By Katja Garson
Friday at COP23 focused on food, land and water. It was a day for the discussion of the need to protect territories, habitats, and food systems which rely on an environmentally, and politically, secure world. It was also made clear that this secure world is disappearing, or perhaps already changed forever.
At the bi-weekly Demand Climate Justice meeting, pre-2020 targets and ambition were high on the agenda. Currently there are no binding legal obligations within the Paris Agreement for countries to achieve targets before the 2020 deadline. This means that developed countries are dragging their feet whilst less developed nations call for greater ambition on emissions and climate schemes.
Also discussed was the continuing refusal of the United States to engage on Loss and Damage (L&D;). In a nutshell, L&D; refers to the negative climate impacts which occur despite countries’ attempts to adapt or to take action. L&D; particularly affects less developed and developing nations. Most recently, the G77 group of countries (developing countries with similar economic interests) have united around wanting to create a permanent subsidiary body to implement discussions on Loss and Damage. However, the United States has repeatedly blocked any attempts to move this forward, even when a forum was suggested as a compromise. Those attending the DCJ meeting as representatives of climate justice groups are naturally frustrated by the United States’ ongoing blocking of talks on the subject.
Lack of ambition and commitment is not only politically problematic, but it has real effects on human populations and natural environments in many parts of the world. Drawing one of the largest crowds for any side-event so far, former US Vice President Al Gore presented his thoughts on the overwhelming climate crisis, its everyday lived reality, and what is already being done to tackle climate change.
Al Gore, who now heads the Climate Reality Project, spoke eloquently and dramatically; asking three questions: Do we really have to change? Can we change? Will we change? What is clear is that we are already seeing unpredictable and devastating weather events which are especially debilitating to those who are socially marginalised. It is also clear that renewable energy is a key way forward, with countries such as Chile, Algeria and India leading the way in transitioning away from fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, in a show of energy, hope, and refusal to be drowned out by corporate interests, a group of activists including individuals from Engajamundo, the Indigenous Environmental Network, SustainUS and UKYCC took part in an action on land and forest rights. This is our reality; the reality of many people in threatened territories around the globe — our forests are being auctioned off by corrupt governments and greedy investors. ‘Defend Indigenous rights, no to deforestation!’ they say.
If pre-2020 ambition can be increased and binding commitments pushed forwards and past barriers created by countries such as the US, then perhaps we will finally be on the road to a better reality. The last day of Week 1 shows just how much there is yet to be done.
Katja Garson is a member of the COP23 Delegation for Young European Leadership. She also organizes with the UK Youth Climate Coalition, is passionate about communication and the building of collaborative networks to enact positive change, and holds an MSc in Environmental Governance.
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