This year’s Green Kids Needham theme is “Endangered Habitats.” Throughout the year, students at each elementary school will participate in a variety of activities intended to increase their knowledge about endangered habitats and encourage their involvement in solutions. Programs will include adopting endangered animals through the World Wildlife Fund, promoting the Nike Reuse-a-Shoe drive (saving a few rubber trees in the forests of Southeast Asia), and mounting Catalog/Junk Mail Reduction campaigns. Earth Day activities will also be based on this year’s theme.
Through these programs, students learn the importance of conserving resources and the value of working together to solve big problems. They are witnessing firsthand that their individual actions, when multiplied by many, can make a big difference.
Coincidently, endangered habitats were also a “hot” topic at the recent climate talks in Cancún, Mexico. Representatives from 194 countries convened for the 16th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to negotiate solutions to the climate problem. The result of the conference was the signing of the Cancún Agreements.
The Cancún Agreements set a target to cut global emissions in half by 2050 and restrict the global temperature target to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times, with the option of increasing it to 1.5 degrees. Drastically reducing global deforestation is a key piece of this new international climate collaboration.
Deforestation is responsible for more global greenhouse-gas emissions each year than all the cars and trucks in the world, about 15% of global CO2 emissions, and is seen as the mitigation option with the largest and most immediate carbon reduction impact in the short term. Direct causes of deforestation include the conversion of forested lands for agriculture and cattle-raising (mostly for export to developed countries), logging, urbanization, mining and oil exploitation, acid rain and fire.
Notable progress on the deforestation issue was made in Cancún, with negotiators formally backing the UN’s mechanism to reduce deforestation known as Redd (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation). Redd puts a price on the carbon in trees so they’re worth more left standing than cut down.
The Cancún Agreements are the first official recognition of Redd in any UN climate deal. The framework will help unify piecemeal pilot projects already in existence around the world and create a funding mechanism for new initiatives. It will also develop environmental safeguards for preserving threatened forests and provide protections to indigenous people.
Although the Cancún Agreements do not commit the international community to the level of action required to solve our climate problem, the consensus seems to be that the small steps outlined in the Agreements will have a positive and lasting impact. Just like the Green Kids Needham motto states, “Small Changes Make A Big Difference”
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