Guarini Institute for Public Affairs Hosts Roundtable on Climate Change

The Guarini Institute for Public Affairs hosted an online event called “L’Assemblea Generale dell’ONU e la questione climatica” (The UN General Assembly and the Climate Issue) on September 27, 2021. The guest speakers were members of the Institute’s Advisory Council Doaa Motaal, Lucio Martino, Eduardo Albrecht, and students Giacomo Di Capua and Irene Crestanello. The discussion, which was moderated by Guarini Institute Director Federigo Argentieri, focused on the issue of climate change and how it may be addressed in the UN General Assembly.

UN General Assembly

UN General Assembly

This talk began with a brief introduction by Eduardo Albrecht, who discussed the political climate surrounding the recent UN General Assembly meeting in New York. He provided the context of the recent 9/11 Remembrance Day and all the security that surrounded the General Assembly. He mentioned that politics reflect bigger narratives and that the issue of climate change being discussed in the General Assembly is not exempt from complications arising from Covid-19 nor from upgraded security measures.

The speakers then expressed their dissatisfaction with the steps taken by the General Assembly on the issue of climate change. Every year it is emphasized as an urgent issue, and one that all states should take immediate action against, but there is no real progress. States make empty promises, and those in positions of power ignore or brush off any responsibilities that they do undertake. The most recent climate change report is the last one that would allow political leaders to take countermeasures before it’s too late, but progress on the issue remains slow. The speakers expressed skepticism about countries like the United States and China (despite their powerful positions and the extent of their carbon footprint) taking responsibility and acting against climate change.

The speakers also said that there is not yet any reliable plan on how to reduce global emissions. Even the countries that do have plans have targets hanging in the air. These plans are not reliable. During the Covid-19 crisis, countries were able to react quickly to help mitigate the emergency, but the speakers expressed their doubts about the potential for a truly multilateral response to climate change. After a brief discussion on some of the geographic and health-related consequences of climate change, the conversation turned to the political implications. The United States has already faced issues due to increasing political polarization, so how effective can their response to the issue of climate change be?

(Rebecca Halterman)