by Aneesa Khan
It has been almost an entire year since parties to the UNFCCC gathered in the home of fine fromage and disastrous climate deals. The 31-page Paris Agreement came into existence through its adoption on December 12th, 2015 and its birth was met with thunderous applause and tears of joy from rich countries and the French Presidency of COP21. On the frontlines of climate change and amongst the groups that fought for justice, there were tears as well. Miserable tears for the feeble Agreement that was being hailed as the save-all solution. Wretched tears for the genocide of people and the planet that has just been gavelled through. Indignant tears running down faces that swore to return and make governments keep their almost empty promises.
Accountability can only be pushed for once the Agreement is implemented. This brings us to COP22 in Marrakech – the Implementation COP. Getting the implementation of the Paris Agreement is no easy task and requires strong and organized pushes from civil society. So, what are the big fights for justice in Marrakech?
Countries are focusing their energy mainly on actions to reduce emissions post-2020. The year is 2016 and climate change is clearly a significant problem that is affecting millions today. This is not that university assignment that you procrastinate on until the last minute, nor that shirt that you clean only when it is unbearably dirty. This is the lives of vulnerable people and our ecological systems at take – real problems with real-world consequences. Leaving the work under the Paris Agreement that is already weak enough for the year 2020 leaves us with four years of inaction that will have irreversible consequences such as the disappearance of small island nations, threatening of agriculture and food security, displacement of frontline communities, health problems like never before. It is impossible to stay under 1.5 degrees of warming by just lying around for four years. We need to demand vigorous action on climate change, and we need to demand it right about now.
Historically, in the ongoing merry spirit of colonization, rich and developed countries decided to pollute into much more of our atmospheric space than poorer developing countries. Possessing just 25% of the world’s population but 75% of its atmosphere was innately unjust and it means that developed countries need to make many more deeper and faster cuts in their emissions today while providing finance and technology to developing countries to help them cut theirs. In reality, most developed countries have to actually take their emissions down to the negatives for climate action to be fair and based on common but differentiated responsibilities. Check out this CSO Equity Review to see what that means. At the moment, countries are a couple of light years away from where they need to be. Russia is 100% away from its fairshare, Japan has done 1/10th its fairshare, and the EU and the US have done 1/5th of theirs. Unless countries are playing a game to see who can do the worst at equitable emission reductions (Countries Against Humanity? We Don’t Have a Cluedo? Connect 4 Degrees of Warming?), it is time for them to get their act together so that we can stay safe.
3. The 1.5 and NDC debate.
The ultimate objective of the Paris Agreement is to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees celsius while pursuing efforts to keep it under 1.5 degrees celsius. Unfortunately, it calls for this to be achieved through NDCs, or voluntary contributions from countries towards this goal. Apparently, countries’ robust action on climate till date had everyone convinced that we can trust their sound judgment on their pledges and on what needs to be done to stop the apocalypse. This bottom-up approach is inefficient, and countries’ pledged contributions are currently taking us towards a 3.5 degree world. The UNEP report last Thursday showed us that we are heading towards 3.5 degrees for the planet. The IPCC report will also come out in 2018, and it is pretty certain that they will illustrate pathways that need to be taken to stay under 1.5 degrees of warming if its already not too late. But, did we really need the UNEP or a bunch of supposedly apolitical climate scientists to tell us about the 3.5 degree world? It sounds familiar, almost as though thousands of people in the climate justice movement brought up this problem on multiple occasions in Paris..
4. Climate-Impacted People.
Call them climate refugees, climate migrants, or climate-displaced people, the number of victims of climate change is growing rapidly and will keep growing till it encompasses all of us. In Paris, rich countries bullied poor countries into agreeing to have a clause under the topic of loss and damage that provided for no liability no compensation. This basically rendered loss and damage as useless in the Agreement as an appendix in the human body. The debate should be about around insurance for impacts on people, and there should be demands for government-run protection, not private-sector. We should demand a future legal protocol for people impacted by climate change as almost 135 million people will be impacted in the near future. That is 1 in every 30 people in the globe. The new global compact on large scale migration and refugees will come out in 2018.
Ever since that magical and surreal time (read:nightmare) of COP15 in Copenhagen, the set number of climate finance was manufactured to be $100 billion per year (thanks, Hillary!).
At the moment, the Green Climate Fund has $10.3 billion in its kitty and this has to be replenished in the year 2018. To be honest, $100 billion a year is basically nothing in the face of climate change, a bunch of loose change that parties can’t seem to muster up. Australia and the UK recently were involved in a finance roadmap that says that we’re almost there at $67 billion and we just need to power through this to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. In reality, Oxfam kindly informed us that this money is mostly double counted (through developmental aid) and most of it is in the form of concessional loans. In reality, we need nearly $11-12 trillion for financing what has been pledged in the weak NDCs alone. Climate finance needs to be new, additional, predictable, scaled-up and in the form of grants. It really is quite rude and uncalled for to owe someone money and then ask them to pay you back instead.
6. Kicking Polluters out of the COP.
If you thought that the parties to the Paris Agreement are just lying around doing nothing for the next four years, think again. Their lying in bed, pursuing their ongoing long-term amorous relationship with big business and the fossil fuel industries. The Lima-Paris Action Agenda pushed for the involvement of the private sector in the COPs. Now, we have the Global Climate Action Agenda which gives business a big voice. Corporations are at the root of the causes of climate change, and it appears to be a massive conflict of interest to have the proponents of the problem inside or indirectly in negotiations that are supposed to be fixing it, not exacerbating it. Check out Corporate Accountability International’s campaign to kick the hooligans out.
7. The Agriculture Debacle.
There is a constant debate on how agriculture can be used to deal with climate change. Developed countries push for a mitigation approach where they see agricultural land usage as a way to reduce emissions through false solutions like biofuels and bioenergy carbon capture and storage which reduce the amount of land we can use for growing food. Developing countries push for an adaptation approach, talking about how to deal with changing rainfall patterns, droughts etc. and how to keep food production at the required amount through the disasters of climate change. But, you know, why eat an adapted sweet potato when you can have some sugarcane oil instead?
8. Renewable Energy Initiatives.
LDCs and other developing countries are looking to demand a renewable energy initiative for all developing countries similar to that of the African Renewable Energy Initiative which is meant to “mobilize the African potential to generate at least 300 GW by 2030”. More power to them for demanding such a transformation of energy systems, civil society pushing for this is key!
A lot needs to be done for the implementation of the Paris Agreement in Marrakech. What is extremely important to remember is that Marrakech is but one moment in our bigger fight for the above struggles within the UNFCCC. 2018 can be the year where we pull together the facilitative dialogue, the climate finance replenishment, the global compact on climate refugees, and the IPCC report to work in our favour for stronger commitments from countries to the Paris Agreement. In conclusion, the Paris Agreement still does not deserve any of the applause it has been receiving – frontline communities, grassroots level activism and climate justice groups are at the heart of the struggle, and the struggle is very, very real.