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Political climate change taking centre stage

Comment & Analysis
AS the discourse of climate change continues to unfold, taking new twists and dimensions, at various international gatherings, it’s the political voices and views that are shaping the nature of discussions as opposed to purely environmental concerns

Peter Makwanya

AS the discourse of climate change continues to unfold, taking new twists and dimensions, at various international gatherings, it’s the political voices and views that are shaping the nature of discussions as opposed to purely environmental concerns.

While issues of climate change, from the environmentalists and climate change experts’ points of view, are sufficiently clear and empowering thereby needing no introductions nor amplifications, it is the political climate change that has overtaken everything including voices of reason, while the climate change experts and knowledge brokers are controlled in the background. These are the new power games that are charting the new climate impetus and championing the nature of climate funding around the world.

The contestation of climate change ideas has become too prescriptive and partially inclusive, according to who pays the piper plays the tune. The ideas are people friendly on paper while in practical terms they are highly political and less environmental centred. As nations continue to gather annually at prescribed venues, be it in Chile or Spain, that won’t stop or slow down the amount of carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere every time.

Even if delegates from around the world are to meet under water, nothing much is going to change, until and unless the one who pays the piper is satisfied or got things done their own way. In this regard, one would wonder if the climate change discourse is seen through human friendly lenses, exaggerated or rather politically massaged.

Furthermore, many delegates who travel to these international climate gatherings such as the conference of parties, are not necessarily environmentalists, but connected politicians in government, going there to get their palms greased. These politicians out number scientists and other useful climate change experts, with potential to deliver.

Of course, it would be naïve to say that they are no efforts taking place, but they are not much, as the targeted situations would anticipate. These are peace-meal and lip-service gestures meant to calm nations that have not even contributed any significant carbon footprints into the atmosphere.

The billions of dollars that have been raked in by multinational companies from their fossil fuel businesses cannot be compared to what is given to poor nations around the world for adaptation purposes. Those small amounts which trickle into the coffers of developing nations, for adaptation purposes are received with great joy by host politicians and few of it may never reach the intended beneficiaries. As such, this becomes a political valueless chain of a bottomless pit.

The continued nursing of the climate change impacts around the world, has a potential and hallmark of becoming national security threats hence politicians need to take care. In principle, politicians appear to be concerned about climate change issues yet they are pre-occupied with their personal and political interests, not the environment. In this regard, the existential nature of climate change issues should make everyone concerned unsettled, including the politicians themselves, before the situation turns terribly wrong.

As political climate change interests continue to cloud the thinking and world-views of political actors around the world, not even scientific break-throughs, grim events of climate disasters unfolding around the world have done much to shake the standpoints of political actors.

There is lack of political will or action to confront the climate change phenomena, ranging from carbon emissions, wetland destructions, deforestations, land degradations and burning forests, among others. These are currently taking place in the name of development, in many developing countries, as political actors continue to mortgage the environment as if there is no tomorrow. Political climate change has been characterised by double-speak, half-truths, misinformation and communication massaging.

Failure to punish polluters or carbon emitters is not only an environmental sin, but a highly charged political sin as well. A closer analysis would reveal that all these carbon footprints unfolding before everyone’s eyes are in the interest of political actors who are not accountable to anyone. For this reason, it would be difficult for ordinary people and lay-persons alike to trust politicians even if they do something good.

It is also this lack of trust in political actors that would derail adaptation programmes, as politicians will always be in the forefront of trying to spearhead these programmes. In this regard, it would be difficult, for these politicians to deliver people from climate change impacts into climate paradise. Furthermore, they lack collective and integrative efforts to do so.

One of the most problematic aspect, especially in developing countries is that, politicians, ordinary citizens and laypersons, all lack climate change competence or a firm grasp of climate change issues. This lack of climate change literacy tends to affect the majority of people when issues of climate change adaptation are introduced. Of course, politicians being politicians will pretend to know these things yet they also need climate education, training and awareness as well.

The Paris Agreement is a brainchild of political manoeuvres aimed at pampering polluters around the world to pollute more, check how much they can regulate themselves, that is if they wish to do so. Then how can these polluting nations remove themselves from the polluting business, which has given them so much money by choosing to pollute less? Polluting benchmarks were set, which no one would adhere to because they are in business and not to please anyone.

Despite their desire to effect emission targets, many countries have been failing to do so. Only some European countries have managed to do so as well as introducing new green products and services designed to make climate change impacts manageable. The reason behind this is that these countries take climate change seriously than others. Many developing countries take climate change issues as one of those distant aspects, not the real problem, denying it the urgency and seriousness it deserves. Even when climate change is reported in many developing countries, the focus would be on the political leader not the climate change problem.

In this regard, climate change is a problem, first and foremost, and it should be treated as such, so that results, solutions and resilience can be realised. It is also important for these countries to make peace with the environment in order to manage their greed through reciprocal relationship with their environments for the sustainable future that the future generations always yearns for.