Climate Justice: The Only Solution to the Climate Crisis

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

Nnimmo Bassey. Credit: Courtesy FOEI

Nnimmo Bassey. Credit: Courtesy FOEI

By Nnimmo Bassey

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – The Copenhagen climate talks could become a milestone towards ‘Climate Justice’.

Unfortunately, the chances of achieving a just and effective UN agreement in Copenhagen are very slim, mainly because the leaders of rich, developed countries are not addressing the climate crisis with the holistic, rights-based approach known as Climate Justice.

Scientists tell us that we are at the start of a climate crisis. This crisis is about people and about justice, not just polar bears.Undoubtedly, our world is out of balance, not just economically but also environmentally.

My own country, Nigeria, is a typical example of climate injustice: while the oil and gas from the Niger Delta is profiting foreign corporations and a few politicians, the local people are sentenced to live in poverty and in massively polluted environments.

In the oil-rich Niger Delta, many don’t have access to electricity, and gas flares still pump into the atmosphere tonnes of greenhouse gases, damaging the local and global environment.

Unfortunately, climate injustice is in fact the norm all over the planet.

On the one hand we see rich, developed countries – with less than one fifth of the world’s population- responsible for almost three quarters of all historical greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Union and the USA alone are responsible for more than half of the carbon emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere, but they only have a tenth of the world’s population.

The imbalance is glaring: The poorest 10 percent of the world’s population have contributed less than 1 percent of these emissions. Developing countries have contributed least to the causes of climate change, yet they are most affected.

This injustice must be addressed in Copenhagen. Developed countries have a ‘historical responsibility’ towards the developing world and they need to repay their climate debt, in addition to immediately phasing out non renewable energy sources like fossil fuels.

It is up to countries like the US (per capita carbon emissions in 2005: 19.6 tons per person) to commit to binding emission reductions. It is not up to countries like China (3.9 tons) or India (1.1 tons).

People from all over the world are demanding Climate Justice. In Copenhagen Friends of the Earth campaigners are delivering a petition signed by more than thirty thousand people urging world leaders to do the right thing. This means at the very least:

- Commit industrialised countries to at least 40 percent cuts in emissions domestically by 2020, by using green energy, sustainable transport and farming, and cutting energy demand.

- Not allow cuts to be achieved by buying carbon credits from developing countries or by buying forest in developing countries to ‘offset’ ongoing emissions in the industrialised world.

- Commit industrialised countries to providing additional money for developing countries to grow in a clean way, and to cope with the floods, droughts and famines caused by climate change while ensuring that this money is distributed fairly and transparently.

We hope that the leaders of the richest nations will wake up, listen to the people of the world, curb emissions at the source and stop dancing to the tune of those who seek to profit from the crisis with ineffective schemes such as carbon offsetting.

But if developed countries fail to live up to their historical responsibility and lack the political will to respect their UN obligations then nobody should put the blame on China, India or other developing countries.

An international agreement in which wealthy countries shift the burden to developing nations would be unjust and inequitable.

The Climate Justice movement counts millions of people and is getting stronger by the day. More and more people are calling for Climate Justice not only outside but also inside the official UN negotiations.

The real question is: will the leaders of the rich world, and first of all President Obama, listen to the Climate Justice movement?

In other words: will Copenhagen be the start of a just and effective UN agreement, or will it be remembered as a face-saving, greenwash deal?

* Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria and currently Chair of Friends of the Earth International. (END/2009)

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