Civil society is blaming politicians for their short-sighted political agendas and bend-over-backwards attitude to the fossil fuel industry.
With just hours to go until the resolution of the UN climate change negotiations, everyone is playing the blame game. While is is looking unlikely that some of the key issues around the transition towards the highly anticipated 2015 global deal and climate finance will be resolved today; parties are looking to hold someone responsible.
Civil society is blaming politicians for their short-sighted political agendas and bend-over-backwards attitude to the fossil fuel industry. Some politicians are playing the global financial crisis card and blaming scientists for not producing the technology that will allow a seamless transition from burning coal to sucking up sunshine. And everyone is blaming civil society for not creating enough political will to get the job done.
Earlier this week, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres in a plenary address said “civil society is not doing enough to encourage governments to raise their level of ambition.”
Recently released after a fifteen month stint in jail, it is unlikely that activist Tim DeChristopher would take kindly to the suggestion that he has not done enough. Similarly, Pacific Island lobbyists like Ben Namekin and Maria Timon work tireless within their region to combat climate change and communicate the desperate situation in the Pacific to the rest of the world.
They certainly do their bit to communicate the reality of climate change devastation.
Hundreds of Australian NGOs and youth mobilised to ensure the successful implementation of a carbon price and then self-funded their way to Doha. The Arab Youth Climate Movement are ratcheting up the pressure within the Gulf; and groups like Oxfam, Greenpeace and WWF work nationally and internationally to hold governments accountable. Those are just a handful of examples from a movement of thousands that are working against status quo to try and achieve meaningful change.
With limited budgets, often adversarial political environments and nothing comparable to the resources of big oil companies and powerful governments they take on; it is hard to say that civil society does not do enough.
Nonetheless, UK Energy and Climate Minister Greg Barker followed Figueres’ suit telling RTCC TV that “the fact of the matter is there are fewer NGOs here, there are fewer activists here than have been in previous years.”
“Governments of all colours and shades need to be reminded that this is an urgent issue right the way around the world and the NGOs play a critical role in keeping government honest on this agenda.”
Hurricane Sandy and the epic typhoon in the Philippines should be enough to ‘remind’ the world’s governments that climate change is an urgent issue. Over a hundred dead in the US and over 350 (and rising) in the Philippines. Surely this creates more political ambition than a petition media stunt or the release of a new report commissioned by civil society. What could possibly be a more powerful motivator than body bags?
Money is at the crux of political inertia, not civil society.
Sadly, the answer is money.
Money is at the crux of political inertia, not civil society. It is short term prosperity that has Australia committed to becoming one of the world’s largest natural gas exporters despite the negative environmental impacts. It is the prevalence of poverty that means countries like India, China and developing countries need support from industrialised countries to move away from coal dependency and build renewable energy infrastructure. It is the unwillingness to invest that has left us with an empty shell instead of a climate fund that could kick start the global shift towards a low carbon future.
For Doha to maintain momentum countries need to act in cooperation. Most governments can see the long-term economic advantages of investing in renewable energy; and with the collectivisation of energy, renewable energy is becoming more and more affordable. However, efforts remain underwhelming and strong acts of leadership are few and far between.
Civil society has an important role to play in building trust and injecting the moral voice into late night negotiations over dollar signs and acronyms. Ultimately, however, it falls to those with the money in their wallets and their country’s future in their hands to take strong and decisive action on climate change. Shifting the blame is yet another distraction technique to avert the world’s gaze from our global leaders.
By Sophie Trevitt – a writer at The Verb. This article was originally published on the International Political Forum.