Archive | December, 2015

Was COP a flop?

17 Dec

 

Last week marked the end of the two week COP21 meetings in Paris where delegates from nearly 200 countries came to discuss a solution to climate change. There has been an incredible amount of praise for the outcome, now called the Paris Agreement, both from mainstream media and large Environmental NGOs. However, there are a number of problems with this agreement which make me question whether this is really an outcome worth celebrating. I have outlined some criticisms below.

 

1) There has been much praise for the internationally agreed target of limiting global warming to 1.5-2°C. However, this is not legally binding – the only legal requirement is transparency with regard to what your country is doing to help achieve this and for everyone to reconvene once every five years. If we go by the current voluntary pledges on emission reductions each nation has made we will actually have a warming of 2.7-3.7°C, almost double the target. Also these pledges for emission reductions often include market-mechanisms, carbon-offsetting methods and carbon capture and storage (CCS) which all prevent moving away from a carbon-based economy and encourage a reliance on fossil fuels.

2) There will be follow up meetings every 5 years to deepen emission cuts and name-and-shame countries for not making enough effort to do so. This sounds great in theory but if we continue as we are now we will reach our 1.5 target by 2020. Additionally, these meetings are supposed to be “facilitative, non-intrusive, non-punitive’’ which does not give governments a real incentive to take stronger action and make fulfil commitments if all they are going to receive is a stern talking to and mild slap on the wrist.

3) $100 billion will be given to the Global South each year by 2020 to help with adaption to emission reductions and clean technology.

  1. a) This is both an arbitrary figure and is not actually enough money as is needed to fulfil these aims.
  2. b) It has been left vague as to what exactly this money will go towards meaning it could fund anything from making coal powered power plants more ‘efficient’ and ‘green’ (which really is not solving the problem) to funding community owned wind energy (which would be great), but it is clear which project is more likely to be funded (hint: coal).
  3. c) This sum of money is to be collected by voluntary donation from each nation, so whilst the $100 billion is an overarching legally binding agreement, there is no minimum donation a country is committed to make to this.

4) Despite all this money for the Global South, the Global North is still not liable for compensating the damages they’ve caused in the Global South.

5) Countries are to peak greenhouse gas emissions ‘soon’ before rapidly scaling down in the second half of the century. It’s a little understandable why they cannot say ‘now is peak emissions’ but this just allows for complacency without a hard target for when peak emissions should be and scaling down in the second half of the century is frankly just too late and further delaying any real action.

6) The aim of being carbon neutral by 2050 allows for continued carbon emissions by encouraging the use of emission offsets and carbon markets. These mechanisms have many problems including: removing the focus from emission reductions and green energy investment, praising monoculture reforestation used as carbon sinks, using land grabs and causing conflict by displacing indigenous and local people to secure ‘green projects’ for offsetting emissions, and the questionable effectiveness of offset projects themselves etc.

7) There is no mention of taxes/fees/regulation of fossil fuel industries and related emissions let alone other drivers of climate change such as deforestation from large-scale (animal) agriculture, nitrous oxide from poor fertilizer use etc.

8) The way in which nations have framed their emission reductions, either as a ‘cut’ compared to ‘business as usual’ or a year in which emissions were unusually high or in terms of ‘carbon intensity’, has meant that many countries are not actually reducing emissions by the percentage they claim and some have pledged to effectively increase their emissions.

9) On a personal note, maybe I’m being naive with what can actually be achieved in these meetings, but apparently most of the time was spent discussing whether we should limit warming at 1.5°C or 2°C and how much the arbitrary sum of money to give to the Global South should be, instead of discussing actual solutions.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the problems with the Paris Agreement, but it definitely illustrates why we should not be celebrating this as a victory. The lack of legally binding emission reductions and agreements, lack of taxes on fossil fuel industries and related activities and the use of market-mechanisms and carbon offsets to further entrench ourselves in a carbon-based economy is hardly a step forward. That being said, at least I’ll still have something to do in my spare time.

 

Shaan Jindal

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SJP & why they’re involved in the arms divestment campaign

3 Dec

Breishna Hamed from Students for Justice in Palestine writes about why they joined our campaign to get the University, and wider society, to divest from arms companies. 

The brutal consequences of investing in arms companies are often clouded by scrolls of complicated regulations and vacuous defensive rhetoric. By focusing on the actions of the State of Israel, we hope to highlight how crucial it is to pressure bodies into divesting from arms companies involved in a trade that devastates human lives.

A highly militarized state that profits from the systematic and institutionalized oppression of Palestinians, Israel sustains its lucrative arms trade through war and occupation.

In the last decade it has fought 3 military campaigns against Gaza; Operation Cast Lead leading to the deaths of 1,383 Palestinians, Operation Pillar of Defence leading to the deaths of 174 Palestinians, and Operation Protective Edge leading to the deaths of 2,205 Palestinians. Over the course of Israel’s most recent military campaign, “children in a UN refugee shelter were shelled while they slept, airstrikes hit schools, a hospital and a home for disabled people…family homes were destroyed with the inhabitants inside and whole civilian neighbourhoods were levelled”.

 

Using arms to further maintain its oppressive regime through military occupation, Israel subjects the Palestinian population to arbitrary arrests, expropriation of their property and severely curtails their freedom of movement. It entrenches practices that amount to segregation by preventing equal access to roads and infrastructure, basic services such as water supplies, and by applying a discriminatory legal system to Palestinians. It continues to construct a Separation Wall, and settlements within the West Bank despite the International Court of Justice ruling that both actions are illegal under International Law. In 2013, Amnesty International noted that Israel “routinely used excessive force against demonstrators in the West Bank.”
The State of Israel carries out these injustices with the most modern and effective weapons available on the market, exporting and importing them on a regular basis.

 

These lists of wrongdoings are sometimes overwhelming and do not do justice to the nuances of the lives that the figures represent.

 

Muhammad Abu al – Thahir was 16 when he was shot from long range and killed, while at a demonstration in the West Bank. He was a skilled football player and often trained his little brother, Omar, on the roof of their home. His dream was to go to university and be a journalist. He wanted to send a message to the world so that they could help end the injustices of the occupation.

 

Israeli military will attest to the success of their weapons because they are ‘field tested’ and ‘combat proven’. It is business as usual for arms companies, profiting from violence and war crimes.

 

Investing in arms companies provides them with a sense of legitimacy, and ignores the repression, aggravation of conflict, death, destruction, human rights and international law violations that are eventually caused. Investments in companies that provide arms to any such oppressive regimes cannot be ethically justified.

While it can be difficult to work through the intricacies of finding out whether bodies have invested in unethical companies, it is crucial to do so because companies that harm human welfare must be held accountable. Although divestment campaigns may not immediately impact arms companies economically speaking, the change in discourse inevitably affects their political clout. That change in discourse has the potential to help in the dismantling of apartheid regimes. By drawing the connection between companies that provide the tools for state oppression and the blatant destruction caused, we hope that divestment from these companies will be pursued as an effective means of pushing back against these oppressive regimes.