I have said this before – the technology is out there to combat climate change, but for a large part, the intent and the political will have been questionable. Entire governments seem keen on protecting their economic borders at the cost of climate action; at best, they resort to tokenism, to make sure the optics look good. And this thinking percolates to business establishments. And in all this, a fact that is staring at us, is forgotten – that climate knows no boundaries.
Where are we going wrong? As a human race, are we so myopic and welded to protecting our proximate self-interests? If yes, which perhaps is the truthful answer at this point in time, do we need to have a better understanding of the word, ‘proximate’? Simply put, the word means nearest, but how do we assess what is nearest? What is the measurement of impact of our actions?
Somewhere in history, we have de-coupled from reality and fastened ourselves to national self-interests. What else would explain the instances of energy policies that were shaped to reduce climate damage, being jettisoned in a bid to adapt to seismic geo-political shifts. ‘Bad boy coal’ is once again acceptable, to tide over a war-engendered energy crisis.
The entire discussion has become ‘us’ versus ‘them’, with the ‘them’ being developing or underdeveloped countries, SIDS (Small Island Developing States) and many other dismal distinctions. This thinking is manifested in the grudging nature of ‘offering’ concessions, which is not sustainable and, if left un-monitored, could result in negligible progress, as is the case, to date.
The implications are there for all to see. The irony is that the impact of inaction or tokenism is not only on the egregious distinctions but also on the perpetrators of inaction. We have seen massive floods and the resultant loss of lives and erosion of livelihoods and infrastructure. At the same time, we have seen raging wildfires. These are happening, and we continue to delude ourselves that there exist borders that protect against natural calamities.
We need outcome-based summits. And we need the outcomes to stick, as opposed to falling on the wayside in the aftermath of the meetings; indeed, we need to do away with stealthy back-channelling that threatens to undo the good work or to thwart the follow-up work that is required to see the outcomes all the way to fruition. And in perhaps an extreme case, we need a moratorium on future summits, till the recommendations that emerged from previous summits are fully addressed, else it perhaps would be nothing short of reinventing the wheel.