Presentation at The Climate Coalition AGM, 14th July 2017

PHIL KINGSTON SPEAKING AT THE AGM

Two members of our group, Sigurd Reimers and Phil Kingston, voiced the concerns of GfaSE about the Coalition’s policy with regard to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is what they said:

Is The Climate Coalition a challenge to Government?

(A contribution to the AGM of The Climate Coalition on 14th July 2017 from Grandparents for a Safe Earth)

If we speak critically about the Coalition it is because we want the generations which follow ours to inherit an Earth which provides similar benevolence, nurturing and stability to that experienced by human beings up until now.

We are disturbed that, in the recent election, media and politicians were able to exclude climate change (and other aspects of the destruction of ecosystems) from public discourse. Our Coalition has a supporter base of 15 million, almost 1/3rd of the electorate; so why isn’t this mismatch of potential strength and actual outcome at the top of our agenda today? We acknowledge that Brexit and austerity are very important; but when placed within the perspective of imminent catastrophic climate change, their overarching priority represents a serious loss of vision.

We’re disconcerted to learn from recent research by Carbon Brief that a key promise at Paris to ‘pursue efforts’ to remain below a 1.5 degree Centigrade increase, is on track to be broken by 2021: https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-four-years-left-one-point-five-carbon-budget . The suffering predicted for Bangladesh and many Pacific Islands hardly bears thinking about.

We imagine that most of you are aware that the current economic system of never-ending growth upon a finite planet is the primary cause of damage to Earth’s ecosystems, including those which control the climate. Members of our group feel afraid when we see media, politicians and business successfully combine to avoid discussion of this; and we experience despair when, generally speaking, Coalition members do not challenge this avoidance.

There are many critics of the Paris Agreement. We want particularly to recommend to you a brief but comprehensive article by Professor Clive Spash of Vienna University, called ‘This Changes Nothing: The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality.’ The following 4 points are from its Summary:

  1. The Agreement has been reached by removing almost all substantive issues concerning the cause of human-induced climate change; and (by) offering no firm plans of action.
  2. Instead of substantive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, the parties treat worst-case scenarios as an acceptable 50:50 chance.
  3. It signifies commitment to sustained industrial growth; and to risk management over disaster prevention.
  4. The primary commitment of Nation States and multinational corporations is to maintain the current social and economic system. The result is denial that tackling GHG emissions is not compatible with sustained economic growth.

We agree that it was an impressive achievement for 194 countries to reach some agreement on a difficult and contentious area. However the absence of commitments which began immediately to reduce emissions and the fact that it will not be until 2020 when the countries announce their new ‘intended contributions to reduce emissions’, gives us considerable concern. Although a number of the NGOs on the Coalition’s Steering Group were critical of many aspects of the Agreement when it was made, the Steering Group now regards it as ‘’a good deal’’. We ask you to note that this date of 2020 will be five years after Paris – and one year before the 1.5 degree temperature increase is predicted to become impossible to stop.

We think it fair to say that our Coalition is as yet nowhere near becoming the movement which will give Government and Opposition no choice but to take urgent action. We therefore make two requests to member groups: firstly if you will be willing to read Professor Spash’s article and website and consider bringing them to the attention of your members; and secondly if your group is interested in meeting with others who share concerns similar to the ones we are raising, to contact us as below, if possible by 21st September.

References and links:

Clive L Spash, The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality, 2016, http://epub.wu.ac.at/4802/1/sre-disc-2016_01.pdf 

Carbon Brief, 2017, https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-four-years-left-one-point-five-carbon-budget

Grandparents for a Safe Earth https://network23.org/gfase/ See particularly Critique of Neoliberal Economic Model and Our Actions.

Phil and Sigurd can be contacted via our website above.

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