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Climate activist: Fate of humanity at stake

People talk as if we can wait. But the climate doesn’t wait, argues political science student and activist, on his way to Durban, South Africa for COP 17 climate conference. He is sick of claimed technological fixes, carbon trading and climate red herrings

It’s hard not to speak negatively when it comes to climate change. And a recent report produced by the International Energy Agency warns that the time to act on climate change is now, and not later:

»If stringent new action is not forthcoming by 2017, the energy-related infrastructure then in place will generate all the CO2 emissions…leaving no room for additional power plants, factories and other infrastructure unless they are zero-carbon, which would be extremely costly.«

Infuriated and disheartened by the lack of political will to make the necessary changes required is Jens Mattias Clausen, a political science student at the University of Copenhagen, who is also policy officer at the Danish development organisation IBIS.

Urgent action needed

He will be an observer on behalf of IBIS in Durban, and will be using the event to try and influence the political decision makers. This will be done through a series of meetings over the length of the 12-day conference. He will also participate in the Alternative Summit occurring at the same time as COP 17, where civil society organisations and other observers gather to network and collaborate.

But his expectations of the outcome are low. A legally binding agreement is hard to spot on the near horizon, he thinks. There is little agreement over how to prosecute non-abiders, let alone how to implement such an agreement.

»People talk as if we can wait. But the climate doesn’t wait,« he says.

Carbon trading, REDD. Just zero-sum games

There are many reasons for the political system’s passive, ‘business-as-usual’, approach, explains Clausen. Fossil fuels are receiving six times more subsidies than renewable energy, and consumption is increasing, rather than decreasing. And, he asserts, many technological fixes are just red herrings, and will be extremely expensive to implement.

Clausen poses more examples: Carbon trading. It’s just an excuse for paying someone else to reduce emissions for you, he argues. Massive overallocation of carbon credits benefits the market mechanisms of large corporations, who can buy and sell them. The closes system doesn’t appear to reduce emissions at all.

The much-touted REDD, the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries is also problematic. Although heralded as an emerging solution to climate change, this new offsetting scheme may be a zero sum game, with more than likely, negative consequences on the planet.

Futureless future for some

And not all renewables are created equally. First generation biofuels are, according to Clausen, a step in the wrong direction. They increase food prices, and create land use changes that are disadvantageous to indigenous populations.

»What is important here is that we need to realise that climate change impacts all things.«

Much of Clausen’s work is directly related to development and poverty reduction. Thus, combating climate change is also about poverty alleviation, as the poor are, and will continue to be, the hardest hit.

Politicians need guts

In an unpublished IBIS report, co-authored by Clausen, it states that, »Global warming will be unfair. The poorest and most marginalised people have done little to induce climate change, but are those most exposed to the effects.«

So in end what does it all come down to? Clausen gives a sober warning.

»We need to stop talking and start acting. This is something we should have started doing years ago. Politicians need some guts… the alternative is extinction«.

The University Post will be receiving updates from the Durban conference from a forest management student and conference participant Walid Mustapha of the University of Copenhagen starting from next week.

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