UN to adopt ambitious new goals today

GlobalPost
International flags fly in front of the United Nations headquarters on Sept. 24, 2015, before the start of the 70th UN General Assembly meeting.

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NEED TO KNOW:

It's time again for the UN General Assembly, that yearly gathering in New York City where the world’s leaders attempt to hash out the world’s problems. There are often some speeches by some relevant heads of state. Occasionally something important and revealing is said.

This year is also kind of special because one of the main objectives of the summit is to adopt a new set of global goals for the next 15 years. The UN did this 15 years ago too, during that nervous time when 1999 became 2000.

The UN called those targets the Millennium Development Goals. And they were ambitious. There were eight objectives, all to be completed by this year: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve mental health, combat HIV and AIDS and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.

While the world has made some real progress in a lot of these areas, the people of planet Earth pretty clearly fell short of accomplishing many of them. Eradicating poverty and hunger, for instance. Still got some distance to go on that one.

Instead of throwing up their hands and lauding a fine effort, though, the United Nations today will double down. The series of targets for the next 15 years is even more ambitious than the last. They’ll be called the Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17 of them. The first one is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” It’s an admirable goal, the kind of goal that we should really all be embracing. Here are the rest of them.

WANT TO KNOW:

You’ll notice that on the UN’s list of things to do for the next decade and a half are a bunch of goals related to the environment. One goes something like, “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” Another one seeks to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

The demanding environmental agenda is sure to please Pope Francis, who, yes, is still here in America. After a rollicking couple of days in Washington, DC, the Pope is today in New York City, where he will address the UN General Assembly and perhaps say some important things on the environment, an issue the Catholic leader is passionate about.

There is likely to be other big news on the environment today too, from a more unexpected source. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is on his first state visit to the United States — though you’d hardly know it, with the Pope stealing the spotlight this week — plans to announce a new commitment today that would limit his country’s release of greenhouse gas emissions. China is the world’s largest polluter. And it hasn’t always been particularly concerned about that. But things are changing. This announcement is a big deal.

Xi is expected to make the announcement from the White House. He and US President Barack Obama struck a landmark agreement last year to work together to reduce emissions, and to use their leverage on the world stage to tackle climate change.  

STRANGE BUT TRUE:

This is all going to come as a shock to the dwindling population of people who still think man-made climate change isn't real.

The pope’s insistence on talking about climate change has irked the dynastic Jeb Bush, for instance, who in June said he doesn’t believe humans are contributing to climate change. In July, he appeared to change his mind. But either way, he said he doesn’t think we should be putting so much thought or effort into solving the problem.

Responding to the pope’s calls for more unity in the fight against climate change, Bush — who is a Catholic, and the man the Republican Party may tap as its presidential candidate next year — said he disagrees with the pontiff. He went on to say that the pope isn’t qualified to address the subject because he “isn’t a scientist.”

Jeb Bush, it should be noted, is also not a scientist.