Two University of Waikato academics and climate justice activists have written an open letter to delegates attending the current Climate Change Summit in Paris urging them to consider the poor and vulnerable states when making any decisions.
Professors Debashish Munshi and Priya Kurian instigated the letter sent to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change asking the representatives from 190 countries at COP21 to remember those countries bearing the brunt of climate change.
The pair led an international symposium on climate justice at the Rockefeller Centre in Bellagio, Italy earlier this year and the 19 scholars, policy analysts and climate activists from that symposium have collectively sent the COP21 letter emphasising the need to focus on justice in any treaty that emerges.
“It’s a pity that as a result of the recent terrorist attacks that security is so tight in Paris that marches have been banned,” says Professor Munshi. “The ban silences the voices of civil society and entrenches the injustice of climate change that affects those who have done the least to cause it.”
He cites examples such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, Kiribati in the Pacific, the Philippines in Asia, and Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa as countries that face the risk of being drowned or losing their freshwater resources as sea levels rise due to climate change. And he says the brunt of climate change is faced most severely by poor women, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, pensioners, urban slum dwellers, and rural communities, with many forced out as displaced populations. “The summit should not be a time for a routine political talk fest, managed and manipulated by lobbyists for big business,” he says.
What Professor Munshi and Professor Kurian would like to see come out of COP21 is a legally binding treaty that is effective and equitable. Professor Kurian says at a minimum, all countries must commit to reduced greenhouse gas emissions so that global temperatures rise no more than 1.5˚C.
“There is also a need for substantial public funds annually in new money for a Green Climate Fund, and for free technology transfer that can help poor countries make the transition to a low carbon economy,” Professor Kurian says. “It would be an ideal start if COP21 could influence or change the discourse of climate action and energise a true collaboration among nation states, global negotiators, and the media.”
Part of changing the discourse would mean jettisoning the market model for dealing with climate change. “Mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally can no longer be about global emissions trading because that distracts us from the need to reduce emissions in wealthy countries,” she says.
“Fairness demands that an equitable and legally-binding formula of resource use and resource distribution is required where wealthy nations commit to massive reductions in emissions and developing nations get access to public funds directly from the governments that can afford it.”