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Climate justice: the only viable solution to the climate crisis

The largest international climate summit happening in the next two weeks in Glasgow, Scotland has an historic opportunity to pull the world back from certain catastrophe — unless corporations and governments succeed in hijacking it.

The 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) is set finalize contentious issues that threaten to comprise any agreement coming out of COP26.

“This agreement could only work if it uses a climate justice approach. Framing it a justice issue especially resonates with the Philippines and other countries from the global South, which, while polluting the least historically, will be most affected by climate change,” said Mai Taqueban, of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC).

Tackling the climate crisis requires a radical and immediate shift away from fossil fuels and other dirty and harmful energy, industrial agribusiness, and large-scale deforestation. Climate justice also means addressing the systemic root causes, inequality and inequity at the core of the climate, Covid-19, and ecological crises.

But a climate justice approach could be undermined by other false solutions that will be pushed by corporations and rich nations at COP26.

In a recent op-ed, Meena Raman, of Third World Network, sounded the alarm on one such false solution, the so-called ‘net zero’. “Instead of undertaking real deep emissions cuts to real zero by now, developed countries are announcing distant net-zero targets with 2050 as the target year, which again reflect reductions which are too little too late and that will exhaust the remaining carbon budget very soon. Hence, we must demand real and rapid zero from developed countries, not distant targets. Moreover, net zero targets mean that there will be reliance on carbon-offsets, where developed countries will pay developing countries to do the emission removals, which will then go to the credit of developed countries,” Raman said.

Environmental grassroots federation Friends of the Earth International cautions against nature-based solutions (NBS), a smokescreen strategy that the UK presidency at COP26 supports. Friends of the Earth believes that these do not reduce fossil fuel emissions at source, and can cause grave harm to communities in the global South.

Nature Based Solutions is a bad idea dressed up in acceptable terminology and beautiful imagery — a sheep in wolf’s clothing. The term sounds good but is so broad and vague that it can refer to anything - from real solutions such as indigenous-based ecosystem restoration to damaging activities like monoculture tree plantations. Much of what is being done in the name of Nature Based Solutions is little more than a repackaging of previously discredited market-based approaches,” says Sarah Shaw, Friends of the Earth climate justice and energy program co-coordinator.

The costly, risky, and unproven technologies, dressed up in catchy phrases, can potentially result in devastating impacts and lead to land grabbing, human rights violations, and destruction of forests in the Global South. They only galvanize corporate power, deflect responsibility from rich historical polluters, and stall radical and urgent action on climate change.

Beyond the climate crisis, the planet is facing multiple, inter-related social, political and economic crises, at the heart of which sits an unsustainable economic system that enriches only a few. For Friends of the Earth, only with system change — a radical transformation of our energy, food and economic systems — can we prevent global average temperature rises exceeding 1.5 degrees. There are real solutions to the climate crisis; people power is the key to unlocking them.

“In Asia, we are seeing grassroots communities, cooperatives, and movements recasting the world in small but more equitable and ecological ways. In Palestine and the Philippines, communities are building micro-grid energy systems that follow the principles of energy sufficiency and sovereignty. Indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers practice agro-ecology in growing food in Sri Lanka and Nepal. And grassroots environmental defenders are protecting and managing forests sustainably in Indonesia and Malaysia. There is no doubt that people power will play a major role in reimagining and reshaping the world,” said Taqueban.

LRC is the Philippines member of Friends of the Earth.

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