A Global Pulse: Climate Change on an International Stage


Apr 10, 2017

So, you’re ready to attend The GREEN Program because you care about issues related to sustainable development or are interested in learning more about those topics. As we already touched upon, the action of individuals (like you!) will be critical in solving global problems as will the collective action of communities and countries around the world. During your journey with us we challenge you to think critically the part that you play in our collective global puzzle. To help give you some context we  want to give you an incredibly brief introduction to international climate change policy 101 and how the world is already working together to address issues in sustainable development. 

Did you know that the first international conference on environmental issues happened only 50 years ago? The pioneer meeting was The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972. Since then, countries around the globe have been working together to address major environmental issues, including pollution, poverty alleviation, and climate change. As a GREENie who is committed to global citizenship, now couldn’t be a better time to brush up on some sustainable development basics and learn what the world is doing to tackle the biggest issues of our time. 


What are the Sustainable Development Goals anyway? 

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In 2000, the United Nations (U.N.) and leaders from around the world established the Millennium Development Agenda which comprised 8 goals aimed at reducing global poverty by 2015. Progress was made but when the goals were not achieved, member states met again to develop a new agenda, otherwise known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)! Effective starting in 2016, these 17 goals expanded to address new topics like climate change, sustainable consumption, and innovation, among many others.  Also called Agenda 2030, the SDGs provide guidelines and targets that countries can adopt in alignment with their own environmental priorities and challenges in order to solve global problems. 

The GREEN Team pledges to do our part to help propel the Global Goals forward as we continue to develop short-term programs abroad focused on the SDGs. Your journey with The GREEN Program is part of a larger mission goal toward a healthier planet and future. You can read more information about our role as an SDG commitment partner here.

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. ”                                 – The U.N. Brundtland Report, 1987

How is the world working together to address climate change? 

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Photo by Denys Nevozhai

Since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, countries have convened yearly for “conferences of the parties” (COP) to negotiate and develop international climate change policy. Generally, the policies developed aim to reduce global green house emissions and keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees celsius (this is the internationally agreed upon bench mark we can reach before we start to incur irreparable damage). Here are a few key events to catch you the progress made at the yearly COP conferences.

1988: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the U.N. with the purpose of providing the world with an objective and scientific perspective on climate change and its impacts. 

1992: The Rio Earth Summit presents the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) where countries can finally sign commitments to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change. 

1998: The Kyoto Protocol is adopted at COP 3 as the world’s first treaty to reduce global greenhouse emissions. 192 member nations sign and ratify the agreement with the exception of Afghanistan, Sudan, and the United States. 

2015: The Paris Agreement is signed at COP 21 by over 55 member nations representing over 55% of the world’s green house gas emissions. Notably, The United States, China, and India, three of the world’s largest emissions producers, sign the agreement. 

“We have set a course here. The world has come together around an agreement that will empower us to chart a new path for our planet, a smart and responsible path, a sustainable path.”                                                                           -Past U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, on the Paris Agreement

What next and how can I get involved? 

The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for young people to get involved in actualizing the SDGs (our program included!) Whether you’re engaged at a local or international level, there’s plenty of progress to be made. We have a list of recommended resources below if you’re looking to continue your research or take the next step. 

To learn more about sustainable development and the SDGs…

-Consider joining the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s (SDSN) official youth initiative which educates young people about the challenges of sustainable development and creates opportunities for them to use their creativity and knowledge to pioneer innovative solutions for the SDGs.

-Try taking world-renowned economist and Columbia Professor, Jeffrey Sach’s online course on “The Age of Sustainable Development” to learn about key sustainable development concepts and challenges. (It’s free!)

To learn more about international environmental policy…

-We love this interactive timeline from the U.N. which reviews key international milestones and achievements. 

To get involved and stay up to date…

-Follow some of these Twitter accounts to stay up to date on climate change-related news and if you’re looking for an organization to get involved with, check out this list!

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