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COP 22 Is An Opportunity To Create An Equitable Future

By Newsd
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One year after countries finalising the Paris agreement on climate change, countries are currently meeting for the annual ‘Conference of Parties’ or COP. This COP, taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, has been labelled a ‘COP of action’. Yet, one week into the negotiations, there’s very little evidence that countries are ready to take real action to address the enormous threat that climate change poses to humanity.


In Paris, countries agreed to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to strive for a temperature pathway below 1.5°C. In reality, we are nowhere close to meeting this objective. A couple of days prior the entry into force of the Paris agreement, UNEP released its Emissions Gap report, showing that the commitments made by countries in Paris will lead to a temperature increase of 2.9 to 3.4°C this century. It’s not a surprise. Since Paris, no country has undertaken real policy reform to tackle the fundamental shifts required for meaningful climate action in the context of ‘sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty’. Worst, decisions made by countries outside of the climate space have made this objective even farther from reach. In the week after adoption of the Paris Agreement, the United Kingdom went to work slashing solar subsidies while the United States lifted a 40-year oil export ban. This alongside huge political shifts in both of the above mentioned countries, the impacts of which pose huge threats to achieving the goals of Paris.


Last year governments recognised that climate change impacts most deeply on communities that are already marginalised and pose a threat to human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations as well as gender equality. But there has been a clear failure to challenge systems that impact most negatively on these groups and privilege corporations and the wealthy.


The presence of some of the dirtiest polluters is noticeable in the negotiations despite the clear conflict of interest they have in eliminating dependence on their products. The ambition of countries to take action has clearly been damaged by the election of Donald Trump to US President. He has indicated that the US will withdraw from the Agreement meaning the country with the largest historical responsibility for the climate crisis will continue its dangerously high level of emissions.


The Marrakech meeting is supposed to be looking at how countries will conduct a ‘stocktake’ of the promises they have made to cut emissions and how to address the gap between the target of 1.5oC and the targets countries currently have. Discussions are taking place to address aviation emissions but women’s groups protested this week about the failure of some countries to count military emissions and the continued marginality of women in climate discussions. The US was able to exclude military emissions from the Kyoto protocol to protect ‘national security’ yet failed to ratify the protocol. If the US military were a country it would rank 34th in emissions – higher than Sweden. The groups drew attention to this omission as well as the vast amount of public funds going to military spending that could be redirected to climate action.


The fact that the Paris Agreement does not bind governments to cut emissions means that other international agreements take precedence. Recently, India’s national solar programme aiming to “establish India as a global leader in solar energy” and developed as “”major contribution by India to the global effort to meet the challenges of climate change” has been ruled inconsistent with the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) because it aimed to support the growth of a local solar industry. Importantly, the WTO ruling body has considered India’s arguments based on the respect of international climate obligations as irrelevant.


The private sector influence poses a big challenge to real action to reduce growth and consumption models driving climate change. Instead of regulating corporations’ actions and emissions countries are launching the ‘Global Climate Action Agenda’ where corporations can promote their work. This initiative includes the very same corporations that have funded efforts to prevent climate action and pursed profits at the expense of people and planet, such as Exxon mobil corporation currently under US Investigations for knowing about climate change for years but financing climate deniers in order to keep making profits.


In parallel to this dark reality, civil society at COP 22 is present and working to secure a future where climate change won’t have destructive consequence and where the rights of women and men are realised. Aware of the need to radically address the structures of our systems, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development is advocating for a ‘Feminist Fossil Fuel Free Future’. As frightening and dramatic as climate change is, it’s also an occasion to bring about profound and real change.


Real change will happen only if the structures of our neoliberal model of development that has framed the global economic and political order are profoundly and radically transformed. Switching from dirty to clean energies won’t bring a more just and equitable future if the very structures of power that gives big corporations control over our resources, energy systems and democracy are not dismantled. We need to implement solutions that are both sustainable but also that challenge power between corporations and peoples, between men and women, between rich and poor. There are some examples in India where communities are working together to secure ‘energy democracy’ for women through cooperatives and using knowledge of agro-ecology rather than depending on pesticides, mono-crops and deforestation. Rural and indigenous women’s groups are promoting sustainable, alternative lifestyles through initiatives such as the eradication of plastic use and organic production of food crops.


Governments may not agree this week to take real action but local movements know that fighting climate change is tied together with the realisation of women’s rights, the respect of indigenous’ peoples rights and changes to exploitative, consumption based systems. Let’s use climate change as an opportunity to create and build a future that makes the planet habitable as well as more equitable and just for future generations.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


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