This year presents our world with two historic milestones. The first is the ratification of the Paris Agreement, which offers an innovative framework towards limiting global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. And the speed at which the Paris Agreement was ratified was unprecedented, accentuating global concern over climate change. However, the second global milestone offers a symbolic but somber message: it is the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which has reached over 400 parts per million. In addition, our planet has experienced increasingly warmer temperatures, with August 2016 capping a 16-month streak of record hot months. Even if we cease to emit all fossil fuels tomorrow, our current atmospheric concentrations – and their repercussions- will linger for decades.
To readers at COP-22 in Marrakech, Morocco, I emphasize this: 2016 is and will forever remain an emblematic year towards climate diplomacy. Our world is struggling. TIME Magazine reports that Antarctica’s melting ice from its largest glaciers could raise global sea levels by more than 2 meters (6.6 feet), per new research. We are witnessing developing countries struggling with lapping shores; severe weather events are increasing in severity and frequency; we have recorded the first ever climate refugees; and climate change is making us actively question our perceptions of identity, values, ethics, and economies. But this is not a global problem. It is a global opportu- nity. It is an opportunity that will require tenacious, innovative, and cross- disciplinary focus, in which women will need to take the lead in engaging in the solutions necessary to stabilize our planet and empowering each other along the way.
As a global community, our call to action is here. COP-22 is the conference to solidify commitments so that the globe will remain below the two-degree Celsius threshold. With a strong will and our loud voices united, we will be the first generation to end extreme poverty; to end inequality; to fight climate change; and to demand that proper healthcare is a lifelong right for us all. The solutions are here, with the Paris Agreement and SDGs as our guides. The data is growing. This challenge is ours, and we are ready.