THE PARIS CLIMATE CHANGE PROMISE
The Paris Agreement, the Climate Change deal, is not really a deal at all. It is a promise based on delay and deferral.
First, the nations of the world have not yet signed up. This is to be done on April 22nd, 2016 when there is to be a “signing ceremony”. Not every nation is obliged to sign. The promise is only ratified when “at least 55 parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification…”
Second, there is a general promise to see that global temperature does not reach 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. They have pegged the ceiling at 1.5 degrees. Humans are expected to generate 55 gigatonnes of carbon by 2025/2030. Paris wants it reduced to 40 gigatonnes. Experts have warned that catastrophic climate events could occur if temperatures rise to 3 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Third, the promise is to hold individual nations responsible and accountable through “contributions”. That is, each must list its contribution to climate change in the form of prevention, mitigation and adaptation measures, which it is encouraged to submit to the secretariat; in the first instance, before April next year, then periodically, so that each nation’s contribution may be monitored and published.
Fourth, an ad hoc working group is to coordinate the promise. Special teams have been named to raise US$100 billion annually to assist nations to mitigate impacts and adapt; to advise on renewable strategies; to provide support on technology and capacity building.
Fifth, there is a promise to adhere to the accords made at other well-known climate conferences, for example at Durban, Cancun and Kyoto; and a general declaration to protect forests and other carbon sinks. To put it succinctly, the promise pussyfoots on global ecological, and therefore, economic justice. Big polluter nations have been let off the hook. They can weasel their way out of firm commitments using the long-winded bureaucratic ambiguities in the document.
The people demonstrating outside the conference halls had clearer, less bureaucratic, less ambiguous, and more straightforward and effective solutions. But of course, they are not government, and certainly not the United Nations. Since the UN and its large polluter handlers continue to fail global economic, social and ecological climate justice, the people must continue their work on the ground.
For example, communities from Chatham to Chaguaramas have over the past twelve years smashed the state’s master plan to build approximately thirteen heavy gas-based industrial complexes, industrial estates, ports, and pipelines in its bid to monetize gas assets. If these had been built, where would we have been getting gas to fire them? Trinidad and Tobago can no longer produce oil and gas at globally competitive rates. Additionally, they would have pumped megatonnes of carbon into the earth’s atmosphere. In short, the people, not the government, have saved us from going to hell in a coconut shell.
But our new government has its chance. It has its opportunity to take a conscious, progressive and just stand. It must outdo its own expectations, the expectations of the public, and the limitations of the Paris promise. What will its list of contributions to the new Paris Climate Change promise look like? Is it prepared to embark on a horticultural drive to plant forest, food crop and ornamental trees; to win back our food and drink economy from our forex merchants, our bird/bat, butterfly/bee populations, our children’s health, the climate?
Is it prepared to bust the destructive internal combustion engine/highway terror trap; to create efficient, low emission, safe, economical mass transit systems?
Is it prepared to reform the EMA Act, to free the EMA to use its bulldog teeth fairly and equitably, to stop the line minister from using political clout to stymie the scientific process at
Is it prepared to keep a national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions?
Is it, civil servants, technocrats, bureaucrats all, prepared to get over its tabanca over the oil and gas based forex economy and genuinely deploy our resources, diversify?
Is it is prepared to rescue the economic, social and ecological infrastructural assets from the destructive Debe to Mon Desir highway; preserving the Oropouche Wetland mangrove, swamps, marshland, hydrology to sink carbon?
Is it prepared to abide by its manifesto promise to act on the basis of science and logic, and alter projects inimical to the public interest; obviating the potential astronomical economic cost of mitigation, adaptation and future impacts?
Finally, is it seriously preparing to invest in renewables?
United Nations Climate Change chief Christiana Figueres, left, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French Foreign Affairs Minister and UN Climate Change Conference in Paris president Laurent Fabius, and French President Francois Hollande celebrate an agreement on climate change. AP