Day XII in Copenhagen—People Get Ready, The Train is Coming…Just Get Onboard!

President Obama issued a charge this afternoon to all assembled at the COP15 to “act boldly and decisively in the face of this common threat.” He affirmed that obviously all in the room agreed that the threat of climate change is a clear and present and scientifically proven danger.  In his speech, he chastised those who “want aid with no strings attached”.  By this, as opposed to talking about countries in the global south, he was referring to the feud with China, the only nation leading the United States in emissions, which had yet to commit to participating in monitoring mechanisms to ensure accountability on their commitments. He further acknowledged the US role as the largest economy and second largest emitter and the responsibility that comes with this position.

Though President Obama stridently stated that we can’t go on with business as usual and that “changing the way we use energy is essential to America’s national security”, the stated target for the US reduction of 17% by 2020 seemed somewhat contradictory to the urgency. That level of reduction (which falls short of many projections of what is needed to halt our trajectory towards catastrophic climate change(25-40%) ) means little to the Maldives, Seychelles, coastal Louisiana and coastal Alaska, all who, by some analyses, face submersion within that same timeframe. I’m not blind to the resource constraints, the onerous need to build political will, and the mechanics of transitioning to an alternate energy economy, but are we pushing ourselves enough to rise to the urgent challenge of addressing this global threat? If we were able to address the resource and political will issues in a matter of days/weeks to mount a war, can’t we mount an effective campaign to gain nationwide understanding and buy-in for averting catastrophic climate change? Certainly US commitment to 80% reduction by 2050 is more like it, but by then will it be too late? Let’s mobilize so that we can get these numbers up higher and sooner.

In regard to President Obama’s observation, about how there are those who think that nations who emit the most should pay the most to clean up the resulting mess, I say, mos def! Wealthy nations who emit the most and have the capacity to contribute the most should bear the greatest responsibility. The mantra coming from the Bolivians for the week, regarding differential contributions to mitigation and adaptation efforts, was taken from our own professed principles of responsibility and accountability in the US, “You break it. You buy it!”  

We, as wealthy nations in the global north have indeed broken the gift and treasure of this planet, and its wonderfully synchronistic and harmonious ecosystem, with our excesses and abuse. We have set the earth on this trajectory which has and will continue to hurt communities of color in the US and countries in the global south first and worst. Several wealthy nations are most responsible and should pony up the lion’s share (excuse the horrid mixed metaphor, but work with me here ;-)) and compensate for the harm we’ve caused.   Some are calling it ecological debt and/or reparations and yes, basically the wealthy nations have been racking up credit at the expense of others within their countries and in the global south and the bill is past due, and there is interest.

In the end, though discussions went late into the night/morning, there was no legally binding agreement. President Obama ‘s leadership ensured that for once the US wasn’t the bad guy/obstruction in the room and instead he actually played the role of pushing countries to do more and to be accountable. However, they basically walked away with a text with no teeth, a few rounds of handshakes and loose “promises” with a range of weak to more aggressive targets, but no mechanisms of true accountability that would be rendered by being legally bound.

A group of us gathered at the end of the day to discuss how we are going to organize towards the US Social Forum in Detroit from June 22-26the 2010 and on to COP 16, which may be in July 2010, but will occur in Mexico City. We agreed that we needed to mobilize our member bases to participate at the US Social Forum in full force so that we are working together to build this movement.  As with the civil rights movement and any other successful social justice movement, it builds from the ground up so we must mobilize!  We need to be in Detroit to work with others on the ground to ensure we are building power and speaking with one voice and we need to be in Mexico City to make sure that there isn’t another COP that is completed without a legally binding agreement while our communities are being displaced by rising sea levels, while our folks are being swept away by storms, while our children are starving from the boroughs of New York to the favelas of Brazil to the hinterland of Africa, while our women are walking for miles to get water in Botswana and being sexually assaulted during Katrina in the US. This must stop. We can do this. Climate Justice NOW!!  Get onboard! ….hope to see you on the train…..

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Explore posts in the same categories: African American Climate Advocacy, Copenhagen Blog

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