Lima COP 20: More of the Usual Please

2014-11-29 21:40

Three years ago I was fortunate enough to have attended a once in a lifetime event in my hometown. One which had drawn a plethora of citizenry, political officials, business groups and news crews from all corners of the globe. The language of agency through slogans such as, "think local, act global", had managed to swindle the minds and pockets of our country, just a year after the FIFA mob had crooked their way through another successful event at the expense of the hosts (ourselves), leaving us with white elephants struggling to replenish their worth (save for soccer city)

The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), behind all the hype and glamour, had proved to be nothing more than a platform for tokenist commitment, devoid of radical, decisive action in combating the casual factors of climate change. Technologies on display in either business or country stalls at the Durban COP were deliberately displayed as panaceas for the self-inflicted hell humanity had landed itself in a remarkably short historical epoch. Needless to say, all the colourful showboating had served to greenwash the image of the automotive, logistics and energy sectors, simply so consumer bases may be more morally cleansed of their involvement with any particular brand. BMW have been especially active in affecting climate policy in Europe during recent years, to the point of which one might believe efficient dynamics to pertain more to its internal business structure than its automotive technology.

the level of corporate involvement (specifically of these sectors) in the climate agenda has become prolific of late. the last two COP's in Doha (Qatar) 2012 and Warsaw (Poland) last year have been unequivocally bias to the corporate agenda. both cities are large consumers of fossil fuel generated energy; Doha being situated at the epicentre of oil production, with the highest per-capita consumption on the planet, while Warsaw is the biggest consumer of coal in the EU, constituting of over three fourths of its energy matrix. Conferences running congruently to the COP were staged unashamedly in attempts to secure the big business and its economic clout. Doha had already been swarmed by iol companies operating in its deserted backyard, leaving policy formation largely nuanced toward operating conditions which would't constrain extractive activity to a notable extent. In its haste to appease big business, the Warsaw government ran a coal & climate summit on the 18-19th November, congruently to the high level COP conference, leaving impressions of the event as nothing more than Farcical.

most recently, the neutrality of the UN has reached new dizzying heights. The UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) has (under the duress of big-business, created a subdivision specifically meant to display mutual co-optation between the UN and pollutant industries. Known as the Caring For climate Initiative, this subdivision of the Global Compact body allows for companies to affect policy making through a formal 3 step process, [supposedly] involving actors and parties from the state, corporate and societal level. The list of affiliates in the relatively short timeframe since its launch now includes over 300 companies from most UN member countries (including South Africa). Last year's conference saw an unprecedented number of corporates listing themselves as sanctioned sponsors/partners in the Warsaw event, leaving the majority of observers to dub it, the most corporate COP ever.

What then bodes for Lima one may ask then? unfortunately some of the early signs don't yield much hope in the face of what has become a routine exercise in orthodoxy of state and capitalist interests, each one reinforcing the other. Publications and research on the COP 20 website reveal narratives bereft of any progressive thinking or approaches to real climate solutions. Rather such research is aimed at espousing the benefits of our current energy mix as one which is beneficial, albeit with new window dressing and fanciful language. This unfortunately has stemmed from the Rio 92' UN conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), where the now overused term, Sustainable Development was born to rapturous reception. The dual narrative of conservation and development has continued since then, permitting what scholars have coined, a business as usual environment for states and corporations.

The UNFCCC is no different, with clauses like Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capacity, (in the 'biblified' Kyoto Protocol) causing recurrent dissent between OECD and developing countries.  Lima could, but won't be the watershed moment for humanity and the leaders thereof, to institute radical reforms given the level of involvement by exogenous actors and agencies. Funding for the latest installation has also come along such lines, suggesting deliberate direction of proceedings in favour of the hosts for next year (Paris COP 21 will commence next year and institute a new protocol to replace that of Kyoto). Encouraging signs by the biggest emitters, China and the US have been painted as a success, given the histrocally icy relationship between the two. Renewed commitments to CO² mitigation by 2025 (26-28% for the US), and and caps by 2030 (China’s cap for peaking emissions) were announced at the Beijing summit recently. The quickly reached global increased temperature of 1°C means the success of this deal laid more in the conversation mustered between Xi Xinping and Barack Obama. Such levels cannot facilitate any admirable effort in the climate agenda, especially since the likelihood of these commitments being adhered to are quite slim. Being that they were reached outside the UNFCCC framework, there are surely concessions which were afforded by each country to the other in this deal, one's which are tempered by economic and development concerns.

Such priorities are what led the global society to this point of ecological and atmospheric uncertainty. Given the largely unchanged socio-economic system in place, the urgency of radical shifts in our approaches (social & economic, psycho-social, ecological and environmental) should inspire immediate action. Rather than attempts at mitigation/reduction, reformation and revolution should be prioritized above all else. The moral obligation of elites to use their power to commit to doing so (given our calamitous situation) must manifest sooner rather than later, should we avert being subject to the dictates of mother nature under increasingly dire circumstances.

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