The Secretary General
United Nations, New York
Re: The United Nations Declare a Planetary Climate Crisis
Dear Mr Antonio Guterres,
This petition seeks your urgent intervention in the most pressing issue facing our planet, the looming climate crisis.
Recognizing the need for people to get involved to tackle the climate crisis and the urgency of action, 350 people representing many civil society organizations from five countries in South Asia – Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka – met in Hyderabad, India, on 18-21 September and launched the South Asian People’s Action on Climate Crisis (SAPACC). Our members include farmer’s organizations, trade unions, indigenous people’s organizations, fisherfolk groups, women’s organizations, indigenous people’s groups, environmental groups and other civil society organizations, youth groups, scientists and other professionals, and numerous concerned individuals from all over South Asia.
Under Article 2 of the Paris Agreement on climate change, member nations/parties to the Agreement agreed to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change”, including by “(a) Holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2oC above pre-industrial temperatures, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels”. However, there is little evidence that they have done so. Emissions have continued to soar, as have global temperatures.
The impacts of the climate crisis have been particularly acute in South Asia, a region where millions of the world’s most underprivileged people live and who are deeply dependent on what natural ecosystems provide. Glaciers in Nepal have decreased by more than a quarter of their area since 1977. Sea level rise is accelerating in Bangladesh and the Maldives. Pakistan has faced severe flooding and also deaths from heat stress in recent years. In India, the crucial southwest monsoon has reduced in many parts of the country; heat stress is increasing; droughts are spreading, floods and water stress have become frequent—severely impacting the urban and rural poor. A combination of heat and humidity will make many parts of this region unlivable. Accelerated sea level rise will displace tens of millions in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Pakistan. IPCC’s 1.5oC Special Report of October 2018 states we have only twelve years before things get significantly worse.
We welcome your reported statement that “unless we make a course change by 2020, we face the possibility of runaway climate change with disastrous consequences”. We urge you, as Secretary General of the United nations, to ensure that our petition with the demands listed below be placed before the UN General Assembly and other UN bodies concerned with the climate crisis.
We demand that:
a The United Nations immediately declare a planetary climate crisis, and initiate ecologically, socially, economically appropriate and time- bound action plans to mitigate it;
a The greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries be reduced drastically to reach net zero by 2030, and of developing nations by 2040. This should be non-negotiable and binding.
a That all nations take responsibility for the injuries and damage caused by climate change in proportion to their historic emissions, and must include adaptation needs of less developed nations, small island developing states, and South Asian nations;
a Degraded land, water, air, forests, and biodiversity be restored as healthy ecosystems, also incorporating indigenous knowledge;
a A comprehensive policy framework for the rights of full rehabilitation of climate refugees be formulated and implemented; and
a The country emissions accounting framework be restructured to include outsourced emissions in the consuming country’s account.
Sudarshan Rao Sarde, Sagar Dhara and Soumya Dutta for SAPACC n