Apart from the empowerment and inspiration Greta and other environmental activists have conveyed, here are a few other reasons that I believe should keep our hope alive:
- The IPCC SR1.5 has been the most powerful and groundbreaking report yet. It has given us a common ground of evidence and projections about the future, and has clearly informed us about the causes, impacts and solutions regarding climate change. Whoever tries to negate the existence of climate change or thinks that climate change is not a manmade crisis, we can just throw the IPCC special report in their faces. More importantly, thanks to this report we know what needs to be done. It gave a clear path of instructions to politicians, while justifying the urgency through massive scientific evidence even with different levels of certainty.
- We have the technology. Many side-events presented great clean technologies which are becoming cheaper and cheaper. Small techs to improve local lifestyles were presented such as bio-sand water filters, improved sustainable grills and stoves that are affordable and accessible in developing countries, but also big technological projects: Bertrand Piccard from the Solar Impulse foundation was the first man to fly around the world in a solar powered plane, proving that clean technologies can and will replace the obsolete ones.
- We have the economic means for investments. Now we just need countries to cooperate and help each other. Those who aren’t helping out still need more convincing. It should be in the interest of rich countries to help poorer, more vulnerable ones because the socio-economic problems will spread and impact them too whether they like it or not. The Paris agreement did outline funding allocation priorities but countries should specify how much aid is needed and more nations should step up to give aid and loans (134 nations have requested support when only 4 said they would provide support) It is all a matter of will and solidarity. The UNFCCC should also develop an eligibility criteria to decide who gets support and the amount of financial support, as well as a conflict of interest policy so that countries stop talking about national interests and more about compassionate multilateralism. The role of non-state actors (cities, regions, NGOs, banks, businesses and more) in investments and funding is also crucial and they should heighten their ambition.
- The youth is being listened to and brought into the negotiation rooms. The amount of college, university, and even high school delegations that attended the COP24 surprised a lot of people who had been to previous COPs. Many side-events also included young panelists who had organised their own sustainable projects at school or in their hometowns, and activists like Greta made the headlines. Even young children who have experienced climate catastrophes moved hearts. One that particularly struck me was a 17-year-old Taiwanese girl who got stuck in her car with her family because of a flood for a whole day. She remembers how, when she was little hurricanes and floods were not as ubiquitous as they are now, and how she could see the stars in the sky before and no longer can.
- The minorities are (partially) being listened to and they are both the most honest and vulnerable when it comes to tackling climate change. Indigenous representatives of Latin american and African countries, and of native american communities were very visibly walking around the venue in their cultural attire, and spreading their message in the negotiation rooms and many side-events. Religious leaders and spiritual gurus also came to share their opinions and perspectives. I will mention a couple.
- Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim appeared in various events as a spokesperson for African indigenous communities. She shares their pain and has seen the effects of climate change in her community which have destroyed entire livelihoods. She mentioned how two decades ago it was possible to have rain during 6 months and now you only get rain for 2 months. She rightfully pointed out that there is not enough emphasis on adaptation and that poorer countries need help from other richer ones. She also decried how those who call themselves experts with PHDs have failed to offer solutions on the ground because they are too concerned with national interests and economic benefits. We need people like her to be the voice of the unheard victims of climate change and give a human face to the issue.
- Other spiritual leaders urged us to reevaluate humans’ place on earth, reminding us that climate change is not the problem but rather a symptom of the real problem: HUMANS and our unsustainable way of life. The native americans for instance value Earth as their mother, and believe that she is reacting normally to an abnormal situation that we created. Tiokasin Ghosthorse from the Lakota native american nation spoke during a side-event I attended. I was amazed with the way he spoke about our planet, about the relationship they have to Mother Earth and how they value everything she gives us. He reminded us again that we need Earth to survive but the Earth does not need us . They not only want to create peace on earth but create peace WITH mother earth. The wisdom he shared was so powerful and staggering that I think that if the diplomats who are in the negotiations had been in that side-event, it would have united them and inspired them to move quicker.
- Common values of our shared humanity are being mentioned especially three that were repeated throughout the COP24: compassion, solidarity, and ambition. I heard diplomats, scientists, professors, business directors and a whole variety of people mentioning the need for solidarity in this process as well as trust. I mentioned in Part 2 that sacrifices need to be made and this can only come from empathy and goodwill. An Egyptian Ambassador was invited to speak to the Intergenerational Inquiry event and assured us that the ambition is present and that countries are trying to cooperate despite differing opinions and interests. He believed that “goodwill begets goodwill” and that those who really want things to change will persuade other countries to do the same. We are starting to consider climate change a social issue caused by other social problems, notably regarding our human flaws such as selfishness and greed. We should not only aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100% but for instance also reduce greed and consumerism by 100%. This can be possible through education and self-reflection about what we really want the world to look like now and in the future.
- The UN conference of Parties takes place every year (+so many other forums and conferences throughout the year). I had said in my second blog that these conferences are meant to be mostly just symbols of diplomacy. But the fact that 22,000 people come together for the single purpose of solving climate change definitely shows a will to live up to this year’s slogan: “changing together”. Despite its unsustainable aspects, the COP is an amazing hub of knowledge, innovation, ideas and more importantly inspiration, which I think we all need. Yes, it is also a massive networking event, and some speakers and panelists could be very disappointing, but the COP gives the issue of climate change great legitimacy. For two weeks it is closely followed by the media and reported on all big social media platforms.
- “The power belongs to the people” and people are speaking, protesting, and shouting for climate action and climate justice. People are starting to fear the consequences of inaction. People are starting to realise that mother earth is responding to our carelessness, and responding very loudly. The mobilisation of people is happening even if we cannot always see it. The more we speak of the issue the better. The more outrage, controversies, protests and action we raise, the better. We can remain hopeful because some people will never remain quiet and will never stop fighting (cliché but thankfully true).