in 2020, is to keep global warming below 2 degrees celsius, ideally at 1.5 degrees. You might think this isn’t much, but the reality of a warmer planet is pretty scary. For New Zealand this could mean:
1. More extreme droughts that could last three times as long by 2040, affecting water supply and agriculture
2. Sea levels rising up to three metres over the next 100 years, destroying homes and food producing areas
3. More frequent and destructive winds throughout the country
4. People forced to move inland, less snow on our mountains and the inability to grow our favourite crops.
So what else is in the agreement?
By 2020, all countries involved with the Paris Agreement will begin reducing their emissions. Large and wealthy nations (who produce the most emissions) will have to:
1. Lead the charge in reducing their own greenhouse gases
2. Raise $1 billion by 2020 to support developing countries deal with the effects of climate change.
All countries will get stuck into:
3. More research and development of clean, renewable energy and special attention paid to growing more forests
4. Regular reports and a review every five years of everyone's progress, starting in 2025.
What can you do to help?
New Zealand has pledged to reduce our carbon emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. We can definitely do better. To get there our government will need to implement a bold economic strategy. Here's what you can do to help:
1. Choose alternative ways to get around: Use public transport, walk, or cycle to work more often. Look in to using an electric car or a fossil fuel alternative, like biodiesel.
2. Support NZ's use of renewable energy sources and use them wisely: Switch off appliances you're not using, close the curtains to keep heat in at night, install LED lights, and get rid of moisture and dampness in your home.
3. Be a more conscious consumer: Compost, recycle, and buy local and NZ-made.
4. Make small changes: Have a meat-free day once a week; choose e-tickets instead of paper tickets; and wash your clothes in cold water.
It's up to all of us to take action on climate change: get in touch with your friends, community, your local council or MP, and let them know you're serious about it.