Climate Change- turning up the heat

THIMUN Qatar Youth put UN in the hot seat with hard hitting questions from THIMUN Qatar Youth to Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Fund for Climate Change UNFCC, Mr Ovais Sarmad, and Ms Claribel Puga and Mr. Miguel Naranjo from the UNFCC secretariat.

As a testament to the UN’s engagement with Youth Voice, Mr Ovais and his team sat excitedly with a selected group of young MUNers to answer their pressing questions on climate change, youth advocacy, and what exactly is the UN doing to combat climate change?

What exactly is the UN doing to combat climate change?

Ghlaia Al Mutawa, Grade 10 student

Q&A session with Mr Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary General of UNFCC and his team.


What is the United Nations doing to combat climate change? 

The UNFCC Secretariat brings all the governments together every year, culminating in the annual COPs (Conference of Parties) which is the biggest organization of governments there are! the most famous COPs was in 2015 when the Paris agreement was made and last year in Poland we readdressed their progress towards starting to implement the Paris Agreement. Next September the UN SG has called together all governments in New York to have them all share what concrete changes governments have made to achieve the Paris Accords, and in December , we will meet again in Santiago, Chile, to push those measures even further and concretize those actions and put into action the next trajectory. By 2020 all these governments must start to implement the actions agreed upon in Paris.

In addition our team also works with Non Government organisations in order to encourage, facilitate and recognise their work.  The UN itself are is to become a zero emissions organisation and we are currently at 95% efficiency, and we aim to achieve 100% by next year. 

The UN hopes to be 100% carbon neutral by 2020

Miguel Naranjo, UNFCC secretariat

Approximately how long do we have to stop climate change, before we reach the point of no return?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is the intergovernmental scientific community of experts on this, we have 12 years before we cross the point of no return. We have already reached a 1 degree increase, and there is no return from that already.

Worrying answer

What is the current UN budget for climate change and if it were to be increased would actions against climate change be more effective? 

This year our budget is 15 million euros for two years which is not even a drop in the ocean for the magnitude of the problem. We use this to service the secretariat, to bring the parties together, produce documentation, and get data and bring the parties together for the COP. Essentially, this is for the operations of the climate change secretariat. 

The actual action to change societies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to changes from climate comes is beyond that, it comes from each government; they have their own strategies and budgets. The Green Planet fund, which was established under the Climate Change Convention, aims to support developing countries in implementing projects and strategies aimed to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and that has billions of dollars, and IS STILL NOT ENOUGH!

We need to change our whole economy to a more sustainable model. Everything has to be aligned with climate change. We need to become carbon neutral. Our global society need to be at zero emissions by 2050 at the latest and hopefully after that we can start to extract carbon through forests or through some technologies that we might be able to develop, but we have to focus first on stopping it and then we can work on reversing it.

We need to change our whole economy to a more sustainable model. Everything has to be aligned with climate change. We need to become carbon neutral. Our global society need to be at zero emissions by 2050 at the latest

Mr Ovais Sarmad, DESG UNFCC
We need to change our whole economy to a more sustainable model

Most countries in the Middle East are oil-dependent economies, do you think these countries will face more challenges or consequences if they cut the use of oil?

The short answer is probably yes, but there is a concept of just transition to sustainable and renewable and safe forms of energy production and consumption, and  these countries such as Qatar are very advanced in the research and the technology in looking at those scenarios, so it is happening! We in the UN are working closely with the countries in those regions to help them find newer ways of sustaining themselves

Millions of citizens have moved across nations due to the result of climate change,  hence concern for ‘Climate Refugee’ has increased in the 2000s. As the issue is quite recent, moving forward what steps do you believe should be most sustainable for the youth in assisting these countries

This is extremely important to the UN in looking at this- we look at what is the status of those populations who would be displaced as a result of climate change and who would need to cross borders as a result of impact of climate change.

What do we call them? Are they called climate refugees or climate migrants, displaced people? What international framework are there to govern that kind of displacement? Unfortunately there is non at present but we are working with governments to look at broadening the concept of providing assistance to those displaced by climate change.

For the youth, you really need to lead, you need to start with education and advocacy, inform groups within your schools to inform each other and take action, including your own activities that you can do to show examples of what you can do in your group and in your societies.

Being that a lot of us will be heading off to college and entering “the real world” soon, what do you think is the most effective way to get involved? This may be creating or joining a climate awareness club on campus or going vegan but what can we do that, in your opinion, would yield the most results?

Being an example and taking action yourself – even if you don’t talk about it, it has a huge influence, and you can form groups to raise awareness and ty to implement action to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The climate environment that we benefit from today, this clean water this environment, we have not inherited this, we have borrowed it from you, the future

By teaching children as young as 5 for example about climate change and what they can do to help, could it eventually inspire them to create action? And what are the benefits to educating them on this issue at a young age?

Ms. Claribel Puga, UNFCC Secretariat

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of education


Education is key, and teaching children from an early stage is how we will change the society we live in and change our world for a long time, and we cannot emphasize enough the importance of education. This new generation is the most aware of climate change as a result of education programs than any other generation.

In your opinion, do you think there is a way to prove to the people who do not believe in climate change that it is true, are there any hidden facts or information the majority do not know about? 

Yes we call them climate sceptics, and our role, as well as all of yours, is to help them understand and provide scientific facts to prove it and understand the impacts and what we can do about it.

Following the USA’s exit from the Paris Climate Agreement, we’re seeing that the countries that are significant contributors to the issue of climate change aren’t taking part in these treaties. How can we or the UN make sure that everyone is doing their part to avoid a future where Earth is unlivable?

We can improve the advocacy and action, you must have seen Greta Thunberg who has taken on this challenge and is going to New York to take on advocacy on this. Countries like the USA have withdrawn, but many cities are actually still in it and are actually doing more than the country as a whole and we are very encouraged, and that what we are doing to bring people together.

Since the UN is such a powerful establishment, how come it is taking what feels like a lifetime to get policies (that are backed by a lot of research) passed in order for action to be taken against climate change? 

Yes we ask that question ourselves, and we ask if we in the UN are doing enough to address many of the challenges that face all of us, humanitarian, security, nuclear threats, terrorism and climate change. The UN works on the basis of consensus, everyone has to agree on action, and bringing 197 countries to agree on global actions takes time, but the absence is even more of a catastrophe. “The UN was not formed to take humanity to heaven but to prevent it from going to hell”, so we do a lot of prevention

“The UN was not formed to take humanity to heaven but to prevent it from going to hell”

Our climate is changing more and more everyday and there is no say in whether or not we’ll be able to go back to how we used to be or be able to prevent worse damage to our planet. With all that being said, is there a possibility for us humans to adapt to climate change rather than fight against it? 

Yes definitely, with what we are doing with governments to stop it and with Non Governmental stakeholders to adapt to a changing climate, and in some parts of the world we are already stopping it, so adaptation is definitely happening, and we are conveying governments to share these projects.

Our students thoroughly enjoyed this unique opportunity to peer into the minds of members of the UNFCC secretariat, and THIMUN Qatar would like to thank Qatar Foundation for the opportunity to turn up the heat on the UN Climate Change Secretariat!

So what next?

THIMUN Qatar’s Global Act with Impact Awards are launching this year, with Service projects designed together with Global and Local partners. These projects will serve to support THIMUN Qatar communities in community service actions aimed at engaging youth in the SDGs.

For more information please email the THIMUN Qatar office at thimunqatar@qf.org.qa and refer you to our website on the Global Act with Impact Awards.

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