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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The Women's March against Trump matters – but only if we keep fighting

We won’t win the battle for progressive ideas if we don’t battle in the first place.

Arron Banks, UKIP-funder, Brexit cheerleader and Gibraltar-based insurance salesman, took time out from Trump's inauguration to tweet me about my role in tomorrow's Women’s March Conservative values are in the ascendancy worldwide. Thankfully your values are finished. . . good”.

Just what about the idea of women and men marching for human rights causes such ill will? The sense it is somehow cheeky to say we will champion equality whoever is in office in America or around the world. After all, if progressives like me have lost the battle of ideas, what difference does it make whether we are marching, holding meetings or just moaning on the internet?

The only anti-democratic perspective is to argue that when someone has lost the argument they have to stop making one. When political parties lose elections they reflect, they listen, they learn but if they stand for something, they don’t disband. The same is true, now, for the broader context. We should not dismiss the necessity to learn, to listen, to reflect on the rise of Trump – or indeed reflect on the rise of the right in the UK  but reject the idea that we have to take a vow of silence if we want to win power again.

To march is not to ignore the challenges progressives face. It is to start to ask what are we prepared to do about it.

Historically, conservatives have had no such qualms about regrouping and remaining steadfast in the confidence they have something worth saying. In contrast, the left has always been good at absolving itself of the need to renew.

We spend our time seeking the perfect candidates, the perfect policy, the perfect campaign, as a precondition for action. It justifies doing nothing except sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the state of society.

We also seem to think that changing the world should be easier than reality suggests. The backlash we are now seeing against progressive policies was inevitable once we appeared to take these gains for granted and became arrogant and exclusive about the inevitability of our worldview. Our values demand the rebalancing of power, whether economic, social or cultural, and that means challenging those who currently have it. We may believe that a more equal world is one in which more will thrive, but that doesn’t mean those with entrenched privilege will give up their favoured status without a fight or that the public should express perpetual gratitude for our efforts via the ballot box either.  

Amongst the conferences, tweets and general rumblings there seem three schools of thought about what to do next. The first is Marxist  as in Groucho revisionism: to rise again we must water down our principles to accommodate where we believe the centre ground of politics to now be. Tone down our ideals in the hope that by such acquiescence we can eventually win back public support for our brand – if not our purpose. The very essence of a hollow victory.

The second is to stick to our guns and stick our heads in the sand, believing that eventually, when World War Three breaks out, the public will come grovelling back to us. To luxuriate in an unwillingness to see we are losing not just elected offices but the fight for our shared future.

But what if there really was a third way? It's not going to be easy, and it requires more than a hashtag or funny t-shirt. It’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and starting to renew our call to arms in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

For the avoidance of doubt, if we march tomorrow and then go home satisfied we have made our point then we may as well not have marched at all. But if we march and continue to organise out of the networks we make, well, then that’s worth a Saturday in the cold. After all, we won’t win the battle of ideas, if we don’t battle.

We do have to change the way we work. We do have to have the courage not to live in our echo chambers alone. To go with respect and humility to debate and discuss the future of our communities and of our country.

And we have to come together to show there is a willingness not to ask a few brave souls to do that on their own. Not just at election times, but every day and in every corner of Britain, no matter how difficult it may feel.

Saturday is one part of that process of finding others willing not just to walk a mile with a placard, but to put in the hard yards to win the argument again for progressive values and vision. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe not many will keep going. But whilst there are folk with faith in each other, and in that alternative future, they’ll find a friend in me ready to work with them and will them on  and then Mr Banks really should be worried.