We Can’t Wait Another Five Years

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The post-2020 agreement from the Climate Change Conference in Paris was as predicted: unjust, unequal, and unambitious. The agreement reflected a climate change negotiation shaped by the international order: those that suffer first and most from climate change have the least leverage; those most responsible, capable, and less impacted have the most. The result was an agreement that is: inadequate, leading to a disastrous 3 Celsius rise; unjust, all countries take responsibility for a problem created and exploited by a few; unequal, wealthier countries can continue to accumulate wealth and technology at the expense of the poorer ones. This is because despite inclusion of concepts such as climate justice, gender equality, 1.5 C increase, loss and damage, the specifics detailed in the agreement will force all countries into an inadequate voluntary emissions reduction framework: the intended nationally determined contributions (INDC). “Nationally determined” means that instead of a top down agreement, each country is free to determine its greenhouse gas reduction levels. And while this provides some breathing room for developing countries to set emissions reduction goals that reflect the need for development, it also lets developed countries off the hook by letting them set whatever goal they desire. Furthermore, obligation to implement these contributions are at best ethical rather than legal. The weakness of such ethical obligations, according to Energy and Climate Policy Research Institute’s Hyun-Woo Kim is that “once some do not fulfill their goals, there will be little pressure for others to do so.” Even more tragic is that even if the INDCs were achieved, humanity would still be on course towards a disastrous 3 C rise in global temperature.

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(Source: ibtimes.co.uk)

Given the historical trajectory and composition of the negotiations, many in civil society predicted this outcome and readied to protest the illegitimacy of a corporate dominated climate change negotiation. However, the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, gave a reason for police to ban the planned Paris protests. Organizers turned creative. Unable to congregate en masse in Paris, they placed thousands of shoes in the Place de la Republique to symbolically represent the banned protests.

Once the agreement came out, civil society’s response was divided: mainstream environmental groups viewed it as a step towards the right direction; those in the climate justice movement viewed it as a failure. The difference lay in perspective: The mainstream environmental groups (e.g. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth) viewed the COP negotiations as central in resolving climate change and fearing another Copenhagen were relieved to see an agreement reached that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The climate justice movement (e.g. Coalition Climat 21, Indigenous Environmental Network) viewed climate justice as a central component to solutions for climate change, which they viewed as not being reflected in the agreement.

Given that the profit driven mode of production is the socio-political cause of climate change, the only true solution necessitates changing that system. It will be those directly impacted - in the First and Third World - that can overturn the system. To unlock their potential and energy, we must wed the struggle against climate change with the one for justice in the climate change conferences and in our communities. We must start now, we can’t wait another five years.

By Dae-Han Song(Chief Editor, ISC)