MunicipalI am Janos Pasztor, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change, in Paris for UN Climate Change Conference. AMA!
Dec 3rd 2015 by Jpasztor • 12 Questions • 962 Points
My short bio: I'm the Senior Adviser to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on climate change, and have been working on the issue for over 20 years. Right now I'm in Paris at the UN Climate Change Conference where I'm supporting efforts to achieve a universal climate agreement. Ask Me Anything!
Thanks everybody. Great conversation, but I must go now. I have to go back to the negotiations now. This was my first Reddit session. And it was great fun!
what do these negotiations actually look like? Like you all sit down, realize the problem at hand, what's stopping people from signing major agreements?
It is actually pretty crazy. Imagine 195 countries represented. Think of the views of Samoa, Russia, USA or the Central African Republic. They all come to these negotiations from a different perspective, with different social and economic backgrounds. ANd the fact that climate change affects everybody, but that not all countries are equally responsible for the emissions - neither historically (and don't forget that emissions are cumulative) nor for the future. So countries come with their positions. They present them in meetings (the official meetings are interpreted into the 6 official UN languages), and then they discuss... and discuss... and discuss, until they agree. Usually the agreements come on the last day - actually last night, usually early mornings. Climate Change delegates are notorious for negotiating until they just run out of energy.
How do we counteract the fact that in democratic societies, during times of economic hardship, people, when electing their government, are going to be more likely to choose politicians who are more focused on rapid economic growth than environmental protection?
OF course we want to elect politicians who will bring us economic growth, but we need a different kind of economic growth - one that does not harm the environment, and also helps to achieve social objectives. This is the essence of sustainable development, where you don't have to sacrifice economic growth for environmental protection. It is possible. We have seen many countries who have substantially increased their GNP, while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
How will climate change affect South-east Asian countries, like the Philippines?
There will be many different impacts, increasingly visible over time. But perhaps the most visible ones relate to increased magnitude of extreme weather events. And we have certainly seen substantial typhoons in the Philippines in the recent past. Melting glaciers in the Himalayas is a serious concern, but also impacts on the monsoon cycle - so important for food security in the region.
Without intervention, how long does the Earth have before catastrophic events happen?
We need to start now, because the longer we wait the more difficult and more expensive the response will be. Global emissions need to peak in about 5 years. This is challenging but doable. Otherwise increasingly serious impacts will be seen.
What can a normal person do to combat climate change in their everyday lives?
The most important action we can all take is to make sure we vote for those politicians who want to do something about climate change. But we must also walk the talk, and act. That means switching lights off when not in use; not stepping on that gas pedal all the way when on the highway; not overcooling our house, and so on... If you are interested, check out the the website www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/takeaction
Do you think the major governments are doing enough to encourage renewable energies and deplete carbon emissions? What renewable energies should countries be investing in the most? Thanks
I think they are doing a lot for renewables, but overall they all need to do much more. What is key is to remove fossil fuel subsidies (both production and consumption subsidies).