Many eyes have been on the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (7-18 December 09).
I think New Zealand Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons spoke for many who are concerned about the impact of climate change should carbon emissions continue to escalate when she said she hoped that “Obama would show up and do something miraculous” i.e. commit to reducing a higher level of carbon emissions thereby encouraging other large emitters to do the same.” (Interview on Radio New Zealand Copenhagen is too important to fail Morning Report on 18 Dec 2009)
Obama didn’t produce a miracle, but even if he had ‘miraculously’ agreed to reduce carbon emissions, it is one thing to come to an agreement (even a legally binding one) and quite another to make it work.
How does a democratic leader make people change their way of life, for instance, their dependence on motor vehicles, or pay more for less environmentally-damaging life-styles, especially in a global recession? How does he convince a sceptical public of the problem, or solution when there’s been little education or public discussion?
Obama added to the rhetoric by speaking of the need to “fight climate change” which is now seen by many, including major think tanks as the new global threat. (see Energy Bulletin with excerpts from Global Trends 2025 put out by the US national Intelligence Council) .
The problem with the military analogy is that the climate enemy cannot be ‘nuked,’ or ‘shocked and awed,’ or have an effective ‘surge’ directed at it, although some such strategies could come to be used against the climate refugees, or to gain better access to more fossil fuels.
The idea of an emissions trading scheme was on the table for discussion in Copenhagen. However, like its free trade counterpart, the scheme is about competition and profit, and will enable the powerful, large international emitters to continue exploiting the fossil fuel economy (which warms the planet) while legally offsetting their emissions, for instance by planting trees in places such as New Zealand.
2009 has been a year in which big leaders have had a lot to say about vision, aspirations and hope, while saying very little about the practical steps needed to translate these into reality. For the most part, the public has been silent – maybe waiting for a miracle?
The real problem, not yet on the table, is how to make the transition from debt-ridden, high-consumption economies dependent on fossil fuels, to ways of life in which all 7 billion – and rising – inhabitants can sustainably and peacefully access what they need to live and thrive.
I can understand people hoping and thinking that business can be carried on as usual, (watching out for more green shoots) or that somehow there will be a change in consciousness and everything that is needed will somehow (miraculously) happen. However, my own wish is that 2010 could be a turning point, with people seeing the need for a new, viable post-fossil fuel paradigm, and making the first, practical steps to bring it about.
I think we need to look at effective ways of building connection and collaboration at local, grassroots levels.
I’d like it to be seen how village-connections with its concepts and methodologies for local-through-to-global communication can contribute to this hugely challenging project.
Contributions and feedback on this Blog or any material are, as always, most welcome any time.