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XCO2’s Andy Love on Climate Justice

March 2016

“I believe that climate change is the biggest human rights issue of the 21st century.”
Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice

What one image best represents the effects of climate change?

Type the following words into Google, go on, do it:

  • Global warming
  • Sustainability

Did you find sad polar bears on small glaciers, tiny hands holding tiny plants and countless smoking chimneys?
Let’s face it, plants, polar bears and chimneys have become ignorable rhetoric; unappetizing buzzwords. If you felt an overwhelming sense of indifference, you are not alone.

Now type the following two words instead and rate your empathy again:

  • Poverty
  • Hunger

I imagine, instead, something stirred the soul.

Modern civilization is easily distracted. The broadsheet newspaper will soon be extinct. The first few paragraphs of a new novel decide the book’s fate; we prefer our knowledge in lists, not prose. Old hat buzzwords ‘Global warming’ and ‘Sustainability’ are bordering on monotony to the masses, there needs to be an uplift in thought leadership to engage the public. How do we engage the distracted populace and the austerity fixated governments to understand the implications, not only of the environment, but of the human? Encapsulating, creative, effective awareness programmes and pressure groups. PR, marketing and advertising companies are in constant battle for your attention; such competition, forces creativity.

Climate change, poverty and hunger are intrinsically linked. Simply put, the increase of climate change will increase poverty and hunger. The effects of climate change are felt deepest by the poorest; it’s another developed country’s thorn in the side of the destitute. The vast gulf in resources between the developed and the developing country is the grandest injustice of our age. Climate change will both emphasise and exacerbate the endless chasm that lay between the rich and poor. Countries such as the UK abused its industrial revolution privilege but it is the countries that have yet to establish stable infrastructure that will suffer. To combat this, developed countries will require compensating for the developing countries’ growth (1), by way of increased emission reduction targets. The questions still remains, how do we capture the imagination of the UK’s inhabitants to push for greater sustainability measures when they are fixated on other political distractions?

Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Republic of Ireland, has set up the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.

“Climate justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly. Climate justice is informed by science, responds to science and acknowledges the need for equitable stewardship of the world’s resources.” Climate Justice (2)

Climate Justice are pushing for the freedom of developing countries to increase their economical foothold in the world by getting developed countries to take on further carbon emission reduction cuts. This means that developing countries can provide infrastructure without the fear of being subservient to the same restrictive carbon emission targets as Europe and the developed world.

The fear is that developing countries will develop cities and infrastructure similar to that of the gas guzzling and electricity hungry driven ones of Victorian Britain’s London, only later to be refurbished. Imagine a Nigeria, developed over 40 years using its’ oil reserves as funding, building its cities’ energy infrastructure based on old industrial revolution models providing inefficient heat and electricity, only for the cities to be deconstructed and re-built again in the future to provide a sustainable infrastructure. It will be too late. Oil and gas will be too expensive and too potent for the climate. Now is the time for these cities to be founded on sustainability, future-proofed, consulted by the countries that have already learned their lessons. Developing countries and new cities need to be designed to incorporate sustainability at its core; supplied with networks of energy centres, passive design architecture, using the local terrain whilst being informed by the world’s greatest architects and engineers.

The UK’s 2015 election is over and the Conservatives have triumphed. With 331 MPs they have a parliament majority, rendering the Liberal Democrats surplus to requirements. Ed Davey has been replaced by Amber Rudd as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and Michael Gove has stepped up to the justice post. Amber Rudd now represents the UK for international Climate Change negotiations; therefore she represents the UK in Paris 2015. Michael Gove represents the UK for EU and International justice. The UNCCC’s 11th meeting since the Kyoto Protocol (2007) will occur on 30thNovember 2015. Stopping a 2°C rise of the mean global temperature seems likely to be the ethos of the conference. Using images of polar bears and trees will not pressure the countries whom have ignored these plights for millennia; economic and humanitarian discussion will.

Although Climate Justice requires effective action on a global scale, the UK must step up to the plate and provide a progressive benchmark that steers the path to energy self-sufficiency, inspiring other governments to follow. It is important that Amber Rudd and Michael Gove combine to approach climate change and justice together within the UK. Climate change, sustainability and human rights pressure groups have 6 months to join hands and provide creative solutions to convince Gove and Rudd that their policy making is intertwined.

Climate Justice – Paris 2015 – 6 months to go.

  1. http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/RES/18/22
  2. http://www.mrfcj.org/

Tags EU Policy UK policy DECC Climate Justice Environment government Govt. Human Rights Politics