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Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels

UN head warns it is not only “immoral but suicidal” if we don’t act now on climate

C: Collin Rees

As the latest UN climate talks lurch towards an inadequate compromise declaration, the UN Secretary-General has warned negotiators that if they do not increase efforts to tackle climate change it will be “not only immoral but suicidal” for the planet.

So concerned is he about the lack of concrete action at the climate talks, that the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, returned to the UN climate talks in Poland this week.

Guterres said: “To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.” He added that negotiators had to “finish the job”.

He made the trip after COP24 President Michal Kurtyka from Poland had warned earlier in the week that negotiations were “stuck.”

As one commentator noted: “The U.N. chief’s appeal is a sign that the Polish COP24 presidency lacks the diplomatic muscle to force through a compromise on its own, unlike the powerful French effort three years ago in Paris that helped lead to a deal.”

Although the Paris agreement in 2015 was seen as significant step towards tackling climate change, many of the details of how to achieve emission reductions were due to be discussed and agreed this week in Katowice. For example, in Poland, negotiators were due to agree a “rulebook” on the Paris agreement implementation. But with many issues “stuck”, the days ahead will be “painful,” according to one negotiator.

Guterres is not the only one talking about planetary suicide if we don’t act fast. Writing in the New York Times today, the former Secretary of State in the Obama Administration, John Kerry, issued a blunt broadside against the Trump Administration and its lack of action on climate:

“Every day we lose ground debating alternative facts. It’s not a “he said/she said” — there’s truth, and then there’s Mr. Trump.”

He continued: “Future generations will measure us by whether we acted on facts, not just debated or denied them. Every day that goes by that we’re paralyzed by the Luddite in the White House is a day in the future that our grandchildren will suffer. That’s not hyperbole — that’s science.”

Kerry added that the “test is not whether the nation’s cities and states can make up for Mr. Trump’s rejection of reality. They can. The test is whether the nations of the world will pull out of the mutual suicide pact that we’ve all passively joined through an inadequate response to this crisis.”

Part of the problem has been the belligerent attitude of the US, but also other big polluters such as Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who refused to even “welcome” the IPCC’s latest report on climate science and the need to keep temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees.

I blogged about the issue earlier in the week, but the fallout continues to plague the COP conference.

A press release issued earlier today by fifteen of the most climate vulnerable nations that make up the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) have called on all nations to formally accept the findings of the IPCC report.

They said: “We firmly believe that the COP24 in Katowice, Poland is a pivotal moment in human history. The world must take heed of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and take dramatic and urgent steps to decarbonize the global economy and assist those at the frontline of climate change impacts. Our future is at stake”, the statement said.

They are not the only ones warning that the US and others need to take the IPCC report seriously: Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, former IPCC Vice-Chair and climate physicist, said: “The best way to recognize the work done by IPCC would be to stop arguing about whether to ‘note or to welcome’ the IPCC 1.5C Report, and start to take its numbers seriously. This must be done in a COP decision, the main outcome from Katowice.”

It remains to be seen what the conference will say on the report. But let’s not forget that Trump, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are not the only climate villains at the COP. So too are companies and organisations pushing false solutions and greenwashing.

Earlier this week, Friends of the Earth International, Corporate Accountability and other NGOs demonstrated outside a forum by IETA – the International Emissions Trading System – for promoting false solutions to climate change.

Outside greenwashing @IETA forum at #COP24, where a @Shell executive is all set to lie about technofixes and fossil fuels. This is the reality: communities in Nigeria are still living with Shell’s corporate crimes

This is not the first time IETA has been targeted for its greenwashing efforts at the COP. In 2009, it was one of the nominees of the so-called “Angry Mermaid” award at the Copenhagen talks for promoting “the idea of a totally global market in greenhouse gases, a mechanism which allows corporations and governments to buy and sell the right to pollute.”

And of course, Shell was targeted, not only for its record on climate, but also its record in Nigeria. Another tweet said:

“To @Shell we say: You are the last gasp of a system on the way out. You are on the wrong side of history. We will not rest until you stop extracting #fossilfuels and pay for the damage you caused”.

Just as the people of the Niger Delta have been demanding justice from Shell for decades, many of us have been demanding climate justice for decades too. But the hour glass has nearly run dry. The time to act is now. We cannot allow another COP to pass with just empty promises.

To repeat what Mr Guterres said: “To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.”

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