The UN climate talks in Paris (CoP 21) are an important moment. Climate change is a global problem that needs a global solution – one that recognises the crisis inextricably linked to inequality and poverty, as Pope Francis so eloquently stressed in his recent encyclical.
Climate change impacts on the ground are reversing the development gains like never before for the 7.3 billion people of the globe. The achievement of MDGs would have seen much more substantial achievements and would have brought greater positive results without the negative impacts of climate change. The SDGs will be untenable due to climate change even with a $2 – $3 trillion a year (The Economist: The 169 commandments) investment worldwide unless we transform our way of living and lifestyle related decision at political level. It is therefore a ‘development’ issue and environment issue. There is concern that even with current green house gas reduction pledges by countries in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), we will not be able to limit average temperature rise to 1.5⁰ C (2⁰ C rise is not an option for the people of LDCs and SIDS as many of them are already facing the threat of disappearance due to sea level rise). There is urgent need of phasing out fossil fuel emissions, phasing in renewable energy, and making a link on how to provide energy access to people especially the marginalised, achieve sustainable development as well meet the common temperature goal of 1.5ºC.
The year 2015 could be the year for transformation and new beginning. It is imperative to make the Paris CoP the conference that will reaffirm and sign off the goal of limiting carbon emission and allow people to live in dignity. We have seen CoP 15 to fail, and we have seen some progress made in the Cancun and Durban conferences. During the climate summit initiative 2014 of H.E. Ban Ki-Moon we have seen hundreds and thousands of people from across the globe take to the streets of New York demanding a fair deal. So we do not want to see another failure in Paris at CoP 21.
What is a Just Deal which is equitable and fair? Who is the deal for?
2 billion people continue to remain in poverty. Inequality needs to be accepted as the core of disparity in growth and distributive justice having specific implication for climate change impacts on vulnerable communities.
The deal has to be for the people across the globe who are living in poverty – the LDCs and the SIDS. It in no way suggests to slow growth, but to follow the zero-zero pathway (not proposing however net zero emission as it will increase the burden on the south.) Policies such as promoting private cars over public transport, commodifying natural resources and encouraging industrial agriculture by betraying smallholder agro-ecological farming will aggravate climate change. Any development model that is based on inequality will only exacerbate injustice.
It is already been demonstrated in many countries that wind and solar are more energy efficient and cost effective than other sources. These green energy sources also create new Green Jobs. We have the technology to take the transformative pathway within short period of time, however it will be dependent on availability of resources from the developed countries and the political will. Making the resources available will require the political will of the world leaders, of the rich and emerging economies.
The climate science confirmed in 2013 (IPCC 5th Assessment Report) that we are in the pathway of crossing the 2⁰C threshold of global average temperature raise. Even with meeting current mitigation pledges of the countries, there will be residual impacts. Thereby, countries like Bangladesh and Malawi need to invest more in adaptation to deal with loss and damage. The 9th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation this year invested in understanding ways to enhancing effective adaptation action across the globe. If we fail to take adequate and timely measure of mitigation and adaptation (haven’t we failed already?), we will have to face loss and damage. As some scientists indicated, we’ve already entered into the loss and damage era where the social cost of migration and economic cost of rehabilitation will be beyond our imagination and capacity. Therefore, the less mitigation and adaptation we do the higher the loss and damage we will incur.
There is no climate justice without gender justice and equity. Women as half of the world’s population expect and call for their perspective; their full and equal participation in all aspects of climate policy and implementation must be ensured.
ActionAid and like minded civil society will not accept any false solutions in the climate deal in Paris. Solutions like ‘climate smart agriculture, or net zero emissions’ are to benefit the large corporations, not the small holder farmer – by which we mean a women living in poverty in some distant corner of Africa and Asia. It is the small holder farmers who feed the world even when the corporate deliver to super markets. We must support the farmers with all kind of resources, knowledge and technology to enable them to diversify their cropping system. Any efforts to offset climate change through land use could massively escalate the land grab.
Finally, it is about the response of global leaders. We call on the global leaders to remind them that the civil society organisations have developed “The People’s Test on Climate 2015”, which is a tests for Governments – not individual leaders. The website here records clear expectations of all Governmental leaders.
The Paris negotiations are important – we absolutely need a strong and just global agreement on climate action. However, we already know that on their own they are not likely to be enough to fix the climate crisis. Our Governments have to come up with a strong deal in Paris, but regardless of whether or not they succeed or fail, action and momentum are building up from below as we speak. Where Governments fall short due to unfair influence by elites, or corporations and vested interests, people will hold them accountable.
Paris is not the end of the road but a beginning.