Asad Rehman, senior climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth International on the Paris agreement

hqdefault“I have just come back from the Paris Climate talks – exhausted, angry and inspired. Having been asked by a number of people why Friends of the Earth was the only ‘big green’ group that called the outcome a scam. And why we were being quoted in the media saying this is a ‘great escape for polluters and a poisoned chalice for the poor’. I thought I would let the words just flow… sorry if this isn’t well thought out or structured- i am just getting it off my chest…

What rich developed countries – who continue to be responsible for the majority of historical emissions – have managed to do in Paris, is shift responsibility from the themselves to those who have done the least to cause this crisis. They have tried to wriggle out of their legal and moral responsibility to help pay to clean up their pollution. The existing finance is already a sham, with much of the climate finance simply being existing aid commitments that are now labelled as climate finance (of the fast start finance only 1/10th was actual new money). But not satisfied with that – they have managed to push for even more climate finance to be from ‘private sources’. What that means in reality is that poor countries will have to take out debt creating loans to clean up rich countries pollution. And if you think that wasn’t insulting enough – the US backed by the EU and the UK.. managed to force in a clause into the agreement that lets them off the hook for any future compensation claims – yes. read that again. thats what they did. They want the poor to take out insurance schemes – yup insurance FFS!! so they dont ever to pay for their crimes.

But I am told I should be balanced and celebrate the victories. What about the 1.5c. A long standing demand of the climate justice groups – which its interesting to see being suddenly championed by politicians and mainstream NGOs – who previously dismissed us as being ‘unrealistic’ for making this demand.

Lets be absolutely clear – the mention of 1.5c in the agreement is a total sham. Its an aspirational goal.. nothing more. Here is what some of the worlds leading climate scientists said.

Steffen Kallbekken, Research Director at CICERO, director of the Centre for International Climate and Energy Policy “The draft goal of 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°Cis aspirational. ….The options consistent with science are replaced by vague formulations. By the time the pledges come into force in 2020, we will probably have used the entire carbon budget consistent with 1.5°C warming. If we stick with the INDCs we will have warming between 2.7°C and 3.7°C”.

But hey come on I am told.. the agreement says we are heading to ‘greenhouse gas neutrality’ in the second half of the century which surely must be a good thing.

Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre: “We need global decarbonization. The language of ‘greenhouse gas neutrality’ opens up the possibility of relying on massive carbon sinks while continuing to burn fossil fuels”.

Yes thats exactly what it means.. anytime you hear greenhouse gas neutrality or net zero – what it means that the polluting corporations can keep burning fossil fuels and we suck the carbon out of the atmosphere. One way to do that is massive amounts of biomass A good idea you may think. We would need the equivalent of 6 billion hectares of land to do this – we currently use 1.5 billion hectares for food production. No guesses who will get forced off their land for this biomass.. yes the poor in the South so the rich in the north can continue with business as usual.

Well at least you may say the NGOs were pushing global decarbonisation by 2050 instead of 2100. Well its true that some did start saying global decarbonisation by 2050 – which is a step in the right direction but just a tiny one – you see even thats just a little bit of a lie. The science is pretty clear that if you want to keep temps below 1.5c you cant have global decarbonisation by 2050 for everyone – not unless you say I don’t care that Mali is dirt poor, it should be doing exactly the same as the USA, or you dont believe in the physical science of climate change. If you think no thats not fair – rich countries should be doing more, first (like they are legally obliged to), then what you would be seeing is stickers saying 1.5c means decarbonisation in rich countries by 2030. Did you see any full page adverts calling on Cameron, Obama or Merkel to do that.. no, neither did I – why bother when its so much easier to blame those bloody darkies and parrot the US/EU are champions.

But hey – dont be such a miserable git. This is better than Copenhagen.. so lets celebrate!!. Lets see what the UK’s leading climate scientist Kevin Anderson from Tyndall Centre said: “Aspiration and rhetoric will not deliver reductions in CO2 emissions; we need to deliver action. This draft agreement is weaker than Copenhagen. The current text is not consistent with the latest science. …For the global poor, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, the current text is somewhere between dangerous and deadly”.

Read that last sentence again..,. for the global poor this agreement is somewhere between dangerous and deadly. Still feel like celebrating?

But hey .. look come on, lets celebrate a little, I hear you say.. we can come back and work on this and strengthen it..

Here is what Joeri Rogelj, Research Scholar at the Energy Program of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis who also happens to be the lead author of one of the rare studies of a 1.5°C scenario. “To limit warming below 1.5°C, there is no scenario available that says that we can delay action to 2020 and beyond. We need a global peak of emissions by 2020 to limit warming to 1.5°C”

Sorry did you not know that the Paris outcome was also negotiating how to increase the totally inadequate emission reduction targets of pre 2020. It seems to have been forgotten by many – the media, politicians and of course mainstream NGOs. It seems its not practical to try and increase the ambition of the EU etc. And by the way that part of the Paris agreement – nothing.. so basically rich countries – you keep consuming more and more of the carbon space.

You would imagine that the majority of UK/EU NGOs and Awaaz would be just a little embarassed for having being played like such fools by the EU/US into supporting the push for the so called Durban Treaty back in 2011. At the time Climate Justice groups such as Friends of the Earth were told at the time we were being blockers for not jumping on the band wagon and for pointing out that this would kill the Kyoto Protocol. We were told that we had to be realistic and only if we had this new shiny Durban treaty rich developed countries would actually increase their paltry targets and everything would be ok. The same set of organisations targetted India and cheered as the top down science based approach to climate change was put in the bin. Dont worry we were told, the EU has promise us a review and even a scientific review of 1.5c – of course the EU just laughed itself silly at their stupidity. And to rub salt in the wound the EU target of 20% by 2020 has already been achieved and the EU will be on course for 30% by 2020, the EU still refuses to increase its target in line with demands of science or justice because it wants to make its target for 2030 look bigger. In reality for the next 15 years – the EU will cut emissions by 7%.

Justice – that word. I haven’t even bothered much with the justice element. Lets not even talk justice, because hey thats scary, lets talk fairness. You probably didn’t hear much about how the EU is doing only 1/5 of its fair share, the US similar or that the Japanese are doing 1/10th of its fairshare. Or that India and China are actually doing their fair share. Or that the US with 5% of the worlds population has a per capita income of $44,400 but India with 18% has only $3,300 or that the Least Developed Countries with 11% of the population has $1,100. Or that 1 in 3 of our fellow citizens dont have access to clean cooking or sanitation, that 1 in 5 lack access to fresh water and 1 in 7 to electricity.

Sickeningly some in the NGO sector parroted the US/EU line that the problem was India – and wait for it that Merkel was a hero and the G7 were such a great bunch of people because they had promised to decarbonise by 2100. Thanks a lot .. so when we are at 4c plus the rich are aiming to decarbonise and you think thats a bloody victory. OK if you don’t want to tell folks the truth thats your business but don’t claim that its based on science or fairness. its just whats palatable for those online – which tends to exclude those getting fucked by climate change – because they tend to be fighting to survive so they dont have time to set up petitions.

And let me be clear I am no fan of the Indian govt or the Chinese govt. the former is a hindu fascist govt and the latter is an authoritarian capitalist dictatorship that calls itself communist.I campaign against both,.. but if you dont have any sense of geo-politics and that the climate talks are about political economy – with the rich countries trying to protect the dominant position of their economies and corporations. Then dont be surprised when southern groups start calling you out for being on the side of the rich and powerful.

(At this stage I am not even going to bother going into the new carbon markets, or that the US blocked technology transfer that are in the agreement and the loopholes etc).

It is absolutely true that the agreement could have been much worse than it is now – for that I want to give a nod to the small but incredible climate justice activists from Friends of the Earth International, Asia Peoples Movement on Debt and Development, LDC Watch, Earth in Brackets, ActionAid, Corp Accountability International, TWN – who have worked on the inside trying to oppose the interests of elites in governments and in the NGO sector.

Now I genuinely understand that for some NGOs in the UK, EU and the US.. their access to decision makers is more important than actually telling the truth. That for them #BlackLivesMatter or #PoorLivesMatter is something you support as long as it doesn’t mean you need to do anything. But if you use the word climate justice, then remember you need to stand up for what it means.

That means the EU needs to be at least 83% emissions reduction by 2030, with a massive transfer of climate finance – as would the UK. We have to stop all new dirty energy – fracking, gas, coal, oil and nukes. we need peoples owned energy systems, we need climate jobs, we need to not just divest but reinvest.

and despite my frustrations I also left Paris inspired by the creativity, determination and passion of so many amazing people. Friends of the Earth refused to be cowed by the State of Emergency and brought 3000 of its supporters from across Europe onto the streets – to spell out climate, justice, peace!

They took part in the Red Lines and then marched in their thousands to the Eiffel Tour where together with Alternatiba, Friends of the Earth France organised a massive expression of resistance.

And following Paris – have focused on building a peoples movement that makes the EU do its fairshare – a set of peoples demands for an energy revolution.
– Fossil Free Energy
– No to nuclear!
– Stop wasting energy!
– Yes to community power!
– Divest now!
– Decent green jobs!

Join and lets really fight for climate justice!”

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