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Why haven't actions to tackle climate change worked to date?

27 May 2019

Article with RTE Brainstorm by Alexandra Revez

Opinion: the challenges of climate transformation seem as daunting today as they were 20 years ago

When it comes to tackling climate change, are we heading towards the prospect of a failed experiment? Despite a series of conferences and negotiations such as the United Nations conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and in Kyoto in 1997, there has been considerable resistance and disagreement on the part of most countries on how to address this global environmental problem.

Although there is robust scientific evidence regularly stressing the damaging impacts of climate change, it has been difficult to reach agreement over the causes and best course of action with regard this global issue. Hailed as a breakthrough in international climate policy, the Paris Agreement was significantly weakened by the withdrawal of leading industrialised economies such as the United States in 2017. Recent presidential elections in Brazil, another large economy now under a far-right leadership who pledged to follow the US actions on climate, also suggests flailing commitment to the Paris Agreement. 

Although these political setbacks are problematic, the reality is that even those countries that remain committed to these international climate change agreements have demonstrated poor policy performance, implementation and lack of commitment to change.

In climate change and sustainability discussions, the term "transition" is often used to refer to drastic societal changes leading to significant environmental, social and economic transformations. In practical terms, the call for transition amplifies the need to implement new systems of energy production, consumption and growth. While many political leaders across the globe have expressed the need to move towards transition for a number of years, this has regrettably not led to any considerable transformation.


Environmental Research Institute University College Cork, Lee Road, Cork ,