As the Paris Agreement comes into force and negotiations open at the Marrakesh climate talks, we must not ignore the people who are at the frontline of the climate crisis.
When we talk about people impacted by the climate crisis, we tend to first consider those impacted by the effects of climate change as these have already devastated lives across the globe. But the crisis extends to, and is perpetuated by, a dirty energy system that is causing immense harm to people and their local environments. From air and water pollution, which cause serious health impacts, to land grabbing for more mines, plants and infrastructure, the dirty energy system generates vast negative consequences for people around the world.
Just a week ago, the International Finance Corporation, private sector arm of the World Bank, launched a bond of $152 million for REDD and carbon trading. This was developed together with mining transnational corporate giant, BHP Billiton, which has caused environmental destruction in places like Indonesia. This deal reveals why REDD is a smokescreen and a false solution.
The Paris Agreement opens the door to negative emissions technologies (NETs), which sequester carbon through forest restoration and reforestation leading to damaging practices such as monoculture planting, and geo-engineering techniques such as ‘Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage’ (BECCS), a risky and unproven method involving burning biomass to generate electricity, capturing the carbon and pumping it into underground geological reservoirs. This focus on NETs threatens the transition to clean energy by legitimizing continued fossil fuel expansion. NETs also lead to a rush of global land grabbing that will dwarf current environmental and social impacts of biofuels. Some estimates suggest that land use changes would need to deliver four times the current land used for global food production in order to stabilize temperatures.
Climate change is well underway, and its effects – floods, storms, droughts, failing agriculture and rising seas – are wreaking devastation on communities and ecosystems globally. Climate change hits the poorest and most vulnerable people (e.g. women, children, indigenous peoples, differently abled peoples, etc) the hardest.
Already at current temperature warming, adaptation to climate change is now impossible in some areas of the world – islands such as Kiribati and Tuvalu are already being overwhelmed by rising seas.
The International Organisation on Migration (IMO) predicts that the number of people that will be displaced by climate change globally could reach 250 million by 2050. Most of these will migrate within their country or to neighbouring poor countries, but others will seek refuge elsewhere. Rich countries are deliberately closing their borders to those in need.
This week, the UN climate negotiations, or the ‘COP’ (Conference of the Parties), takes place in Marrakech and Friends of the Earth International is calling for urgent and fair action to reduce emissions before 2020. A recent report by UNEP says that we have only 3 years to make dramatic cuts or any hope of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C will be lost. People are already suffering the consequences of climate impacts, dirty energy and false solutions in a 1°C world. Rich countries must act now to drastically cut their emissions at source and to provide the massive finance needed for the energy revolution in the global South.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Fighting Back Against Dirty Energy, False Solutions and Climate Change’.