Christophe Mazurier, a renowned financier and climate activist in his adopted nation of the Bahamas, reflected that 2014 represented a landmark year for climate change activism and the long-ignored fight against its effects. At major events like the UN Climate Summit in New York in September, the third annual Conference of Small Island Developing States in Samoa or the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, the climate change took center stage. It could not be avoided, ignored or swept under the rug. Finally, the science and activism finally translated into political activity.
Much of the first half of 2014 was taken up by governments like the United States lending credence to scientific evidence of the effects of climate change. Reports such as the U.S.’s National Climate Assessment, published in May, further contributed to an international consensus that climate change exists, is detrimental, and needs to be addressed. Mazurier, who monitored the year’s climate events closely, said that the global acknowledgement of climate change helped make the year’s subsequent summits and political conventions powder kegs for change.
Matters kicked off with the UN’s Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in early September. The once-in-a-decade summit took place in Samoa and brought to light problems that the 51 low-lying and coastal nations face today. The major issue? Climate change. The Bahamas, whose plight Mazurier has worked to bring to light in the developed world, is the fifth-most endangered nation when it comes to climate change. SIDS like the Bahamas and its Caribbean neighbors spent much of the summit working with private businesses, non-governmental organizations and larger, more developed governments to raise awareness.
Weeks later, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, a tireless proponent of climate activism, took what he learned at SIDS and held forth at the UN Climate Week in New York City. The convention was like a thunderclap for the climate fight, with marches and impassioned speeches and agreement and acknowledgement from political and business leaders. There were few doubters and those that did were drowned out by the billion-dollar commitments to the Green Climate Fund made by the United States, China and France.
Soon after, nations that are collectively responsible for 50% of the world’s emissions agreed sweeping and aggressive measures to reduce emissions. The European Union, which led the effort, announced it would reduce emissions by 40% before 2030. China and the United States decisively agreed to draft legislation that would result in significant cuts.
At the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia in November, those same nations would not allow the conference to end without a strong emphasis on the need for climate action. Hosts Australia, a major coal producer, attempted to marginalize the issue but by the eleventh month of the year, there was too much momentum to halt it. The final communique from the summit made sure that the G20 nations, which represent 85% of the world’s economy, would be heavily encouraged to pass emission-reduction legislation.
A month later, the Lima Accord was signed in Peru during the 20th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, marking the first time in history that all nations have acknowledged climate change and agreed to address it with domestic climate legislation.
It was yet another body blow for the climate fight against the doubters just as 2015 beckons.
Will the knockout come in 2015? Like other officials and activists, Mazurier is hopeful for the future thanks to a banner 2014.