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Climate Justice: The Unwanted Relative in Climate Change Negotiations

“If the climate were a bank it would have been saved.”*

It is been absolutely perplexing since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 to see how official representatives in climate negotiations bargain over the increase in temperature the world can handle. The future of the planet and all life in it are discussed in terms of economic figures. Greed and profiting are placed above the lives of millions of people, and ultimately the future of the Earth. Those who hold economic, political and military power in the world and who make the decisions regarding climate change policies emulate Nero: they continue to set the planet on fire while carelessly playing their lyres. Today, considering the state of negotiations and nonexistent political will to address the root causes of this problem, we face nothing less than a terrifying scenario, first and most devastating for those who have contributed the least to climate change: the most vulnerable and impoverished people in what industrialized nations call the developing world.

The strategy of depoliticizing the issue when addressing climate change has been notorious. Often, when we hear speeches and read reports in mainstream media on climate change and its impact, we find a variety of scientific terms and technical economic definitions. Government officials at climate summits argue that they cannot afford the costs of fulfilling their commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. In the meantime, the human face of the crisis is invisible. For those strongly struck by extreme weather conditions linked to climate change, the increase in global temperature is more than just a number. My country, Nicaragua, is very vulnerable to the impact of a changing climate. In 2007, according to a Global Climate Risk Index report, Nicaragua was the third country most affected by extreme weather conditions in the world. It is not rare to hear people in rural areas explain the difficulties they face every year. They expect a good rainy season for their crops, but it is becoming more usual to have either droughts or heavy rains, both causing dramatic consequences for food security and access to water for people already struggling to survive.

True, there are also those who even deny the existence of climate change or consider that what we are facing is just a natural phenomenon. However, in 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world, concluded that, “there's a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.” More than 95% of scientists working on climate studies dispute claims that there is no consensus on the causes of climate change and accept that climate change “is almost certainly being caused by human activities.”

When scientists consider historical and current global greenhouse emissions, the evidence shows industrialized countries are the ones that have contributed the most to the climate crisis. Nevertheless, those who suffer and will continue to suffer the most devastating impacts are the poor in the developing world. Therefore, we face an issue of global justice that demands a radical transformation of the predatory development paradigm ruling our societies. This “justice factor” behind the climate crisis has been the unwanted relative crashing the party of the United Nations official negotiations. Climate change unequivocally brings us to a fundamental principle that says when you hurt someone you have two obligations: stop causing damage and help the other person cope with the damage done.

Viewed from the perspective of justice, it is obvious that those who have caused the climate crisis are the ones who should bear the costs of adaptation to climate change, not as a charity but as a compensation for the historical, social and ecological debt acquired over centuries of exploitation and contamination. Social movements around the world are taking steps in proposing alternatives to false solutions that are market based. The governments of the developing countries, including Nicaragua, should join them in demanding climate justice rather than accept the solutions that primarily protect the interests of rich countries and the status quo.

*Slogan used at 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

usha kc's picture

Maddy, you have raised timely

Maddy, you have raised timely issue, yes I love the slogan and it's true.

:))

lov

Maddy M.'s picture

Usha, thank you for your

Usha, thank you for your comments!!

Blessings,
Madeline

Ruth Beedle's picture

Yours is a many-tentacled

Yours is a many-tentacled monster of a discussion topic and you approached it intelligently and well. I very much liked your lead in line and had to admit it was probably true.

I would like to have heard more in the way of statistics of how your country has been affected. I read your mention of droughts and heavy rains, but would like to have had something more in the way of concrete information with regards to the changes that have been experienced.

Thank you for sharing your perspective and your voice!

Maddy M.'s picture

Dear Ruth, thank you for your

Dear Ruth, thank you for your insightful comments. It is this kind of feedback what will help me learn and improve my skills as I have the privilege to participate in this wonderful training program. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

Blessings,
Madeline

Stella Paul's picture

The current status

Dear Maddie

I know how crucial of an issue climate change is, for countries like Nicaragua and thanks for bringing up that issue here. I would like you know the current status (your source is IPCC 2007. Last Dec, IPCC'11 was published, with new facts) of Nicaragua as a climate change victim, as well as as a climate change fighter.

Besides the IPCC (global), there is also a in-country IPCC team that collaborates with the global team and its very crucial to know how these members are working, what they are saying ( For example, Jonathan Parshing, the chief climate change negotiator of US, was once a panelist in the IPCC which is a both a joke and a tragedy). Also, several countries have their own climate change policies by now, while some still don't have one.What's the status of Nicaragua?
Love

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Maddy M.'s picture

Thank you for your comments,

Thank you for your comments, Stella. I've heard about the IPCC'11 report but haven't had the chance to go through it. I'd love to know more about the last COP from an more insider perspective like yours. I remember you had the opportunity to attend this climate conference, so it would be great to learn from you.

In Nicaragua, unfortunately most policies aiming to fight climate change are in the context of the false solutions and flexible mechanisms (market-based) of the Kyoto Protocol. This mechanisms has turned into a way of profiting for the same people who have primarily caused the climate crisis. Most projects being implemented in the country are for mitigation even though Nicaragua and Central America are not big emitters.South America and Central America together sum up 3.8% of global emissions, while the US and Europe sum up 58% of global emissions. Mitigation efforts should be focused on big emitters and more adaptation resources and efforts need to be implemented in "developing" countries.

Blessings,
Madeline

Stella Paul's picture

Fight on

Dear Maddie

Thank you so much for this inputs. The climate change issue is so massive, its really difficult to put everything in one piece, especially one with a few hundred words. But I am learning through this question and answer sessions! I totally agree with you. India has been fighting off a lot of pressure from the US and the EU to curb its own CO2 emission and drop the demand of the same from them. Its a crazy world of crazy climate politics. Unfortunately, its also quite linked to corruption and bad govts: the big emitters are also big donors and they hold the power of negotiations over small countries which have weak govts. Anyway, of late Bolivia has really become an example of how a very small country can stand firm and speak out its mind. I think better coordination with neighbors and similar group countries will help Nicaragua a lot. Raising the volume of demand is the only way to get heard! Thanks again and best wishes in your fight...its our fight too!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

noreens's picture

This is an interesting Op-Ed,

This is an interesting Op-Ed, Maddy. I like the slogan too!

Noreen

ikirimat's picture

I like your OpEd too. We need

I like your OpEd too. We need to address issues of climate change since its women who are greatly affected

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."


Lisa Cox's picture

climate justice

Hi Maddie

I just read your article and thought it was fantastic. You are clearly a skilled and gifted writer - keep up the fantastic work!

mrbeckbeck's picture

Justice!

Maddy this is an amazing op-ed. Your bold call for action is not only sensible, but necessary. The very fate of our planet hangs in the balance while people debate back and forth whether they can afford to change. The sad truth is that we can't afford NOT to change! We need innovation, we need justice, and we need new models of building community and "development" that go beyond simply ever increasing economic growth.

It would have been helpful to include some statistics or quotations rather than general information about the impact of climate change, but your points are clear.

Thank you for your great work on this piece,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Greengirl's picture

Weldone Maddy

As an environmental steward, there was just no way I could come across the subject of discuss and turn a blind eye.

It is just so unfortunate that the big powers continue to ride on the lackadaisical attitude of leaders of developing nations towards the issue of Climate change.How in the world could a responsible Government continue to argue that they cannot afford the costs of fulfilling their commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases; even in the face of increasing dangers of global warming. Where lies the sincerity in the calls for sustainable development and global partnership for development? I can't help but wonder.Climate Justice is a global issue and requires genuine global partnerships to see it through.

I believe with increased awareness on the need for Climate Justice, the required level of responsiveness of the real culprits will be realized.

Your piece is a practical contribution. Thank you for lending your golden voice to the call for Climate Justice.

Olanike

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