Several concepts and phrases have been bantered around for inclusion in the Paris Outcome document. Most of it centers on the differences between the wealthy nations and those who are not. “It’s [the issues are] about differentiation, equity, and climate justice.” – India’s Environmental Minister – Prakash Javadekar. While much of the talk has centered around the concept of “Common But Differentiated Responsibility” or “CBDR” for short, the climate justice advocates are concerned about the differentiated impacts of climate change. There is no question that climate change hits the world’s poorest people the hardest. There are many groups advocating for “Climate Justice”; they range from the Indigenous Peoples, to the women’s rights groups, to youth advocates. They are all striving for one common goal – the recognition of particularly vulnerable populations who disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change impacts.
As the Parties are busily reviewing the text this Friday, two separate press conferences were held on this very topic illustrating the urgency and passion with which these climate justice advocates are pushing for acknowledgement in the final text. In the early afternoon both the Friends of the Earth International (FEI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) directly addressed this issue and it infused much of the talk at the press briefings of other entities like Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). These groups were concerned that the newest Paris draft release on Thursday night “regressed as to equity” (Sunita Narain of CSE).
Key to understanding their positions is the underlying problem of the lobbying strength of rich corporations. Indeed, the WWF highlighted the extreme influence of the Koch brothers in North American politics and control of fossil fuel resources. Climate Justice requires that civil society holds the negotiators accountable to the people who are most affected by climate change. Political influence appears to be blocking the practical solutions to address mitigation, adaptation and the mechanisms to enforce the needed long-term goal of staying under 1.5℃. Under WWF’s view, the Draft Paris Outcome is a “great escape for polluters and a poison chalice for the poor.” It appears that the mitigation dates and targets are gone from the text, as is the science regarding the achievement of net zero emissions and climate neutrality.
Practically speaking, the WWF also highlighted what the ramifications of a weak Paris Agreement would mean for the majority of the world’s population. Food insecurity would increase as the climate change impacts affect not only the soil and water conditions but also the farmers’ land use rights. They stressed that the agricultural producers need support at the subnational level to maintain the farmers’ access to land and the means of production. These small-scale farmers make 80% of the food the world consumes. WWF Nigeria pointed out that decarbonization has been removed from the latest Draft Text. This would undermine one of the core elements of the Agreement, the energy transition to renewables. This is a matter of energy security. For much of the South, the lack of transition to renewables means dispossession of land by big companies. What is needed is “energy decentralization and energy democracy.” Both of these issues are tied to the need to move beyond the “climate smart” rhetoric to a system that is truly fair and equitable to the people of the land, not just equity among countries.
Part of the Climate Justice argument rests upon those cross-cutting issues of differentiation and financial responsibility. The argument to place human rights in the text beyond the Preamble is important so that the mechanisms take those rights into consideration. It is vital to prevent the political tradeoffs between the 1.5℃ target and loss and damage concessions; this pits development against ambition. As CSE noted, by the time India is ready to use its fair share, there will be no room in the carbon market for them. That is why finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building are so critically important. Developing country Parties need to access these resources to move forward quickly in sustainable development. They simply cannot afford to wait. Much like the situation on the whole Climate Deal – the world simply cannot afford to wait.