December’s Climate Summit (COP25), held in Madrid because of social difficulties in Chile, contributed very little towards combatting the serious ecological crisis, which the planet is experiencing.
The first time that I entered the forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo, I was advised to keep my eyes wide open, because the most dangerous snake is the one you don’t see. If you see it, you take action immediately and you escape from the danger. I remembered this anecdote after having participated in the most recent Climate Summit (COP25), because I think that the political leaders who met in Madrid did not see the snake. It seems that they were blind and deaf, caring only about protecting their own egotistical interests without seeing the suffering of so many millions of people because of climate change and without listening to the scientists who, for the most part, confirm how climate warming, the result of human activity, is in the process of destroying the planet. The delegates of the nearly 200 countries present at the summit only reached a minimal agreement and expressed the pious wish of having more ambition for the future in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but without agreement on the principal aim of the meeting: regulating CO2 markets.
I apologise for my lack of humility, but I had foreseen this fiasco before the 15th December, the final day. While eating in the food area of the summit, I noticed that many people were leaving food abandoned on the tables. I questioned one of the waitresses and she confirmed that large quantities of food were binned every day. So, I stopped and said to myself: “I don’t think that those who throw away food have enough sensitivity to be able to find solutions to the complicated challenge of climate change, which is going to demand enormous sacrifices from everyone.”
When giving her last speech, the President of COP25, the Chilean Minister of Environment, Carolina Schmidt, had to admit: “We are not satisfied”, while the General Secretary of the UN, Antonio Guterres, was openly “disappointed”. But, the strongest judgements came from groups of citizens, who spoke openly about failure and even the futility of such multilateral meetings. Why were there so many thousand delegates from the entire world present at the same time on the carpet of the Madrid Trade Fair? Why “waste” so many millions of dollars in organizing the meeting? It is very likely that this summit will be remembered because of the double betrayal: first betrayal to its own slogan, ‘Time for Action’, but also betrayal to the millions of people who were expecting a clear and definite change of course. We made a mistake in having put our confidence in people who were bound hand and foot to hidden interests.
Now what? We have never been in quite such a muddled situation. There have already been 25 climate summits in the course of the last quarter century and yet, in 2019, the planet broke the record for the daily average concentration of carbon dioxide, 414 parts per million (ppm), the maximum level since the start of humanity. We have to look back 3 million years into the history of the planet to find similar levels.
That gives rise to anger, because the delegates of certain of the most polluting countries were precisely those who created obstacles during the negotiations. Of course, I’m speaking about China and the United States, the 2 principal polluters of the planet who, together, are responsible for 45% of greenhouse gas emissions, but I am also thinking of others such as India, Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia or Brazil. Whatever the ideology of their government, they all seem to be the hostages of the big multinationals, in particular those dedicated to the extraction of combustible fossil fuel and of this suicidal economic model, which dominates the world. We continue to insist crazily on focusing on the well-being and development of consumerism and economic growth: but that isn’t durable and it is impossible to extend it to the whole of humanity, because resources are limited. We know this more and more clearly, but we do nothing to change it. He, who insists on a lie, knowing that it is a lie, is approaching paranoia. Oh well, that seems to be the situation of our world.
If the most polluting countries are those, which suffer the least consequences of pollution and those who have the most resources to combat it, the inverse is equally true. The least polluting countries are those, which suffer the most from the consequences of climate warming, insecure food supply, diminishing water supply, air pollution, climate refugees, degradation of eco systems, etc. Africa contributes scarcely 4% of polluting emissions, but amongst the 10 countries of the world most under threat, 7 are on this continent, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Eritrea.
Last October, in North Sudan, I visited an investigation set up by the Red Cross into resilience to climate change. It found agriculturalists and herdsmen fighting against the lack of water and pasture, against the fragile fertility level of seeds, against the dunes threatening their harvests and their homes. Many of them don’t suspect that these symptoms are the result of a global problem in an interconnected and unjust world.
Oh well, I am perhaps speaking at too great length and I am denouncing the guilty parties when I am, myself, guilty. I travel often by plane and I don’t refuse to use the car when I consider I can gain a few minutes in comparison with public transport. Perhaps I, too, did not see the snake and I still need to keep my eyes wide open to implement in my own life transformative actions which are more ecological and respectful of the planet. I would be happier.
Fortunately, the most positive result which COP25 left us is the existence of groups of enlightened citizens and active youth who have spotted the snake and are aware of the climate crisis we are going through. In these lies our hope. May they not lower their arms and may they continue to apply pressure, demonstrate constantly and force the political leaders to open their eyes. It is only then that they will take action. Let us hope that they are not too late