By Hwaa Irfan
Another round of U.N. talks begins in Cancun, Mexico on 29 Nov. 2010. What a dichotomy, Mexico, there is a serious case of lack of cooperation in the U.S. taking serious responsibility for its role in the environmental problems of Mexico. One hundred and ninety one governments will be negotiating their long-term commitment to cooperation over climate change. If it is anything like the currency issue over the global economic crisis, then one wonders how much talk will transfer into action – however, then again, will the action have more to do with self interest, common interest or a sustainable interest including that of the earth, which was formed so as to sustain us?
An underlying philosophy, instead of an environment of fear is what would inform any sustainable treaty. Is there an underlying philosophy in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC? The earth recycles, do we recycle? The earth rests so that it can give, do we rest in order that we can give? The earth works to supply each individual specie its needs, and has all species working in harmony, do we give each of God’s creation what it needs, and seek to make each creation remain a part of the whole? When the UNFCCC Secretariat stated:
“It is not possible to say with utmost scientific certainty that each of these [referring to the floods in Niger, Pakistan, and the wild fires of Russia, and mudslides of China] are a direct climate change impact. But if they are anything to go by, then they give us a taste of the magnitude of what could come – and of what could come more frequently, and more intensely.”
This is far from being a helpful statement to the concept of cooperation. Whether there is certainty or not, when will it be possible to throw bigotry dressed as politics out of the window and to accept that this is one earth, and as one earth what affects one, affects the other – otherwise why bother to talk, or is that window dressing by the governments for the public!
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Kyoto Protocol should be revised in line with the growing body of information from an implementational point of view. Neither have had the adequate long term view that encompasses how governments and people will respond in the context of the impact of war on the environment, and in the context of the global economic crisis. The statement by the Indian environmental minister, Jairam Ramesh
“It [the US model of development] is a paradigm fraught with grave risks. I shudder to think what will happen if we [in India] follow the suburban model of urbanization,”
“You can’t blame the Americans. The US lifestyle has become the world lifestyle. [But] if we are going to replicate this model, it is a recipe for disaster for India as well as for the rest of the world. We should be showing the way … not just saying we are going to pay this price.”
… is not far from the findings of the Health of the Planet Report, which states:
“Over a given time period, our planet produces a finite amount of resources. Trees, food, oxygen, and everything else are created at a balanced, natural rate. If we consume more than what is produced, we start to damage the Earth’s ability to renew itself. Because one of the main ways we use the planet’s resources is through our diets, we’ve examined what effects diets from around the world are having on the planet, by showing what would happen if everyone on earth ate the same food. As you can see, if everyone ate like Americans, we would be using nearly four planet’s worth of resources by 2050”.
Industry is about trade, and trade includes the way in which we produce our food. In the industrialized processing of our foods, much is done that degrades the environment, the food and the water we consume. From the burning of fossil fuels, to the chemical processes, the fertilizers which diminish land fertility, and the waste waters that poison our water supply, and reduce available drinking water, which is a growing problem even for the developed countries. If trade was fair, there would be no need for food to be considered as a national security threat, which in itself is becoming an obsessive compulsive disorder for governments. Rather than see fair trade as a way forward to share the world’s resources in a manner that benefits everyone, the approach is to steal from one’s neighbor whether it is in the form of trade agreements, low-pricing of raw materials in order to get high returns, aid and/or land-grabbing.
“Food-insecure countries are responding to food shortages by looking to distant lands to develop crops for export back home. However, a crucial question is falling through the cracks: should trade be supported at the expense of domestic food supplies? The land grab trend is putting private interests in direct competition with land for local food production, a situation that cannot be tolerated in the face of growing hunger among the world’s poorest. Much of the global food system, from seed and fertilizer supply to trade and retail, is in the hands of a few large corporations whose interests are first and foremost economic gain, not feeding the millions of the world’s hungry. The land grab trend is extending private sector control over food production in a way that provides little transparency, few safeguards, and shows little concern for local economics or political or humanitarian consequences.
“The presumed virtues of market mechanisms and of increasing investment climates dominate the global agenda, blinding decision-makers to the reality of peoples’ basic needs and to the simple fact that domestic food supply must be ensured. Put quite simply, private corporations are not providing short or long-term stability in food production and supply for the developing world. The price volatility resulting from increased corporate control of food trade is hugely damaging to farmers’ livelihoods and to poor countries’ dependent on a system that has not come through for them time and time again. – The Great Land Grab by Shepard Daniel with Anuradha Mittal.
However, the Cancun talks are about none of the above, it is simply a checklist of what industrialized nations have done to cut emissions, but surely to cut emissions the processes that contribute towards those emissions, have to be restructured! Is it not time that the Copenhagen Accord be revised to become a compulsory agreement rather than a voluntary one for which government is not hell-bent towards progress at any cost? Even if there is no direct link between the growing problems with the climate, and production, there is a direct relationship to the mass means of production controlled by large corporations and the health of the nation, and the environment or does the health of the nation, and the health of the planet that is supposed to sustain us not matter?
Mexico is out to set an example during the talks at Cancun with a recycling waste program as a result of the waste produced during the talks. Mexico will also be installing a hydroelectric and using the Cancun wind turbine and biofuels to reduce their contribution to greenhouse emissions. The wind turbine will produce clean energy preventing the output of 2,000 tons of CO₂, i.e. the exhaust from hundreds of cars. Though they hope to relieve the earth of 50 million tons of CO₂, the burning of biofuels may replace fossil fuels, but in doing so, biofuels do not produce less CO₂ than fossil fuels, which does not suddenly recycle itself back into the soil, as some “experts” would like us to believe. Oil and coal are products of the earth, and like anything that is burned, it vaporizes into the air, back onto earth via rain, and inhalation. How sustainable are plants, trees, and all that constitutes the term “biomass” once they are consumed to the same extent as coal and oil? Therefore, where logic, evidence and expertise based on truth not propoganda is lacking, self interest in the form of politics prevails! The World Bank has approved funding of Mexico’s efforts towards a greener economy to the tune of US$713mn – what’s really behind it?
The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and in 2010 – the hottest year since records began, CO₂ emissions have been the highest since records of CO₂ emissions began. This does not speak in favor of governments who make claims towards record reductions by 2012, when as far as 2007, the European Union aimed for 2020 to cut greenhouse emissions by only 20%! “The holes in the protocol essentially mean business as usual for the large greenhouse gas emitters, as long as they pay poorer nations to do the dirty job of cutting emissions wrote Tan Cheng Li in 1997, is there anything different in 2010 or will there be in 2012? While 21,000 people have died in the first 9 months of 2010 alone because of weather related disasters according to the Oxfam report “More Than Ever: Climate Talks that Work for Those That Need Them Most” who cares when one is benefiting from business as usual!
Li, T.C. “Flaws in the Kyoto Protocol.” http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/kyt-cn.htm
Mckenzie, D. “Biofuels Will Up Euro Greenhouse Emissions.” http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19716-biofuels-will-up-euro-greenhouse-emissions.html
“Stakes High, Expectations Low as Climate Talks Open in Cancum.” http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/nov2010/2010-11-29-01.html