Climate conclave or leaders’ junket?

Feb 2, 2024

It is good to hear someone talking about cutting oil production and stop digging mines. It is also equally good to hear alternate fuels power everything from aircraft to earth-moving equipment. Big industrial powers are super pollutants. China alone contributes more than a quarter of the total CO2 on the planet. The US is second in the queue.

What do our leaders look at as they talk about climate crises and pollution? They are talking about people’s sustainable well-being under a safe atmosphere or the so-called economic growth that does not consider other risks in the process of growth. Are they keen on bringing in better prospects for people or only serving the interest of corporate entities? Behind-the-curtain discussion on targets, commitments, financial settlements, etc. before finalizing the climate agreement indicated that every discussion was to protect the interest of the most influential economy and business tycoons. Climate agreements and long-term emission targets set at COP 28 are for creating new businesses for those who are ready with their business plans. Big pollutants will never stop polluting and building their industries.

China contributes more than a quarter of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions while the US contributes one-tenth. China produces more than 11 billion metric tons of CO2. The top 100 companies in the US produce more than six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, roughly twice that India produces. This shows the big industrial powers are bigger pollutants. They will continue to pollute the air as they have lined up huge investments in building infrastructure and setting up larger size industrial complexes besides encouraging people to buy energy consuming durables and vehicles. Of the total 2.8 trillion investment push in the energy sector, $1.7 trillion has gone to the clean energy segment only because of the sudden rise in oil prices. That proportion is not permanent.

Considering the size of investment in other segments like internal combustion engine (ICE), slow pick-up in vehicles of alternate energy, and rise in ICE vehicle production, one cannot say oil producers will close their oil valves as committed in the COP28 agreement. These factors make the climate agreement calling for cutting fossil fuels and setting overambitious targets for renewable energy production only a sham.

Heads of nations, whom we call leaders, are not experts in the subjects. They have to work under pressure from large corporate entities. Incidentally, the leaders attend the meeting where subjective discussions matter. Politicians are supposed to know only about politics, not the environmental issues. They are not supposed to address a knowledge forum that has a crucial role in keeping the planet safe. Their little knowledge of climate change and emission control mechanisms is not a disqualification for them. Their role in the decision-making conclave is questionable, though every decision becomes final with their approval.

One thing is true, the knowledge forum on climate change and solutions discusses mainly the commercial aspects of the crisis rather than the real issues and solutions. In the climate crisis, the solution requires compromise and sacrifice. Commercial matters appear in every forum which deals with the crises the human world faces. Rather than making it an opportunity to find solutions, leaders experience a junket with the chance to attend the conclave and photo opportunities. How silly did they make the global forum? Back home, they hear people crying over the loss of crops, inundation, untimely rains, unforeseen droughts, unbearable heat and sunstrokes. They know their coastal towns are sinking. Yet, the junket brings no remedy because they haven’t ever examined the root cause of this and tried to find a solution, though the same is within their authority.

Leaders should have done their homework thoroughly by meeting the people to understand the root cause of the problems. They should have discussed this matter with experts about the solution and called for people to do their best to cut emissions and pollution. Unless there are initiatives to understand the issue at the grassroots level, there will be a solution. The climate crises are the results of human action. Most reasons are preventable if the public enforces self-discipline and the government rewards best practices. No one can escape the impact of the climate crisis. Since all are equal victims of the emissions, everyone has the responsibility to contribute to easing the adverse impact through conciliation and cooperation. Our ancestors used to strictly observe some standards for balancing our living ecosystem. Today, we talk about maintaining the standard without a practical approach but feel excited about the industrial progress.