IN­TOL­ER­ANCE IN PARIS

Down to Earth - - EDITOR’S PAGE -

ASI write this, it is two days to the endgame at the Paris cli­mate con­fer­ence. There has been lit­tle break­through on the con­tentious is­sues that elude an agree­ment, but still ev­ery­body is clear that there will be an agree­ment. I am be­gin­ning to understand why they are so con­fi­dent. Let me ex­plain.

For the first time since the be­gin­ning of cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions, the erst­while cli­mate rene­gades are in con­trol of the di­a­logue, nar­ra­tive and the au­di­ence. The Um­brella Group is a group­ing led by the US and in­cludes the big­gest rich pol­luters, such as Aus­tralia and Ja­pan, who have al­ways been in the dock for not tak­ing ac­tion to com­bat cli­mate change. In Paris, th­ese coun­tries have done an im­age change.

They are now the good guys. They want the world to be am­bi­tious in meet­ing not just the 2°C tem­per­a­ture thresh­old, they are push­ing for even stay­ing be­low 1.5°C. They say they are push­ing be­cause they care for the small is­land na­tions, which will suf­fer hor­ren­dous con­se­quences with ris­ing tem­per­a­tures. They also want an ef­fec­tive ar­range­ment to mon­i­tor progress and to ramp up ac­tions to meet th­ese tar­gets.

How can this be wrong, re­sponds a spell­bound au­di­ence.

This makeover is not overnight, or sud­den. Th­ese coun­tries have also done their home­work, so that the script is crafted skil­fully and the pro­pa­ganda is spread. Au­da­ciously.

Their civil so­ci­ety has been ca­joled into be­liev­ing that this is their time. The US ngos’ al­le­giance is ab­so­lute be­cause they (gen­uinely and naively) be­lieve their gov­ern­ment is do­ing all it can in spite of Repub­li­can Party op­po­si­tion. Their me­dia is in full at­ten­tion—the likes of The New York Times and bbc have been sec­onded to scold and rep­ri­mand the gov­ern­ments of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries like In­dia for mis­be­haviour. So, what the US gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials can­not say, their me­dia spells it out. It is fine tac­tics and grand the­atrics. And no­body speaks with­out a cue.

If you are not one of them, then the script is also pre-re­hearsed for you. The prompt­ness of the re­sponse— The New York Times pub­lished an ar­ti­cle chastis­ing the In­dian prime min­is­ter for dar­ing to speak about fair share of the car­bon bud­get within hours of his speech in Paris—should tell you this.

The screen­play goes like this. If any­one raises an is­sue, it is first dis­missed as be­ing ob­struc­tion­ist. Then, it is said, th­ese is­sue-rais­ers are anti-Amer­i­can or—even more re­duc­tively—anti-some­thing. Then, if you per­sist, you are told you are merely an un­wanted pest. You are ba­si­cally told that you should get lost be­cause the party is over. Cli­mate change is real and now all the emis­sions that could be burnt have been burnt and noth­ing re­mains.

But you don’t give up. If you still per­sist and de­mand that the deal should be eq­ui­table, that their lack of am­bi­tion is what has put the world at risk to­day and that they must va­cate space then their re­sponse is the ul­ti­mate shut-up. They sim­ply say: catas­tro­phes are at our doorstep and you are ask­ing for bread? How im­moral and in­sen­si­tive can you be? Shame on you!

Th­ese coun­tries forget that it is the very coun­tries ask­ing for left­over crumbs that are the vic­tims ex­pe­ri­enc­ing worst weath­er­re­lated calami­ties. They have not con­trib­uted to the emis­sions that are caus­ing the in­crease in tem­per­a­ture. But they are cer­tainly worst im­pacted to­day. The stock of gases al­ready in the at­mos­phere comes from the same coun­tries that are on the high pedestal to­day.

The fact is the Um­brella Group has spurned all ef­forts to con­trol their own run­away emis­sions. They have not con­trib­uted money. They have not con­trib­uted tech­nol­ogy. They have not done any­thing to pay for a tran­si­tion to clean en­ergy in the de­vel­op­ing world. Iron­i­cally, they want the tran­si­tion to hap­pen only in the de­vel­op­ing world.

But it is also a hard fact, not an irony, that once the car­bon bud­get is con­sumed—as they have done—there is lit­tle any­body can do about it other than cry in­jus­tice. It is also a fact that th­ese coun­tries con­tinue to have un­am­bi­tious plans to cur­tail their emis­sions. But since their takeover of the cli­mate talks is com­plete, there is no­body to ask th­ese in­con­ve­nient ques­tions.

There is no other way to ex­plain the ab­so­lute lack of di­a­logue that ex­ists now. In Paris, in this CoP21, there seems no­body else is in at­ten­dance. There is only one nar­ra­tive and no con­ver­sa­tion. The Euro­peans who are host­ing the con­fer­ence are lost. The French, al­ways adroit in man­ag­ing con­flicts, seem vac­u­ous and ir­rel­e­vant.

But it is clear that if we want to live in an in­ter­de­pen­dent world, voices of dis­sent can­not be­come il­le­git­i­mate or be put on mute. This is cli­mate change in­tol­er­ance. And like all in­tol­er­ance, this must be re­sisted and won over.

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