Millenium Development Goals: Time for a Rethink?

In September 2000 United Nations member countries agreed on eight goals aimed at encouraging development by improving social and economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries. These goals were adopted in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and are known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In addition to the above aims, the MDGs’ intend to provide a framework for the entire international community to work towards a common goal focused on human development, poverty reduction and increased opportunity to access and benefit from global economy. The goals are as follows:

  • Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty
  • Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
  • Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
  • Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
  • Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth

As the target date (2015) for achieving the targets set for the MDG’s looms there is much debate on the success of the MDGs, whether they should be reviewed, re-defined or completely replaced.

According to a CESR article the first decade of progress against the MDGs revealed “the inadequacy of the international community’s efforts to meet commitments made a decade ago to fight poverty and other forms of deprivation such as hunger, disease and gender inequality.” In addition the 2011 UN report on the progress against the MDGs also revealed that between 2000-2010 progress against the MDGs’ had been inequitable and has in most instances bypassed the poorest, most vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors of the population who are meant to be the key beneficiaries of the MDGs’.

Thus it is evident that the MDGs despite being well-intentioned and aimed at facilitating human development have not necessarily hit their mark. There are various reasons and debates in relation to the success or failure of the MDGs. However, in my opinion the key issues requiring revision, re-thinking or attention are as follows;

1. The fact that the MDG targets are set for the world as a whole. An impact of looking at the MDGs as global targets is the fact that the development needs of specific countries and regions may be over looked. This is highlighted by the following UNDP statement;

“While the share of poor people is declining, the absolute number of the poor in South Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa is increasing.” (http://www.undp.ro/mdg/basic_facts) 

In other words: There is a significant need for locally defined MDG targets and not broad “world” based targets.

2. The MDGs’ are focused primarily on achieving targets as opposed to the process required to achieve the required development impact. This may be seen as limiting the scope of and reducing the impact of the development efforts. In other words: the “how” is just as important as the “what should be!”  Consequently, issues such as local needs and capacity should have been more effectively considered and integrated into the goal setting process.

3. The focus on numerical targets. Such targets are difficult to measure within the context of many of the less developed countries, which lack reliable data and the institutional and government capacity to collect and measure such data. Numerical targets do not always guarantee effectiveness or development impact.

“The problem of incomplete data has been recognized in Africa where most people are said to die or be born “without leaving a trace in any legal record or official statistics. In rural Africa, there are few hospitals, home births are common and assistance from a midwife or another health official rare.” (Katie Nguyen, Reuters Alert Net)

4. Aid does not necessarily result in development. The MDGs’ in many instances had the effect of focusing international aid flows specifically towards the attainment of MDGs’. This was based on the presumption that the MDGs’ are the optimal way of ensuring development and poverty alleviation. However, in certain instances this had the effect of misdirecting aid away from the real development issues within specific and local country contexts.

This sentiment is highlighted by Archbishop N Ndungane, as follows;

delivery on aid commitments have recorded a steady increase from 2004 through 2009. While it is a positive trend, it has created a tendency to focus more on aid in terms of the resources needed for the realisation of the MDGs than on the other sources. The recent global crises have come as a rude shock to remind us that this was a distortion and huge mistake”

The sentiment is also reiterated by the site; Globalissues, as follows;

“aid has often come with a price of its own for the developing nations:

  • Aid is often wasted on conditions that the recipient must use overpriced goods and services from donor countries
  • Most aid does not actually go to the poorest who would need it the most
  • Aid amounts are dwarfed by rich country protectionism that denies market 
access for poor country products, while rich nations use aid as a lever to 
open poor country markets to their products
  • Large projects or massive grand strategies often fail to help the vulnerable 
as money can often be embezzled away. 
It is time for these countries in need of development to call for justice and for the countries that once promised to help the world to actually fulfill their promises.” (http://www.globalissues.org)

These issues highlight the need to rethink the manner in which “development” and aid should be considered when the MDGs’ goals are assessed for impact and a post- MDGs’ framework or path is forged.

A continued focus on financial aid and development that does not effectively, equitably and sustainably consider local and regional contexts, capacities, needs and sensitivities will not only be a waste of resources both financial and natural, but also a waste of time. We need to prevent any further misdirected efforts especially within the context of increasing resource degradation, climate change and environmental vulnerability.

References, Articles, sites etc

Earth Hour 2012, Low Hanging Fruit & Really Making a Difference?

Tonight is Earth Hour 2012!Earth Hour aims to increase awareness of the  (negative) impact of electricity on the environment and urge consumers to act together to reduce electricity consumption and thereby contribute to saving the earth.

….. or in the words of the actual Earth Hour organizers:

“Hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments around the world unite each year to support the largest environmental event in history – Earth Hour. ” (www.earthhour.org)

More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour 2011 alone, sending a powerful message for action on climate change. It also ushered in a new era with members going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action for the planet. Without a doubt, it’s shown how great things can be achieved when people come together for a common cause. (www.earthhour.org)

….an alternative view of Earth Hour is:

“Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. ………. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.” (www.wattsupwiththat.com)

I agree that we need to unite and act and make changes in our resource use and consumption patterns to ensure that we use our resources in a more efficient, equitable and sustainable manner. I also believe that we need to raise awareness and increase the urgency of our actions and end the low- hanging fruit, talk, conference, committee type of actions that are clearly not making much of a difference. We need initiatives that actually make a difference and move away from mere awareness building, and hour-long initiatives.

For me the issue is more that earth hour is close to being seen as a yearly green wash, feel good, drop in the ocean event that doesn’t actually make much difference if we all go back to our normal consumption patterns after the hour of action.

I do understand that the aim is to increase awareness and change electricity use patterns, but how many of us observe the hour, give ourselves a good (green) pat on the back and then carry on with our normal way of life without making worthwhile changes in how we use electricity?

We all need to change our resource use patterns, but is one hour per year really going to help us?

I am not saying don’t support Earth Hour, though I am saying I don’t think a few green washed actions will make much difference! We need to focus our energies on actions and initiatives that actually work and are sustainable!

References and reading :

Earth Hour Website

Action for Climate Justice: Earth Hour and Green wash 

WUWT 

Article on WWF-UK on Green wash and Earth Hour 

Aid, Development & The Development Set !

This is an old poem I found which I think is very pertinent and also very sad.

I work in the Development Finance and Environmental sector (10+ years) and am often very disheartened and sad when I think about all the green wash and the fact that good development projects and proposals often get overlooked for projects that don’t necessarily make sense (or only make financial sense) when you look at all the issues and consider sustainability etc.

Don’t get me wrong there are lots of good organisations out there that do good work but in my opinion there is also a lot of hot air/ big development talk etc that is not actually helping anyone except for the people who fly around the world telling people what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.

The poem made me think… we haven’t really come very far or achieved much development impact or sustainability since the 1970s (when the poem was written) ….other than the development set living much cooler lives and travelling around holding more and more very important talk-show sessions? The poem also made me think of COP 17 and what the real cost of COP17 was. (Click on links for previous blog posts on COP17).

The Development Set by Ross Coggins

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet I’m off to join the Development Set;

My bags are packed, and I’ve had all my shots I have traveller’s checks and pills for the trots!

The Development Set is bright and noble

Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;

Although we move with the better classes

Our thoughts are always with the masses.

In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations

We damn multi-national corporations;

injustice seems easy to protest In such seething hotbeds of social rest.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks

And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.

Whether Asian floods or African drought,

We face each issue with open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose circumlocution

Raises difficulties for every solution –

Thus guaranteeing continued good eating

By showing the need for another meeting.

The language of the Development Set Stretches the English alphabet;

We use swell words like “epigenetic” “Micro”, “macro”, and “logarithmetic”

It pleasures us to be esoteric – It’s so intellectually atmospheric!

And although establishments may be unmoved,

Our vocabularies are much improved.

When the talk gets deep and you’re feeling numb,

You can keep your shame to a minimum:

To show that you, too, are intelligent

Smugly ask, “Is it really development?”

Or say,

“That’s fine in practice, but don’t you see: It doesn’t work out in theory!”

A few may find this incomprehensible,

But most will admire you as deep and sensible.

Development set homes are extremely chic,

Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.

Eye-level photographs subtly assure

That your host is at home with the great and the poor.

Enough of these verses – on with the mission!

Our task is as broad as the human condition!

Just pray god the biblical promise is true:

The poor ye shall always have with you.

From “Adult Education and Development” September 1976

Another How To Green Your Valentines Day Post!

You either: love Valentine ’s Day, hate it or are completely ambivalent about it! Which ever it is you clearly think something about it if you ended up here reading this post! *smirk*

I have already seen articles and blog posts about “how to green” your Valentines Day blah blah… so being the dutiful or not so dutiful green-band-wagon-blogger that I am, I contemplated doing a similar article. The thing is that I don’t actually believe in Valentines Day, well at least not in the manner in which we tend to celebrate it anyway….. No, I am not an alien or some weird species of mad tree hugging anti joy and happiness type of person! I actually love the thought of champers, prezzies, and chocolates and being spoilt etc… I just think that picking one day in a year to do so an absolute waste of time, effort, emotion, money and natural resources. I think everyday should be Valentines Day and we should always show our loved ones and Valentines that we love and appreciate them (without being a stalker though… )
Here are a few reasons that Valentines Day needs a bit of a rethink, other than the inherent cheesiness. You should think about:

  • Trees grown in unsustainable monoculture plantations cut down to make cheesy cards. Imagine the waste of resources….
  • Flowers are grown in monoculture plantations, where farmers in all likelihood using GM seeds, too much water in water poor areas of the world and are shipped around the world in refrigerated planes and trucks emitting GHG emissions etc… (see the article on greening tips and flowers)
  • Flowers wrapped in plastic that will be grossly overpriced for the day… what’s the point?
  • Cheesy yucky tasting chocolates and sweets that will be molded into heart and cupid etc shapes that will be sold all over the place and will most probably be thrown away by recipients who don’t like said yucky chocolate which will in any event be on sale two days after Valentines Day …. Rather save the worlds chocolate resources and buy good quality sustainably produced chocolate that actually tastes nice and is good for the planet.
  • Think of all the waste when the valentine hued cards, wrapping and uneaten chocolates, flowers etc that will have to disposed of…
  • Underwear that is supposed to be made from sustainably grown/sourced cotton that is not really that good for the environment or the communities that it was meant to benefit. (see the article on Victoria’s Secret for more info)
  • The stress caused by all the build up to Valentines Day and the possibility of being rejected by the person you choose to be your valentine…. this can be particularly unsustainable to humans….
  • The list just goes on and on ….

So instead my message is celebrate Valentines Day… just don’t be a cheesy eco-douche and fall for all the green wash! You don’t have to spend mad cash on overpriced “pretend” sustainable flowers, organic champers or not so sustainable Victoria’s Secret underwear or whatever it is that you do on Valentines Day. Rather make a Valentines gesture that is sustainable and has a more sustainable impact on the environment:

Some options for those of you trying to be a bit nicer to the planet this Valentines Day are:

  • Do nothing (and risk being ostracized, broken up with etc. This is a good option for those wanting to end a relationship on Valentines Day!) (-1000 points)
  • Make a homemade Valentines Day card … preferably using organic, sustainable sourced paper and ink etc (+20 points) for your loved one.
  • Cook your Valentine an organic home cooked meal. Ideally you would have grown the veggies at home using the worm juice/tea from your wormery, but if not, at east try and source the food from a reliable non-green wash supermarket chain (see article on supermarket refrigeration and GHG emissions) or local farmers market. (+ 50 points if you swopped some organic veggies and worm tea with the vineyard down the road for organic wine or champers to accompany the meal.) Additional information on more sustainable food consumption can be found in this article.)
  • Adopt an endangered species/ donate to worthy cause in the name of your Valentine! Please note that adoption of an orangutan, rhino, gorilla or panda does not mean you are to bring the animal home for your valentine. The aim here is to contribute to helping out the conservation of the species not facilitate increased poaching or removal of species from their natural environments. (Extra points directly linked to the more endangered the species and the larger the donation!) I am not going to tell you what to adopt or which cause to donate to. You should know what the worthy causes in your area are.
  • Plant an indigenous tree/ plant/ flower with your Valentine to symbolize your love …. (be sure to water and look after it ….. don’t let it die as that could be taken as an bad omen for your relationship)… cheesy I know but at least you will hopefully help with carbon reduction and the prevention of biodiversity loss.
  • Pick a flower from your/ a garden and give it to your Valentine. Preferably, an indigenous flower (+10 points) grown in a safe non-pesticide using garden.
  • Spend quality time with you Valentine/ loved one etc. This has particularly low resource consumption, though if you have to travel halfway around the world to do so your carbon miles may actually make this option unsustainable for you, so maybe you should try something else… or public transport.
  • These are just a few options, if you can’t find anything that suits your here do an internet search and you should find a good green Valentines Day option to suit you!

The point is that there are tons of things you can do, to have a greener and more sustainable Valentines Day so please try and stay away from the unnecessary consumption, and resource depleting type of Valentines Day and don’t be an eco-douche!

Durban Platform: COP17 ≠ Urgent Action.

“Negotiators have sent a clear message to the world’s hungry: let them eat carbon,”Celine Charveriat: Oxfam.

 The outcome of 16 days of fun in the sun for the politicians and celebs is pretty much what was expected. In case you haven’t heard the news:

  • A commitment was made by all countries to accept binding emission cuts by 2020. Governments now get more time to negotiate emissions cuts ??
  • A new climate fund will be set up
  • Carbon markets will be expanded and countries will be able to earn money by protecting forests.

On the topic of the outcome of COP17 Mr. Ban Ki Moon has stated that the outcome is “essential for stimulating greater action and for raising the level of ambition and the mobilization of resources to respond to the challenges of climate change.” Essentially, we haven’t committed to anything other than committing to binding emissions cuts in 8 years time. In the interim the emission cuts will be debated and agreed upon by the countries by 2015 and then implemented in 2020. What does this mean? It means we do not have binding emissions targets at the moment but we will hopefully have some by 2020 (keep your fingers crossed).

So I guess in a way we should be happy…. maybe even celebrate by popping some organic champers!!

Apparently, COP17 is the commitment that big business needs (it seems that they haven’t noticed all the changes and impacts caused by in climate change, extreme events, resource degradation and scarcity etc) to ensure that they stop green-washing and earnestly start the move towards low (er)-carbon technology and a greener economy.

“Delaying real action till 2020 is a crime of global proportions.” Nnimmo Bassey: Friends of the Earth International

What we need is action not agreements or more discussions in 2015 or words that simply make investors happy. While we fine tune the wording of the agreements and the emissions targets etc we will continue merrily along the path towards higher emissions, warming and increased climate risk and vulnerability. Has any thought been given to the impact of delaying action until 2020?

  • What impact does this have on the vulnerable populations in Africa, the small island states and coastal areas?
  • What does waiting until 2020 mean for the increasing global temperature? As it is current pledges for emissions reductions are not consistent with the 2C target required and the science is not matching the action, thus we are not effectively transitioning towards the low carbon path that we should/ need to be on by 2020.
  • The financial and social cost of climate change impacts is already growing… by waiting until 2020 we are just compounding the costs and the impacts? Or are we making sure that we implement the correct actions just a little too late?
  • In addition to this, according to Damian Carrington we also have “investors that are too nervous to put money into the old economy, yet too uncertain of the low-carbon commitment of politicians to put their money into the new economy.” So why the dependence on carbon markets that are directly linked to the old economy?

“The chance of averting catastrophic climate change is slipping through our hands with every passing year that nations fail to agree on a rescue plan for the planet.” Kumi Naido: Greenpeace International director  

 “The current pledges from countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions were not enough to hold global temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which scientists say climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible. Bob Ward: Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics

In conclusion; COP17 and the lack of action and commitment from politicians, eco-celebs and green-washers merely highlights the need for individual and community commitment and action to reduce emissions, environmental degradation and climate change vulnerability and risks. We cannot wait for the politicians, investors and big business to debate argue and fine tune the details of what needs to be done while flying around and attending more and more talk sessions that result in no tangible action.

Additional reading FYI:

Durban climate deal struck after tense all-night session

COP17: Decision

Ban welcomes climate change deal reached at UN conference in Durban 

BRICS & COP17

BRICS

Despite all being emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and often being referred to in the same discussion, are all approaching the summit with different goals. This highlights the fact that the countries should not all be viewed through the same climate change lens and that each country has its own development context, agenda and goals that must be considered. For example:

The Indian GDP per capita is almost identical to that of Africa’s. No one is expecting all of Africa to match China’s commitments. Perhaps if India negotiated in 30 discrete blocks things would be different.

“You can’t compare China and India,” says Kartikeya Singh, CIERP Junior Associate at the Fletcher School who is also serving as an advisor to government delegations in Durban. “It’s convenient to compare them side-by-side because of their mammoth populations but the reality from an energy and emissions perspective, is quite different. They have fast growing economies too and all of these indicators make people want to put them together in a club.”

(www.rtcc.org)

The BRICS countries each have their own agendas and the following has emerged from the negotiations to date:

Brazil has stated that it is not placing any conditions on committing itself to an internationally legally binding instrument to reduce carbon emissions as long as such a treaty helped the fight against climate change based on scientific studies. Brazil is hoping for the following:

  1. The adoption of a second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol before the end of COP17 summit.
  2. A fully functional Green Climate Fund, which includes short-term and long-term financing mechanisms to assist developing nations to adapt to climate change.

Russia, a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has blankly refused to consider a second commitment period.

India has emerged as the leading opponent to a binding treaty at COP 17. India is the world’s third largest carbon emitter, yet has one of the smallest one of the smallest per-capita-carbon footprints in the world, and  has made it clear that it is choosing economic growth over efforts to reduce emissions. In addition India has joined with other emerging economies in advocating a renewal of the Kyoto Protocol. Under this treaty, developing nations like India and China have no obligations to make cuts to emissions and all the onus is put on Western industrialized countries.

China, the worlds biggest greenhouse gas emitter has stated that it is open to signing a formal treaty restricting emissions after 2020. Chinas conditions arise from China’s need for rapid economic growth to counter the persistent poverty of millions of its citizens. This need for rapid economic growth is the underlying reason for China’s view that it cannot be bound by the same emissions standards as advanced industrialized nations. Chinas agreement to the signing of a treaty is subject to the following conditions;

  1. New carbon-cutting pledges by rich nations in the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol;
  2. The fast launch of the Green Climate Fund agreed on in Cancun under a supervisory regime;
  3. Implementing the consensus of adaptation;
  4. Technology transfer, transparency, capability building
  5. Other points agreed upon in the former conferences as well as appraising developed countries’ commitment during the first period of the Kyoto Protocol.

South Africa, like China, has shown interest in the EU Roadmap and has agreed to binding agreements with conditionality’s that are informed by the need for climate change adaptation financing, technology transfer and capacity building.

 

Extra Reading and references:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRICS

http://www.ips.org/TV/cop17/basics-make-small-steps-towards-emission-reduction-deal/#more-1329

http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/a552ec80493cd9268f8f9f1d15685aa2/Brazil-optimistic-COP-17-could-be-successful-20111129

http://www.rtcc.org/policy/comment-is-india-the-new-china/

http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2011-12-08-deconstructing-the-african-position-at-cop17

What I Want For COP17 (& Christmas)

As I pack my bags to attend Conference of the Parties (COP) 17 (yes, I am attending, no, I will not be quaffing overpriced organic champagne with the amazing eco-celebs, financiers and politicians, as I am more of a worker bee type and will be working during COP17). I started thinking about what I would like to the outcome of COP17 to be.

Recently all one hears about in the media and COP related meetings are:

  • which politicians and celebs will be attending
  • what are the best side events to attend (heaven forbid i don’t get seen at the right event)
  • what events have you been invited to …(best make sure I get onto the rights lists! )
  • who to network with
  • do you have enough business cards…(hopefully printed on recycled paper)
  • the astronomical cost of flights and accomodation
  • who will be using public transport…. (will some people actually do this? )
  • where will you be staying
  • what will the weather be like
  • … blahblahblah.

One doesn’t really hear about the reality of climate change, the impacts that global temperature rise has as on vulnerable rural and coastal communities, what the impacts of having annual COPs have been or what the ideal outcome of this COP should be. Maybe its time someone did an evaluation of COP to determine if it is really helping with climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Reuters

I am getting ahead of myself… anyway….

I thought that maybe a some information the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the desired outcome of COP17 would be a good idea to refresh my memory and also provide a background to the negations that will be starting in Durban on 28 November 2011.

  • The UNFCCC entered into force in 1995. SInce 1995 the  Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC have been meeting annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change. The COP adopts successive decisions and resolutions  the aim of which is make up a detailed set of rules for practical and effective implementation of the Convention.
  • The COP serves as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which adopts decisions and resolutions on the implementation of its provisions.
  • The COP adopts decisions and resolutions, published in reports of the COP with the aim of making up a detailed set of rules for practical and effective implementation of the Convention.
  • Parties to the Convention that are not Parties to the Protocol are able to participate in the CMP as observers, but without the right to take decisions.
  • South Africa (SA) will be hosting the 17th COP in Durban.
  • as the host SA holds the responsibility of being the incoming COP leadership, “this is a strategic and important task as SA will be required to coordinate and steer the COP17 process towards the reaching of an agreement.” (KZN: Department of Environmental Affairs, 2011) 
I hope at COP 17 that we do not experience a repeat of events of previous COPs with lots of talk and very few concrete actions taken that will reduce and mitigate climate change risks and vulnerabilities. Currently the politics around climate change is not aligned with the scientific evidence. this is primarily due to a lack of political will and, in my opinion, due to much emphasis being placed on “low hanging fruit” and greenwashing. despite the signs of climate change and environmental degradation we still have countries (Japan, Russia, Canada and the US) that are not willing to commit to a 2nd commitment period.
Given the history of the UNFCC COPs a good outcome would be something along the following lines:
  • An agreement that is inclusive, fair, effective and legally binding and that  operationalizes the agreements reached at Cancun while also enabling a 2nd commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.
  • A 2nd commitment period that takes forward the issues of climate change, climate resilience, climate adaptation and also enables equitable growth and development.
  • Indications/ actions relating to the implementation of a 3rd commitment period(2018) that is also a legally binding agreement for all parties.
  • A Green Climate Fund. One that actually contains funds as opposed to one that will one day have funds.
  • An adaptation committee aimed at assisting Africa, the less developed countries and the small island states.
  • The determination of a Global Peak Year of 2015 and a 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target of 80%.
  • The protection of biodiversity and forest ecosystems.
I guess I should just get used to not getting what I want!
Do you think COP17 will help us move towards a safer and more sustainable world… or do you think it is an opportunity for politicians and eco-celebs to have their egos stroked while they pretend to be working for the greater good? take poll and give us your thoughts! 

Some COP17 links:

COP 17 – Going nowhere slowly

Durban COP17 

Greenpeace and COP

Climate Change, COP17 & Champagne Environmentalists

Pop the Champers for COP17!

Days away from COP 17 and the media is abuzz with which celebs will be making an appearance in support of COP17. Apparently  Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, Bono, Arnold Schwarzenegger and probably a score of others are scheduled to attend COP 17 in Durban.  This got me thinking…

  1. Is the celeb support helping fight climate change
  2. Is the support worth the GHG emissions
  3. Do the celebs make a difference to the people most affected by climate change and environmental degradation?
  4. Is celeb support of climate and environmental issues simply perpetuating the consumerist model (the you can have it all mentality) that has helped to get us to this position of ecological debt, climate change and environmental degradation that we are tying to solve…. think greenwash, the eco-fashion bandwagon, environment as advertising and publicity stunts, inequality in resource use etc….
  5. Will the celebs be flying economy class (first class=more emissions)? will they (and their entourage) be using public transport? will they walk to all their public appearances? or maybe they will offset their emissions by planting a tree or two… or three (hopefully indigenous to the environment that they plant it in….)

Please do not for a minute think that am totally against celebrities helping out with a “good cause”. I do however believe that quite a few celebs are rather involved with greenwash and publicity as opposed to actually making a difference…… they need to really look at the impact of their lifestyles, the cause that they are promoting and the actual message that they are communicating. Some reading about the contradictions in celeb champagne lifestyles and their environmental messages….

Hypocrisy of champagne environmentalists is deceitful and distracting

Enviro-celebs attending COP17

Luxury brands must wake up to ethical and environmental responsibilities

This also brings us back to the question of whether COP17 is worth all the carbon miles?… could we not have the same or a better result through just agreeing on what needs to be done and doing it instead to flying around the world year after year and going through the same arguments again and again….

COP16 : Cancun ~ COP 17: Durban

World Energy Outlook (International Energy Agency)

As we get closer to COP17 the issues of climate change, emissions, targets, the Cancun Agreement, equity, technology transfer, climate finance and what is expected from COP17 are on everyone’s mind. I these issues aren’t on your mind they should be because climate change will impact your life in one way or another….. if it hasn’t already. So I thought a bit of information on COP16 and its outcomes as well as what is expected from COP 17 would help contextualize the issues and hopefully get more of us thinking about the key issues around climate change and COP17.

Oil Refinery. (www.gaurdian.co.uk)

The key outcome of COP 16 is the Cancun Agreement. The Cancun Agreement is not regarded as the “ideal or required” fair, binding and ambitious agreement that is needed to resolve the climate change problem. A key criticism of the Cancun agreement is the fact that the agreement focused primarily on the alleviation of climate change symptoms without effectively addressing the causes of climate change. Of particular importance is the fact that the agreement did not include a binding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target or strategy or resolve the issue of the financing of the Green Climate Fund and REDD+.

The Agreement included and recognised the following:

  • That reductions in global GHG emissions are required, in order to reduce GHG emissions
  • A Shared Vision that Parties need to take urgent action to meet this long-term goal of keeping temperature rise below 2º.
  • A paradigm shift towards building a low-carbon society is required.
  • The importance of Climate Change Adaptation.
  • REDD+:agreement on reducing emissions from deforestation was reached despite the issue of financing not being resolved.
  • Technology Transfer
  • The establishment of a Green Climate Fund to mobilize long-term finance for climate change in developing countries. The financing of the fund was not detailed or specified and this was seen as a significant gap in the agreement.
  • The inclusion of gender considerations and the recognition that climate change impacts women and men differently.

Issues that were left to be resolved at COP 17, in Durban, South Africa are;

  • A decision on the second phase for the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Agreeing which countries are most vulnerable
  • The arrangements to compensate countries for permanent loss and damage due to climate change.

Some interesting COP17 articles:

No cash will be a COP-out  

South Africa aims for fair deal at COP 17

COP 17 ‘must establish roadmap’

Why is it so hard to stop Climate Change

World headed for irreversible Climate Change