COP Conflict between Aspirations and Practice
Reflections from Paris at the Conference of the Parties on climate change. Two days before the final text of the agreement of the climate convention is to be released.
Ministers in charge of climate change have been discussing the text since yesterday Monday December 7 and aim to wind up by Friday night at the latest. Talks are going on behind closed doors at the COP venue while civil society actions are ramping up across Paris.
Food and fracking – two issues getting scant attention in formal discussion are dramatically addressed by civil society. Via Campesina is holding a one-day action on Thursday December 10 throughout the city to promote AgroEcology approaches to food production and agriculture and to condemn GMO’s and industrial farming that are contributing to global warming.
Also on Thursday 10 December, a full day of meetings around resistance to fracking on a global scale is being cosponsored by friends of the earth international and many other organizations.
Premier Selinger announced Manitoba’s new Climate Action Plan at an event on December 7. The Premiers of Ontario and Quebec, along with the Environment Ministers from British Columbia and Alberta joined Manitoba’s Premier in asserting that, now, since they were all working with each other on climate change issues, it would be highly unlikely that any energy company or any other party could pull the wool over their eyes by either maintaining silence on key issues or telling different stories in different constituencies. While higher levels of interprovincial coordination are welcome, the big question is the degree of ambition that such unity can achieve given the dominance of energy corporations throughout Canada. For example, Port Metro Vancouver’s major expansion of coal exports to Asian markets has received federal regulators’ approval – surely inconsistent with the rhetoric on show here at COP and a step backwards for the planet and people’s health.
This kind of conflict between aspiration on the one hand and practice on the ground on the other as illustrated by this coal port export decision has been the name of the game in Canada and is typical of the COP 21 talks in Paris. Case in point, while it seems likely that the new climate agreement will include reference to the rights of indigenous people, to gender equity, and to a welcome target in the long term of 1.5°C, it is patently obvious that without significant improvements to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), warming of near 4°C or higher is inevitable.
Remember that INDCs are made “voluntarily” without any compliance and enforcement capacity by UNFCCC nor, unless written into domestic legislation, at the national level. Consequently, government climate action at any level that would impact corporations’ expected profits within the Signatory Partners to these trade deals is subject to the overriding jurisdiction of several trade agreements that are legally binding and administered with penalty of legal action and financial penalty and possibly even economic boycotts.
With less than a week to go, can COP21 deliver on the 1.5° C target and ratchet up their INDCs?