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Climate Change and Sustainable Development Goals Panel Discussion at the United Nations
Climate Change and Sustainable Development Goals Panel Discussion at the United Nations

Climate justice is a social justice issue. It is working at the intersection of environmental degradation and the racial, social, and economic inequities it perpetuates. Every living person depends on the environment. Here at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO), we are focusing on advocacy work on earth justice and climate change issues with respect to the fact that, without awareness and actions, we steal from the next generation who will suffer the terrible consequences of climate change.

View of the audience at the UU-UNO's Climate Change & SDGs panel as Mengluo Ren introduces speakers

On April 9th 2018, UU-UNO hosted a panel discussion on Climate Justice and Sustainable Development Goals. The panelists were Mr. Bruce Knotts from UU-UNO, Dr. Jan Dash from Bloomberg LLC., Professor Peter Marcotullio from City University of New York (CUNY), and Rev. Karen Brammer from UUA Green Sanctuary Project. More than sixty community leaders, religious leaders, NGOs leaders, scholars, and students attended the panel discussion at the UN Church Center to come together on issue of climate change.

Bruce Knotts presents at UU-UNO's Climate Change and SDGs panel

UUA United Nations Office Director Bruce Knotts

The climate change issue, according to UU-UNO Director Bruce Knotts, is not only about climate justice, but also related to all human rights and social justice. Mr. Knotts introduced his experience as a diplomat in Africa, when he noticed indigenous people who suffered due to climate change and high heat in Africa. He augured that global warming has been mostly caused by developed countries, but the consequences are paid by vulnerable populations in developing countries. In the panel discussion, Mr. Knotts referred to the Theme Panel of the UU-UNO’s Intergenerational Spring Seminar at the United Nations in April 2018, which concentrated on climate refugees and immigration (Confronting Climate Forced Displacement and the Global Migration Crisis – watch on UN Web TV).

Dr. Jan Dash presenting at the UU-UNO's Climate Change & SDGs panel

Dr. Jan Dash from Bloomberg

In the panel discussion, Dr. Jan Dash emphasized the strong associations between climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals. He cited a quote from the UN Secretary-General’s 2017 Report, “Urgent action to combat climate change and minimize its disruptions is integral to the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.” As Dr. Jan Dash argued in the panel discussion, climate action is the 13th goal of sustainable development goals (SDGs) and without climate action, all other sustainable development goals would be affected in the future.

Peter Marcotullio presents at the UU-UNO's Climate Change and SDGs panel

Professor Marcotullio from CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities

As the director of CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities, Professor Peter Marcotullio shared some of his recent research on climate change, urban heat, and global vulnerability during the panel discussion. Professor Marcotullio analyzed data from Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) dataset and found that, combined with massive population growth in Asia and Africa, people from these two continents would be exposed to extreme hot waves (42 °C or 107 °F) by 2100. According to Professor Peter Marcotullio, vulnerable populations from developing countries would suffer more in the future due to climate change. Therefore, addressing high temperature should be one of the most important task countries and policy makers to do.

Rev. Karen Brammer presents at the UU-UNO's panel on climate change and the SDGs

Green Sanctuary Project Manager Rev. Karen Brammer

As the manager of Green Sanctuary Project of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Rev. Karen Brammer shared information about the Green Sanctuary Project of the UUA. The Green Sanctuary Project includes four focus areas: worship and celebration, religious education, environmental justice, and sustainable living. According to Rev. Brammer, since 2005, the Green Sanctuary Project has been expended to hundreds of UU congregations in the United States and internationally. Besides the Green Sanctuary Project, UUA also organizes monthly Climate Round Table meetings, Climate Action Network, and Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) to combat climate change.

The consequences of climate change are enormous and it is a cross-border issue that cannot be solved by one nation. In order to defend social justice and human rights for vulnerable populations, UN member states, NGOs, academia, and individuals should all work together to combat climate change within its ability.


Learn more about what we are doing:

  • Green Sanctuary Program
    Our congregations demonstrate their commitment to environmental justice by aligning their values with their actions through becoming certified Green Sanctuaries. For 15 years the Green Sanctuary program has helped more than 230 UU congregations live out this commitment through spiritual connection, education, sustainable living, and social justice. Newly updated since 2012!
  • Ethical Eating
    We recognize the moral consequences of our food choices and pay attention to the impact of our involvement in the food system. Starting in 2011, UUs across the country committed to engage with eating as an ethical issue. Learn more through the ethical eating study guide and worship resources. 
  • Divestment and Socially-Responsible Investment
    In 2014, Unitarian Universalists became one of the first religious groups to commit our financial investments to environmental justice. We have called on our denomination, our congregations, and our individual members to engage with how investments can be socially responsible, using available SRI resources.
  • UN Climate Justice Initiative
    This initiative builds the UU climate change movement through education, advocacy, and collaboration with other climate change voices at the United Nations in order to promote a viable world with mitigated climate change.

About the Author

  • Mengluo Ren is a Climate Justice Program Intern at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. She received her bachelor's degree in Economics and International Relations from Boston University. Currently, she is a second-year graduate student at Columbia University...

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For more information contact international@uua.org.