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Develop me: When climate change becomes a political game


The seventeenth Conference of Parties (COP17), the first to be held in Africa, has come and gone.

The world expectation on a good deal was smothered to a sham deal. When the world thought we were set for a legally binding agreement, they only agreed to come up with an agreement which means there is no agreement at all.

But Canada couldn’t have capped what seemed to be fetidious and raw deal better by adding more fossil to the charade outcome in Durban.

Just a week after COP 17, Canada announced its intention to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol which some have described as the country’s lowest point in the 40-year history of modern global environmental diplomacy.

Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and ratified in 2002, committing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 6%. This was expected as the message was on the wall before COP 17.

According to the Canadian government, the 6%targets were unreachable which they are blaming on the previous establishment.

Already we can sense some blackmailing by an establishment that is so desperate to position itself politically domestically.

In addition, they argue that their carbon reduction by Canada alone may not be enough to make an impact unless the United States and rapidly developing economies like China, India, Russia, and Brazil were also subject to binding emission targets.

We are well aware that given the current global economic challenges the big economies can not let go of their cash cows even when everyone knows that climate change has somewhat an effect on the current state of the economy.

And for the Canadian government the fear of losing votes has cornered them to focus on short-term priorities at the expense of the future of the Canadians and the world at large.

Despite that climate change will affect everyone everywhere, for the Canadian government their priority focuses on exploring tar sand oil which they hope will boost the economy, raise their global political muscle, and create employment for their voters who they assume have limited concern for environmental issues.

While this strategy at face value may look laudable, one wonders if the same voters can be hoodwinked into believing that a government whose fundamental economic strategy is promoting fossil fuel is serving their interests.

It is clear that this economic strategy is not largely inspired by the need to create jobs, but the gargantuan capitalist’s desire to enrich themselves through the exploration of oil and maintain global power.

The same powers that stifles the zeal in the Obama administration from passing legislation on carbon emission.

Expectations were high that the Obama administration was intent on taking some sort of serious action on climate change.

It was feared that climate change legislation would impose penalties on fossil powered US industries and the same legislation would apply to US trading partners such as Canada if they didn’t comply. But thanks to the power of money over politics both the US and Canada are off the hook.

These political games are happening with the full knowledge that global temperatures are rising and precipitation patterns are changing. The past 100 years clearly shows the climate is heating up and it will continue unless the world does something.

Earth’s average temperature is estimated to rise 1,4 to 5,8 degrees between 1990 to 2100.
Sadly, southern Africa contributes less than 1% of the greenhouse gasses, but it is the worst affected region by climate change.

And every year more people are plunged into poverty because of increased reliability on climate for food production and livelihoods. It is an unfortunate reality that the cause of climate change is anthropogenic — with culprits such as the US, Canada, India and their Chinese friends prioritising economic growth at the expense of climate the basis upon which economy is sustained.

What makes the whole story sad is that our own our supra-national institutions such as Africa Union, Sadc and the rest who are supposed to take a political stance against the biggest polluters seem to be in bed with some of the devils.

It is hard to imagine any of the African countries calling China to order, especially since they are the leading aid providers in Africa.

Africa, as expected, stoically decide to prioritise climate adaptation and resilience when we are in fact among the major suppliers of the same raw materials used to prop up other countries’ economies and polluting the environment.

Isn’t it time Africa stood its ground and passed legislation as part of trade agreements that compels those big economies to comply with carbon emission reduction?

That’s the only way we can reduce poverty as a result of climate change and save the future for our children.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa

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