For Pacific negotiators this is the moment of truth. The destination aimed for from 1992. They are the officials in the moment. To ensure the region’s priorities are not ignored, sidelined, diluted or omitted from the important texts that will frame policies, financing, activities and projects under the Paris Agreement and its future accords. To remember that climate change is ultimately a problem of dollars and cents across generations.
Today, 5 November 2016, the Paris Agreement entered into force.
The single global voice calling for the world to move away from fossil fuels; and limit average world temperature rise to “well below” 2.0degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times. The Agreement, pushed for by Pacific nations and small island states for two decades, is the first planetary step towards saving future generations from a world that would be uninhabitable to humans.
Pacific islands, first to see the sun each day welcomed the Paris Agreement. It brings hope to all of them on the front lines of storm surges, disrupted rainfalls, rising sea levels, floods and droughts, extreme weather events increasing in frequency and intensity, greater food scarcity and price insecurity; impacts resulting from human-induced climate change.
Next week, Pacific climate negotiators and the rest of the world will meet for two-weeks, at the UN climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco [COP22] starting 7 November to iron out the details for implementing the Paris Agreement.
For Pacific negotiators this is the moment of truth. The moment the region and other small island nations have been fighting for since 1992 in Rio de Janeiro when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted.
This is the destination aimed for from 1992. This is the now and they must seize the moment.
They need to go there armed to the maximum. They should have a number of facts and forged clarity on positions key and essential to ensure the Pacific voices and articulates its needs and issues with substance and force. That it maximises its position and call to action about the urgent needs of its peoples.
That the region’s priorities are not ignored, sidelined, diluted or omitted from the important texts that will frame policies, financing, activities and projects under the Agreement and its future accords.
The first fact is that climate change is ultimately a problem of dollars and cents across generations.
That even if our global society stop emitting greenhouse gases (GHG) today, or if the renewable sector takes the lead in powering the global economy – it will not provide immediate results.
The truth is this: even if all emmissions stopped today, the world will still continue to warm and with it, the growing environmental inequality that is causing/leading to displacement, resource-competition, actual war, and watery graves for low-lying islands.
That the benefits from today’s actions and the outcomes of COP22 will not be realized until the coming decades, even centuries in the form of fewer people dying from heat waves, cities and islands not being submerged by rising seas, farmers dealing with reduced risk of megadroughts and indigenous communities’ way of life, livelihoods, ancestral lands and traditions protected from storm surges, sea-level rise, extreme and more frequent weather events, displacement and so forth.
WHO IS THE REAL CLIMATE CHANGE ENEMY?
Secondly, there is the need for clarity on “who is the real enemy?”. To put together solutions, the real enemy needs to be identified.
The most recent International Panel on Climate Change report notes that the poor and marginalized face greater food scarcity and price insecurity, and the threat of violent conflict connected to this instability.
In layman terms, the first victims are suffering not just from changes in the physical environment, but of impacts wrought by other humans – those who leverage their social position to displace wider costs and extract private benefits. The rich humans living in rich nations whose lavish lifestyle is powered by “cheap” fuel and other products of industry, and where shareholders profit from such sales continues to increase demand for more growth which end up growing higher carbon emissions.
Implicit in this IPCC description is pointing the finger at the environmental and human inequality and why climate change increases the gap between rich and poor; and the vulnerability index between the two.
“As the climate changes, the rich can afford an increase in food prices. They can ship in bottled water during droughts and relocate businesses and homes when the seas rise. For those without access to such privileges? Simply put, they have fewer options. They end up paying the price for the extravagance of the rich.
Throwing money and technology at the poor and vulnerable is not the answer. Sure, greener technologies can help, but solar panels won’t purify some of the contaminated water lenses or reclaim precious land in islands where some are only 10 square kilometers in area.
It is fact that technology alone can’t address the environmental injustice disproportionately confronting minorities.
FOUND: THE REAL ENEMY
Negotiators must embrace the fact that the enemy is not the physical environment.
The enemy is the unjust human ‘for profit systems’ that allow some to gain at the expense of and risk to others – that is the real enemy.
It means that Exxon, and entities like it, are not the enemy.
Exxon’s deliberate actions to muddy the climate science evidence was the worst kind of behavior but it was one necessitated and demanded by the private, exploitive ‘profit-driven systems’ it is operating under.
It is this ‘profit-driven systems’ enemy that needs to be confronted and bested if the Paris Agreement is to even have a slim chance at its “aspirational goal” of limiting global temperature warming to 1.5C above preindustrial times.
Otherwise, Exxon and exploitive organizations like it, would remain unconcerned with climate justice even if the world is mobilized to mass produce solar panels and wind turbines.
SOLUTION: TWO PRONGED – GREEN ENERGY & PEOPLE POWER
This then comes up with a two-pronged solution that can be championed by the Paris Agreement, and the future amendments it will birth.
First, move the world economy to be powered by Green energy –the road to a zero-carbon future.
Second, People Power.
Empower people and civil society to provide control and direction of climate, natural resources and energy policy. The Paris Agreement already has components that enable democratic participation to redress past harms and guide environmental goals of the future.
A ‘People Power’ revolution would affirm everyone’s right to a clean, healthy environment; and rebalance society’s natural relationship with the environment that is currently allowing some to profit by denying this right to others.
This wider vision would allow true global cooperation in which China, the United States and all high emitters can work hand in hand in confronting global environmental challenges and injustices rather than the narrow focus on self interest – the basis of the ‘for-profit systems’. The lessons from the ‘Cold War’ should provide guidance on how not to make the same mistake twice.
In other words, climate change demands not only a race to develop and deploy new energy technologies, but a movement to democratize all forms of power — fossil fuels, wind, solar, but most important, economic and political power.
And that makes Marrakech a summit of “hope”. For already written in the Paris Agreement are basic elements to: (i) move and finance the world to a decarbonized global economy and system; and (ii) democratic capabilities to empower people to control and direct future environmental goals that are fair and equitable to all.
That is the challenge facing negotiators in Marrakech over the next two weeks – leveraging hope to establish a global Green Energy system; and a Power to the People movement.
By Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi for Scoop World – Independent News, 6 November 2016