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Together We Can, Together We Must

December 5, 2016

Reflections from COP 22, Marrakech

 

 

A powerful theme ran through the Marrakech Climate Summit – COP 22, repeated in session after session and reflected in the final declarations.  That together we can, together we will, together we must act to stop climate change.

 

The Marrakech Proclamation signed by all participating countries stated:

 

Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond... We, collectively, call on all non-state actors to join us for immediate and ambitious action.

 

This call to the collective world community was echoed by COP 22 President Salaheddine Mezouar,   in his address to the closing plenary.  'Non-state players are joining with states to deliver COP decisions. Barriers are giving way to partnerships. States and non-state players are sharing common ambitions. Combined actions can together bring about the emission reductions needed.'

 

This collective action is urgently needed. The world remains on a pathway to more than 3° Celsius of warming by 2100. Global emissions are still rising and we have until 2020 to see them peak if we are to remain within the 2°C target set in Paris, the maximum global temperature rise it is generally agreed the world can absorb without catastrophic consequences.

 

To avoid catastrophe that will envelop all life on Earth, there has to be a transition towards a low carbon global economy and that transition, as reported to the COP, is already happening, although the pace has to significantly increase.  But people must be included, solutions can't simply be imposed from above. This transition will affect all, so people must be involved and informed, and feel ownership. This 'democratisation' of action was much in evidence in Marrakech with the presence of 35,000 delegates from all countries of the world and from all sections of society from governments to business to NGO's and community organisations. 

 

The World Health Organisation reported that Climate Change comes with a big human cost on health and living conditions that will be borne by the disadvantaged. There will need to be, they say deep changes to where and how we live, changes based on sound science. Climate finance will need to be linked to programmes aimed at delivering improvements to public health.  As the climate warms and becomes more unstable, exotic diseases will spread, water and heat stress will impact on health, nutritional standards will fall. But by building action on health into climate programmes, people can be engaged, they will see improvements in their own lives and be more prepared to embrace the changes that will be necessary.  It is making these linkages between climate change and the experiences people have in their daily lives that will generate the momentum needed.

Many people are already facing the consequences of decades of inaction. For some it is sudden and violent as with the victims of hurricanes and cyclones in Haiti and the Philippines, or of fires in Indonesia and Australia.  Or it may be the slow encroachment of the desert in to former agricultural lands as in sub-Saharan and East Africa, or in Pakistan. Even in the developed world, shocks like hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the winter floods of 2014 in the UK are reminders, for those who care to see, that climate change is real, indiscriminate and on our doorstep.

 

Laurence Tubiana, one of two High Level Climate Champions appointed in the Paris Agreement to act as envoys between civil society and high level government negotiators told the closing plenary that

'...we are at a point of no return, the impacts of climate change are already being felt. At Paris' she said  'the choice was made to adopt a low carbon future and to act now urgently, individually and collectively to deliver this.' 

 

Jonathan Pershing,  Head of US Delegation continued this theme in his final press conference. 

 

'Paris is irreversible. Major economies are putting a high priority on Paris and will work together with civil society to deliver, because they know the impacts of climate change, and also the opportunities for the economy, jobs and the quality of life.'

 

He went on to reflect on the very beginnings of the COP process in Chantilly, USA in 1990, since then there has been a growth in the sense of urgency, that has drawn in global communities because the impacts of CC that are now happening.

 

Just as the COP process is opening up to civil society and aiming to coordinate initiatives at all levels of society, so it is taking in a range of other and related initiatives aimed at tackling poverty and injustice.  In 2000, in reflection of a widely held desire to make a clean break from the destructive and exploitative twentieth century the UN adopted 8 Millennium Goals. These included the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, enabling universal education and gender rights and to secure environmental stability. These were declarations of ideals, designed to focus minds and to influence decisions.  Post 2000, the old mind-set lingered on, those who held power then treated us to a decade of  warfare, genocide, destruction, poverty and hunger and with their insatiable greed they turned their backs on advancing climate change, wasting precious years.

 

In 2015 the Millennium Goals were revisited and revised as 17 Sustainable Development Goals, taking in and extending the original 8 goals leading with  zero hunger and poverty, climate action leading to peace and justice. In Paris these goals were formerly linked to the Climate Action programme. It is now recognised that sustainable development, social justice and protection of bio-diversity are indivisible.  As Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, Mexico's Under sec for Planning and Environment Policy told the closing plenary, 'Resilient developing communities need to connect with nature.' 

 

In the programme of action to combat dangerous climate change that is now unfolding world wide, we are all in 'developing communities'.  In particular the so-called advanced economies have to learn and adopt new ways of working and living, building sustainability into the fabric of society and lifestyles.  The opportunities to correct some of the wrongs of the exploitative era of recent history are there to be taken if we all are prepared to rise to the challenge.  Now is not the time for cynicism, doubt or despair.  This was the clear mood of Marrakech.

 

Together we can, the urgency is there, the cash is flowing, we now need determined engagement to work together to build a better lasting future.  Are we up to this task?  Communities across the globe certainly are,  will we be left behind, dragging our feet with petty squabbles, trying to hang on to 'our way of life'? The answers lie in out own hands.

 

 

 

 

 

UN live blog of the conference

 

 

 

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