In defence of "climate justice"

It does not mean giving carte blanche to developing countries

The concepts of climate justice and climate debt originated in developing countries. They are based on demanding equality and compensation for climate change, for which rich countries are historically responsible. Climate justice does not mean giving carte blanche to developing countries to increase their carbon emissions. Mark Lynas is wrong to suggest otherwise.

In Copenhagen, thousands of campaigners and activists from around the world, under the banners of Climate Justice Now! and Climate Justice Action, called for rich countries to repay their climate debt in two ways: first, by making drastic cuts to their carbon emissions, and second, by compensating developing countries to pay for a transition to low-carbon economies and to adapt to the ravages that climate change will cause.

The movement also has a broader agenda promoting real solutions and favours a three-tier solution to climate change: that fossil fuels be left in the ground; that sustainable food production increase; and lastly, that excessive consumption be reduced. And this isn't just targeted at the wealthier countries; elites in developing counties also need to act.

Unfortunately, business interests and the market solutions that they peddle have captured governments, and it is this that blocked progress in climate talks, limiting real solutions and stopping their entry into the political mainstream.

It's worth getting beneath the veneer of climate negotiations to see what really happens: just as in other international forums, such as the WTO, negotiators from rich countries bully developing countries to sign a deal that condemns the poorest people to misery, but keeps profits safe for the few.

In the aftermath of the Copenhagen failure, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband blamed various developing countries for "holding the world to ransom". But what many commentators failed to report was that the UK in effect blackmailed the world to try to force through the unjust and ineffective "Obama Accord". Miliband told developing countries they would not get any of the $10bn on offer unless they endorsed the deal.

Rightly, the Tuvalu representative compared the money to 30 pieces of silver. Would anyone in their right mind sign such an agreementl? Many developing countries have seen that the $10bn is just a mirage and have stood their ground. The short-term finance on offer is not only a pittance, it's an allocation of what is already out there: existing aid money, loans that will increase unjust debts, and corporate-controlled World Bank finance.

The only way catastrophic climate change will be avoided is if it is tackled in a just way. It's a vision that all those who care about climate change and justice must unite around, in order to combat both poverty and the impending climate crisis.

Deborah Doane is director of the World Development Movement

 

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Why the Liberal Democrats by-election surge is not all it seems

The Lib Dems chalked up impressive results in Stoke and Copeland. But just how much of a fight back is it?

By the now conventional post-Brexit logic, Stoke and Copeland ought to have been uniquely inhospitable for the Lib Dems. 

The party lost its deposit in both seats in 2015, and has no representation on either council. So too were the referendum odds stacked against it: in Stoke, the so-called Brexit capital of Britain, 70 per cent of voters backed Leave last June, as did 62 per cent in Copeland. And, as Stephen has written before, the Lib Dems’ mini-revival has so far been most pronounced in affluent, Conservative-leaning areas which swung for remain. 

So what explains the modest – but impressive – surges in their vote share in yesterday’s contests? In Stoke, where they finished fifth in 2015, the party won 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 5.7 percentage points. They also more than doubled their vote share in Copeland, where they beat Ukip for third with 7.3 per cent share of the vote.

The Brexit explanation is a tempting and not entirely invalid one. Each seat’s not insignificant pro-EU minority was more or less ignored by most of the national media, for whom the existence of remainers in what we’re now obliged to call “left-behind Britain” is often a nuance too far. With the Prime Minister Theresa May pushing for a hard Brexit and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn waving it through, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made the pro-EU narrative his own. As was the case for Charles Kennedy in the Iraq War years, this confers upon the Lib Dems a status and platform they were denied as the junior partners in coalition. 

While their stance on Europe is slowly but surely helping the Lib Dems rebuild their pre-2015 demographic core - students, graduates and middle-class professionals employed in the public sector – last night’s results, particularly in Stoke, also give them reason for mild disappointment. 

In Stoke, campaign staffers privately predicted they might manage to beat Ukip for second or third place. The party ran a full campaign for the first time in several years, and canvassing returns suggested significant numbers of Labour voters, mainly public sector workers disenchanted with Corbyn’s stance on Europe, were set to vote Lib Dem. Nor were they intimidated by the Brexit factor: recent council by-elections in Sunderland and Rotheram, which both voted decisively to leave, saw the Lib Dems win seats for the first time on massive swings. 

So it could well be argued that their candidate, local cardiologist Zulfiqar Ali, ought to have done better. Staffordshire University’s campus, which Tim Farron visited as part of a voter registration drive, falls within the seat’s boundaries. Ali, unlike his Labour competitor Gareth Snell and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, didn’t have his campaign derailed or disrupted by negative media attention. Unlike the Tory candidate Jack Brereton, he had the benefit of being older than 25. And, like 15 per cent of the electorate, he is of Kashmiri origin.  

In public and in private, Lib Dems say the fact that Stoke was a two-horse race between Labour and Ukip ultimately worked to their disadvantage. The prospect of Nuttall as their MP may well have been enough to convince a good number of the Labour waverers mentioned earlier to back Snell. 

With his party hovering at around 10 per cent in national polls, last night’s results give Farron cause for optimism – especially after their near-wipeout in 2015. But it’s easy to forget the bigger picture in all of this. The party have chalked up a string of impressive parliamentary by-election results – second in Witney, a spectacular win in Richmond Park, third in Sleaford and Copeland, and a strong fourth in Stoke. 

However, most of these results represent a reversion to, or indeed an underperformance compared to, the party’s pre-2015 norm. With the notable exception of Richmond’s Sarah Olney, who only joined the Lib Dems after the last general election, these candidates haven’t - or the Lib Dem vote - come from nowhere. Zulfiqar Ali previously sat on the council in Stoke and had fought the seat before, and Witney’s Liz Leffman and Sleaford’s Ross Pepper are both popular local councillors. And for all the excited commentary about Richmond, it was, of course, held by the Lib Dems for 13 years before Zac Goldsmith won it for the Tories in 2010. 

The EU referendum may have given the Lib Dems a new lease of life, but, as their #LibDemFightback trope suggests, they’re best understood as a revanchist, and not insurgent, force. Much has been said about Brexit realigning our politics, but, for now at least, the party’s new normal is looking quite a lot like the old one.