COP21: Kickout the big Polluters

As the world leaders get ready to meet in Paris for 21st Conference of the parties (COP21), to establish a solid ground to solve the climate crisis, doubts shadow whether or not corporate business and big oil polluters have taken over the agenda.

The corporate involvement, specially fossil fuel lobby groups within the UNFCCC is not new. From the very beginning of the earth summit and 1995 COP1 (Statement by the International Chamber of Commerce before COP1) in Berlin till cop20 in Lima, we have seen corporate parties taking every action to jeopardize any climate agreement and to make sure their interest is not harmed, which they refer to as ‘Business as usual’.

The negotiation to bring the countries on same page in solving climate crisis has been going on for 20 years now through COP. And each time the outcome was same: No universal agreement. Closest were COP3 and COP15, but there were no legal binding. The corporations and fossil fuels lobbyist group played a key role ensuring that.The failure of 20 climate summits to date has corresponded with a dramatic speed up of greenhouse gas emission rates. In fact, since 1988, more than half of all industrial carbon emissions have been released, raising the prospect of irreversible climate change.

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CO2 level has never been this high in human history. Credit: NOAA & Scripps Institution of Oceanography

But, why do organizations like UNFCCC let business corporations take over things? A short history lesson will help us understand that.

Back in 70s, UN took up an initiative to monitor big corporations so that they can’t  create pressure on underdeveloped nations for business. With time, UN changed that policy and the companies were given priority to invest in the name of foreign direct investment through UN. Later in the 90s, the financial crisis within the UN, opened doors for more Corporate-UN partnership. UNFCCC is just one part of it.

Corporate influence

The corporate influence within UNFCCC—Polaris Institute

With COP, the whole world has seen the effort fossil fuel lobbyist group indulge in. From ‘business as usual’ market based solution to ‘greenwash’ every effort has been put into place to care for profit, not for the environment. To them, climate action is important, but can’t jeopardize the growth. Carbon tax is another loophole, which shifts focus from emission reduction to emission transfer.

So, when the French Senate cut funding for COP21, the French government’s announced that corporate sponsors would cover 20 percent of the €170 million event was not a surprise.

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Corporate and dirty, does not look smart—COP21 sponsors

Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Accountability International and many other civil society organizations have been pointing out the corporate involvement with COP for years. The corporate sponsorship of COP21 creates a dangerous conflict of interest in two key points [1]:

  1. Most of the sponsors invest heavily in fossil fuel, and with a weak climate agreement, they benefit the most
  2. UNFCCC and its member governments are allowing the corporations responsible for causing the climate crisis to greenwash their brands while continuing to make no meaningful changes to their polluting operations.

 

Fossil Fuel lobbyist are also becoming desperate. With downward pressure on gas and coal prices, both the removal of Fossil Fuel Subsidies and implementing renewable energy strategy is possible without raising much energy cost. Then there is their public image, which is also facing much scrutiny as fossil fuel industry knew about their effect on climate change since 1980s and they continued to fund deniers throughout.

So, what this means? This means that whatever outcome we get from COP21, may also serve the fossil fuel industry, a reason why a drive is now ongoing to kick out the big polluters from COP21 negotiation. World Health Organisation (WHO) had done such before in one of United Nations quickest ratified treaties in 2005 which introduced a bar between public health officials and tobacco industry. We do not want the same history to be repeated again and again, as we have found for the last 20 COPs, big polluters find their way in. It’s time that we say no to them through an action like WHO, for us and for the planet.

More to come, this week: Have you heard, renewable can save the world by 2050? Stay tuned. 

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The unheard refugees: floating with Climate

Just because we have not counted the victims of climate change, does not mean they are not there.

Fred Pearce

How do you define victims of climate change? What happens when climate change takes it’s toll?

One such phenomenon due to climate change is migration or mobility which can be characterized by the production of ‘refugees’. [Farbotko & Lazrus, 2011]. It took us some time to use the term ‘climate refugee’ even though ‘environmental refugee’ came into being in 1990s . These are yet to become legal terms.

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Typhoon Haiyan Damage in Philippines Credit: Asian Development Bank

Climate change refugee is a term used to describe people temporarily or permanently displaced across national/international borders by the effects of climate change. The concept is closely linked to that of ‘ecological refugee’ which has been used since the 1970s and ‘environmental refugee’ – used since 1990s – to denote persons who are forced to migrate for environmental reasons nationally or internationally [Docherty & Giannini, 2009; Farbotko & Lazrus, 2012; Williams, 2008].

 

Some have suggested that climate change refugees should be incorporated under the existing Refugee Convention, but for others the very usage of the term ‘refugee’ is considered inappropriate, as this might undermine the protections currently offered to conventional refugees [Williams, 2008]. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) avoids any reference to refugees, and instead refers to ‘environmentally displaced persons’ which it defines

persons ‘who are displaced from or who feel obliged to leave their usual place of residence, because their lives, livelihoods and welfare have been placed at serious risk as a result of adverse environmental, ecological or climatic processes and events

The UNHCR has also made clear that these persons do not fall under their mandate for internally displaced people. In recent times, migration and refugee has become a major concern for many of the developed and developing countries. Though many perceive, Ecological disasters do not typically lead to mass migrations, this has been proven to the contrary with increasing occurrence of climate disasters over the last 40 years. Most of this type of migration occurs within countries, instead of internationally. Case studies indicate that sudden onset disasters will generally cause only short-term local displacement, This may be due to economic and social factors, as those most affected are often poor with little social support and thus have limited mobility.

Norman Myer, first ever put a number about world’s Environmentally displaced people. According to estimates by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), around 185 million people were displaced by disasters in the period 2008–14. Found in a policy brief in 2008, below are some numbers.

  • The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) estimated in 2001 that for the first time the number of environmental refugees exceeded those displaced by war.
  • UNHCR (2002:12) estimated there were then approximately 24 million people around the world who had fled because of floods, famine and other environmental factors.
  • IPCC predicts 150 million environmental refugees by 2050 – equivalent to 1.5% of 2050’s predicted global population of 10 billion.
  • Myers, who in 1993 predicted 150 million environmental refugees, now believes the impact of global warming could potentially displace 200 million people (Myers 2005).
  • The Stern Review, commissioned by the UK Treasury, agrees it is likely there could be 200 million displaced by 2050 (Stern 2006).
  • UNEP argues that by 2060 there could be 50 million environmental refugees in Africa alone.
  • Most apocalyptically, Christian Aid have postulated that a billion people could be permanently displaced by 2050 – 250 million by climate change-related phenomena such as droughts, floods and hurricanes and 645 million by dams and other development projects (Christian Aid 2007)

Kosi Floods - IndiaNow, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified three expected effects of climate change which are considered as trigger effects for migration. These are: more frequent flooding; more frequent droughts; and a rise in sea levels. Climate change migration will affect populations in small island states, low lying coastal areas, Africa, Asia and Latin America with sea level rise symbolizing the greatest danger to these regions. Researches suggest that migration is not inevitable, as once financial resources are available protective measures can be implemented; thus, even sea level rise can be somewhat neutralized by engineering, like the case of Netherlands.

The countries which are and will suffer the most effects are generally those which contributed the least to climate change. These countries should get compensation and migration initiative to cope up with the change. As COP21 is few days away, it will be interesting to see what actions INDCs and country leaders take in order to address climate refugees if they take any at all?

 

BIASD observes World Environment Day 2014

When my Professor first told me to attend the seminar, I was not sure what I was going in for. The seminar was organised by Bridging Institutions and Innovations in Action for Sustainable Development (BIASD). The seminar inaugurated a Campaign on Clean, Safe and Women Friendly Environment in Educational Institutions for Sustainable Development. Readers who prefer Bengali can read it here.

I was late and I was there in the middle of a presentation. The presentation caught my attention instantly as I was doing a research work on the topic—the environment around us. People with high rank and position in government and at university were present there. What I liked the most about the seminar was the speakers openness in admitting the problems and trying to give suggestions. It was not at all academic rather pragmatic.

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BIASD celebrate World Environmental Day 2014

Deputy Secretary Dr Abul Hossain of Ministry of Woman and Children Affairs told a undeniable fact—the way we portray Bangladesh outside is not the right way. He talked about his experience abroad, how he did not used to like cleaning the training premises at the beginning, where he got trained. Then later when he got used to it, he generally understood the importance. Tania Hoque, also mentioned that culturally we are lot aware of our personal hygiene. But we just think of our house and we keep it clean till our doors. Speakers emphasized on the fact that we should develop the habit of treating our surrounding environment as our own. It is our responsibility to keep it clean and we should.

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Professor Reazul Haque speaking at the seminar

Professor Reazul Haque stated that women are still treated as unwanted, even by women. The reason being the women do not want their children to go through the same harassment that they themselves went through.

For me, the important takeaway was that a lot is happening around, and I know a little part of it only. I should try to know more. Also, a question that usually comes in my mind is that how effective such campaigns be in the long run? I mean lots of campaigns kick off, how many does reach their desire goal or even half way?

Everybody agreed that the responsibility to keep the nature unharmed rest on the shoulders of young generation. I do agree with that completely. How much aware are they themselves, or do they really care? Time will definitely let us know whether they do or they do not, but for now, we can hope and try.

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