Environmentalist says climate COPs help people mobilise, despite being rigged

Civil society walkout at COP26
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Rishi Sunak’s initial decision not to attend COP27 – and his subsequent U-turn – generated chatter about what these climate conferences offer. In a recent interview, the writer, environmentalist and director of Nigerian NGO Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nnimmo Bassey, laid out what he believes their value is.

The environmentalist described the COP itself as a colonial “rigged process” that offloads “climate responsibility on the victims of climate change”. But he told South Africa’s Mail & Guardian that they do have value, namely:

The mobilisations that the COPs generate in meetings across the world — people talking about climate change, people taking real action, and indigenous groups organising and choosing different methods of agriculture that help cool the planet. People just doing what they can — that to me is what holds hope.

Read on...

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Climate COPs are rigged

As climate scientist Peter Kalmus pointed out, the rigged and hypocritical nature of these events is evident from before world leaders even touch down at them, and punctuated throughout:

Governments’ actions, or the lack thereof, also speak to the dishonesty involved.

For example, the UK currently holds the COP presidency, as it hosted COP26 last year in Glasgow. It will hand over the presidency to Egypt for COP27. The UK boasts about its “climate leadership”, saying it can be “proud” of its action on the climate crisis. However, it has failed to cough up millions in promised climate finance by the necessary deadline. These funds are meant to help poorer countries adapt to the crisis, which is – critically – mostly caused by rich countries, like the UK.

Real action at COP27

As Bassey argued, climate conferences provide opportunities for civil society. Young climate activists have suggested it’s a space where they can try to hold countries to account for their failures:

Ahead of COP27, hundreds of civil society organisations have demanded that the conference eject “Big Polluters”. This is a significant issue. The fossil fuel industry had a bigger contingent of delegates at COP26 than any single country.

The ‘climate-leading’ UK also only approved two events that referred to fossil fuels in its programme of “Green Zone” public events for COP26. As DeSmog reported, that was out of a total of 200:

More civil society demands are also already apparent. They include a call from the Global Forest Coalition for “rights-based and gender-transformative” solutions. Others are demanding the long-awaited establishment of a loss and damage funding facility, meaning support for countries that are highly vulnerable to the crisis’ impacts. Further calls involve the advancement of “recognition and protection for environmental defenders”.

People to COP27: it’s now or never

Unsurprisingly, there’s a sense of urgency to these calls from civil society. With extreme weather now increasingly commonplace around the world, and dire climate records broken with some regularity, it’s not hard to see why. A frightening message from hundreds of years ago also suggests it’s crunch-time:

People engraved so-called hunger stones in the past, to mark periods of low water levels and drought. One of them was visible during Europe’s drought this summer. It read:

If you see me, then weep

In short, now is the time for action – and civil society is leading the way.

Featured image via Guardian News / YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. Social media has enabled far greater information freedom than that allowed by what had been a rigidly gatekept news and information virtual monopoly held by the pre-2000 electronic and print mainstream news-media.

      Besides the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests, I seriously doubt that Greta Thunberg’s pre-pandemic formidable climate change movement, for example, would’ve been able to regularly form on such a congruently colossal scale if not in large part for the widely accessible posting and messaging systems of Facebook.

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