Climate Change Cannot be Resolved Without Strong Commitment Also to  Justice and Peace

Photo credit: Rise Up Times


            It is becoming increasingly clearer by the day, and confirmed further by COP 26 deliberations, that the climate change crisis cannot be resolved without accompanying strong commitment to peace and justice. At a time when it has become increasingly important to explore all sources of potential reduction of GHG emissions, how can we expect to succeed when possibly the biggest source of emission reduction available in military and arms related emssions is not even on the agenda. At a time when the rich countries have been making a mountain of the molehill of together contributing 100 billion dollars to climate fund for the Global South, it is worth recalling that a 20 per cent reduction in the conservatively estimated military budget (786 billion dollars) of a single country (USA) can yield 157 billion for an urgent requirement like climate change. Or that a 10 per cent tax on the wealth of the world’s billionaires ( 13000 billion dollars) can yield 1300 billion dollars. These are the kind of justice and peace related steps which can give new optimism to climate change agenda but are not considered seriously at summit-level.

At a wider level, these links include many more aspects which transcend emission and budget issues. Glaring inequalities and injustice have spread discontent among the deprived sections of society in various parts of world, which can erupt in violence, threatening peace. Now the new factor is that  problems of various vulnerable groups can worsen in many ways in times of climate change. Exposure to intense heat, prolonged dry weather and other adverse conditions can also lead to behavioral changes making people prone to outbursts of anger and violence. Thus while there was clearly need for justice based reforms to reduce the problems and distress of vulnerable groups, there is now even greater need for this.

If we are committed to finding justice based solutions to the crisis of climate change, this will necessarily involve efforts to have a real understanding of their problems and how these can be solved or reduced. There can be remedial actions which, while reducing GHG emissions, will also solve or reduce many of those problems of peasants and workers which are becoming a cause of discontent.

On the other hand if climate change concerns are sought to be resolved merely by technocratic solutions ignoring the real concerns of the vulnerable groups, then this will merely increase the discontent of people. Already there are examples of big business projects disguised as so-called so-called green projects which are increasing displacement, water scarcity, livelihood uncertainty and other problems of the poor. On the other hand careful and caring solutions can pave the way for reducing discontent and violence. Thus it is clear that climate change solutions should be linked to justice and peace.

These inter-linkages between climate change concerns, justice and peace  should be used at a world level to strengthen effective response of people to most pressing challenges of resolving climate crisis in a framework of justice, equality and peace.

But there is a big problem here. The way in which GHG emission reduction issues are framed today generally fails to excite most people, understandably as they are too engrossed, too involved in the day-to-day struggles of survival and coping with many-sided problems. This situation can change if the great environmental challenges can be linked to the no-less important challenges of meeting the basic needs of all people.

To be more specific, there is a strong case for preparing a plan for adequately reducing greenhouse gas emissions which is also linked to a plan for meeting the basic needs of all. Both plans, or two components of a single integrated plan, should be accepted as equally crucial. When such a plan is in place, then we will have something over which mass mobilisation will be truly possible.

The preparation of such a plan will also bring out forcefully that if these two objectives of critical importance (adequately reducing GHG emissions to keep temperature below 2degreeC and at the same time meeting the nutrition, health, housing, water and sanitation needs of all people) are to be met, then there is no scope for injustice and inequalities, greed and waste, and above all there is no scope for arms race and war!

With such a strong plan in place, the three movements of justice, environment and peace can come together to mobilise  people on a well-integrated , comprehensive agenda of peace, justice and environment protection, with special emphaasis on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

It is being said that the failure so far to reduce GHG emissions adequately has revealed a crisis of world leadership like perhaps never before and therefore clearly a bigger space has to be now occupied by peaceful but determined people’s movements. But these movements need to have an agenda which can obtain people’s support on a mass scale. This is why it is so important to link up the task of GHG emission reductions with the task of meeting the basic needs of all and preparing a common plan linking up these two crucial objectives of the greatest importance.

If we have a world-level plan, a common plan for meeting the basic needs of all and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions adequately – then it will be a plan with which most people in the world can identify closely. Thus it will be possible to build a mass movement, a worldwide movement, to accord the highest priority to this plan. This will provide a clear guide-post to people that the most urgent needs of justice, peace and environment protection can be integrated in a common plan and they and their unions and organizations can link up wih such an agenda, contribute to it and look forward to benefiting a lot from this.

As a step in this direction, people should seek to form a better understanding of  wasteful and hazardous consumption and technologies.Those forms of wasteful consumption and tehnologies which involve particularly high GHG emissions should  also be identified carefully. Plans involving study, discussion and participative education should aim to reduce all wasteful consumption as much as possible while promoting the satisfaction of all basic needs in healthier and more ecologically protective ways.

In particular a worldwide effort is needed to stop the production of all weapons to the maximum extent possible. In addition to the previously known reasons for disarmament, we now have the additional reason of trying to curb all wasteful/harmful manufacture due to the urgent need to reduce GHG emissions.Possibilities of war and civil strife should be minimized, as apart from causing enormous distress to people modern wars and the preparation for such wars also involve a lot of GHG emission.

A plan to increase the production of food, other goods and services to meet the basic needs of all in the world should be prepared, together with the most environment friendly and least GHG emitting technologies that can be used for this purpose. This will serve as a guide to people, their organizations as well as governments around the world for keeping GHG emissions low while meeting basic needs.This will emphasize maximum local self-reliance in meeting basic needs, to the extent practical and possible, so that unnecessary transport is avoided and livelihoods and needs are better integrated in all regions.

Energy planning should be focused more and more on renewable sources of energy. There should be a lot of encouragement for  local initiatives and innovations for local solutions in prevailing conditions. All new technologies that are necessary for reducing GHG emissions and related objectives should be free from patents so that these can be used as widely as possible whenever needed. But at the same it is important to recognize that technology transfer has its limits and local solutions for local problems should get the most encouragement while keeping the door open for any input from outside when needed.

As far as possible, no remaining natural forests should be cut. All threatened mass felling of trees and natural forests should be stopped immediately instead of waiting for a distant date. Conservation projects should never displace local communities but instead should seek to invole them.Very high priority should be given to reducing pollution and protecting habitats so that conditions for the healthy living of all life forms, whether on land or in water, can improve significantly.

Spread of such an agenda worldwide will open up many more possibilities for unleashing the creative and enthusisatic response of people to checking climate change while also resolving other serious problems at the same time. Such creative solutions will also open up the need and possibilities to bring wider changes in society, economy and governance which are based on justice, equality, peace, democracy, protection of   environment and biodiversity and sustainability, above all creating a safer and more just and secure world for future generations as well.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Planet in Peril—Peope’s Response the Only Way Forward.

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