Can we Trust in a Copenhagen Treaty?
Today I attended a discussion between youth and some very important policy makers.
A very well-spoken young lady from India made a point of saying:
“This time in Copenhagen, we stand, 2000 youth strong, and back home so many more of us… Our communities who cannot be here are relying on us to portray what a serious issue this is… I trust you to view these negotiations as not ‘us versus them’ but as ‘we are in this together'”.
This was responded to by Yvo de Boer, Secretary of UNFCCC:
“I think that you’re being a little careless with trust. Trust is something which must be earned, not given. This process has yet to earn my trust.”
Are we taking a risk by trusting world leaders to combat climate change?
In my eyes, there are three main definitions of trust.
1. The first defines being able to predict what other people will do and what situations will occur. If we can surround ourselves with people we trust, then we can create a safe present and an even better future.
It is ironic then, that no one can predict what will be the outcome of these next two weeks. We have elected in a global unity of leaders who work together to hide their true intentions from public eye. A majority of people would agree that most policitians are elected into office on open promises, lies about tax cuts and the like. “I have not seen, in any country, an election based on climate change policies” is how one Minister from the Maldives described. We do not elect leaders to govern our country on a long term basis. In New Zealand, our leaders are replaced every four years. Their main objective is to convince the general public that they are good in office, so that these people can remain in power. It is therefore very interesting that we allow these people to represent our urgent voices at Cop15, for how can we create a better future with short-term goals? How can we look at the global, long term, picture, when all we can see is votes and talleys and money and money and money?
2. Trust means making an exchange with someone when you do not have full knowledge about them, their intent and the things they are offering to you.
People are dying at this moment from climate change. The affects of climate change are leaving hundreds of people worldwide without homes, without food or clean water, and without friends and family. These people, who are most often from developing countries, who currently have very low impact on climate change, have literally exchanged their lives to the developed world. And now the Western world is planning to hand over a lump of money and label it as “carbon credits” and say, sorry for the mitigation, here’s something for the adaptation. What kind of exchange is it when you do not have a choice? What happens to those millions of people left without a tv, without internet access, without a way of communicating back to the rest of the world, how do they send their message? Do they rely on the representation of their leaders? Their leaders are currently sitting in a room surrounded by large, powerful countries and businessmen, equipped with loads of back-up men, pushing for a hidden agenda which involves putting in as little money as possible, and gaining as much rights as possible for their already over-consumerist world. Perhaps this was the cause for Tuvalu slowing negotiations processes yesterday, to ensure that their voice is heard?
3. Trust means giving something now with an expectation that it will be repaid, possibly in some unspecified way at some unspecified time in the future.
Will the developed world want their money back? Will the World Bank loan money to countries that are being affected by climate change, to temporarily re-build their countries until the next big storm, and then demand for them to find a means to pay them back? Will the people that are most affected by climate change be any better off if we trust world leaders to make decisions for them? What kind of corruption could be created from combing people in desperate need, and business?
Can we really trust in our leaders producing a fair, ambitious, and binding deal in the next two weeks?
An ice polar bear, created by WWF, melts as the negotiation proccess continues. A symbol of the urgency of climate change.
Not all Doom and Gloom…
In saying that, this is only the start (although quite a late start) into the process. In the millions of years that humans have inhabited our planet, we have seen many issues. Climate change is, after all, only another issue that we, as global citizens, need to tackle. It is huge, it could be disastrous, and it is difficult, but it is, nonetheless, just another issue. The world has seen issues like this tackled before. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol was designed to protect the ozone layer. Today, our ozone layer is repairing itself. The climate issue is a little more complicated than this, but it still involves the same basic ideas: realization of the issue, a commitment from countries to deal with the issue, and a strategy to develop solutions to the issue, both in present and future.
If worst comes to worst, our leaders will not agree on a treaty this year. This will postpone climate change action, and we, as people, will be negatively affected if we continue to ignore the problem. However, not all decisions come from a governmental level. It was, after all, civil resistance that brought an end to the Soviet Empire. These decisions need to come from us. From the world. From New Zealand. From you. The climate change issue is as much of a personal problem as it is a global one. Climate awareness as well as conservation action at the Grassroots level can help local communities to manage better the adverse impact of climate change. If there’s one thing that I have learnt from this conference so far, it is that there are hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of educated committed people who are taking local actions to combat climate change. And the movement is growing!
Capping greenhouse gas emissions will not slow development. Instead, whole communities will develop in a healthy way, with money pouring into jobs like conservation and education. We could slow consumerism and practice working less, spending more time to do things we enjoy. We could erase both greed and need all in one go. We could create equality across the globe.
I feel disappointed when people talk about, in reference to Copenhagen, “the world is watching”. This should not be true. The world should be participating. The world should be intervening, deciding and discussing what is going on at Copenhagen. This is, after all, affecting all of our futures.
Spread the word. Talk about climate change in conversation. With your friends, family, to your hairdresser, standing in line at the checkout, whatever. The more talk we generate, the more important the issue will become. See my “Top Three Ways to Speak Environment” below for ideas.
Take action. Learn to reduce, re-use, and recycle, in that order. Do you really need that big car? Do you really need those new clothes? Wouldn’t you rather have more time to spend with your kids, or your friends? Practice what you preach, and believe in what you practice.
Share your action. Sharing ideas stimulates our minds. It is both inspiring and connecting. Some of the most sustainable practices that we use today, like composting, or re-using paper, were created from everyday people. Together, as a global community, we can create the best solutions for climate change.