OpEd by Fiona McCluney UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative on the occasion of Earth Day 2016 and Signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
Why is everyone talking about climate change? Probably because it is one of the most pressing challenges facing our world today. The Earth is warming faster than ever due to greenhouse gases and their emission as a result of human activities. Everything that we use and do in our everyday life has an impact on the environment. This impact is called our carbon footprint. Many will have noticed leaves on trees earlier than usual, blossom or spring flowers appearing months before they are expected. It’s a fact - global temperatures, according to 2015 data released by NASA and the World Meteorological Organization, were the hottest on record, above the average reached between 1961-1990.
Official reports about Montenegro, already show that temperatures are increasing, precipitation is decreasing, and more extreme weather events – especially droughts and heat waves, are happening. In the future, Montenegro is expected to become hotter and drier – especially in the summer. Climate models presented in official reports suggest if emissions continue to increase, the period until 2030 will be characterized by more frequent and longer heat waves, more frequent extremely high min/max temperatures, more frequent droughts, more frequent storms at winter, a decrease in the overall annual amount of snow. By the end of the century, the increase in temperature and decrease in precipitation would be even more severe. Climate change in Montenegro could result in more droughts, heavy rains affecting agriculture, forestry, water resources and natural environments, coast and the coastal region-causing increase in the sea surface temperature and rising sea level by 62 cm by the end of the century.
Quite a picture, the good news is that the countries around the world are ready to take common climate action, and governments, companies and individuals are working to tackle its causes and adapt to the changes it brings. The first major step towards united action is taking place at UN Headquarters in New York today, where the Heads of State from Countries around the world will sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change the details of which were agreed adopted last December.
The Agreement is aimed at transforming the world's fossil fuel-driven economy within decades, and encouraging greater investments in renewable energy, with the goal of redirecting the world economy towards a model with no or low greenhouse gas emissions.
All countries, including Montenegro agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks involved, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. The countries have pledged to reduce global Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by 50-85 percent by 2050 in order to achieve a level of pollution the Planet can handle. Within the EU has committed to reducing emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2030.
Postal stamp dedicated to #ParisAgreement launched on the occasion of Earth Day 2016
Montenegro is a low emitting country, nevertheless the actions here in Montenegro are also part of the solution, and the country's contribution to the international effort is to reduce GHG emissions by 2030 by 30 percent compared to the 1990 base year, when the emissions were 5,239 kilotons CO2 eq. There are many “no regrets” mitigation measures that can be introduced that actually save money and provide an economic benefit to Montenegro. Montenegro has pledged to reduce its GHG emissions by at least 1,572 kilotons to a level of 3,667 kilotons or less. This reduction is expected to be achieved by a general increase in energy efficiency, by the improvement of industrial technology, by increasing the share of renewable energy sources and by modernization in the power sector.
Another sectors that climate change would affect is tourism. The direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP in Montenegro in 2014 was EUR 348.4mn or (9.5% of total GDP), according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
One way the Montenegrin Government’s plans to be part of the world efforts to battle climate change is through introducing strategies of low-carbon tourism development. The Ministry of Sustainable Development of Montenegro and UNDP through the project –‘Towards Carbon Neutral Tourism in Montenegro', are identifying ways to help the country transition towards carbon neutral travel & tourism mainly through encouraging sustainability and innovation in tourism businesses. The project, financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), will help make GHG emission reductions in the tourism sector and thus lower its environmental footprint, encouraging the development of Montenegro as a sustainable low carbon tourism destination. It will do so by maximizing the efficient use of energy, by encouraging low carbon spatial planning, developing sustainable transport solutions and implementing cost-effective mitigation options – especially in the accommodation sector.
The actions we take now will determine what our world will look like in 25 or 50 years’ time. Creating a new and better future is possible. By signing the Agreement today, along with other countries, Montenegro embarks on a long-term environmental mission to mobilize people, businesses and government to build a healthy, sustainable environment, reduce the climate impact, and save the Planet for the future generations.