by: Blair Nelsen
“I am disappointed with the results of #COP25.”
— Antonio Guterres
The Secretary General’s understated tweet hardly matched the urgency of the situation. Perhaps the distance between the conversations being had and the action truly needed would have been lessened had the UN followed comedian Trevor Noah’s advice and held COP25 on top of a melting glacier.
Back in New York, on the afternoon of December 16, the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development (NGOCSD) held a conference to recap the COP25 proceedings and to look ahead toward the United Nation’s 75th anniversary in 2020. UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the UNEP New York, Satya S. Tripathi, was less reserved than Guterres in his assessment, stating, “The house is literally on fire!” His characterization of the situation matched many of the most vocal climate advocates from across the globe. The need for broad, immediate measures was clear in his call to action.
It was heartening to see Tripathi articulate the urgency so clearly. He described little actions on behalf of the Earth as mere arrogance, again pointing to the gravity of the global situation. Yet at the NGOCSD meeting, mirroring the situation at the COP, the question of who has the authority, responsibility, and ability to remediate the situation became muddled. Tripathi declared that hope rests in the private sector. He stated that the role of member states is to create and reinforce the regulatory framework that will keep businesses in line as they implement solutions. His affirmations overlooked (to a truly frightening degree) the greenwashing performed by fossil fuel companies at the COP pointed out by many attendees.
Perhaps we might agree with Tripathi that the breakdown of trust at the nation-state as the level is too great for solutions to be reached. However, putting such faith in historically destructive businesses perpetuates the lie that these companies could have the planet’s best interests at heart. These businesses, even in the best-regulated countries, are often the main culprits for destroying the planet in their search for short-term gain. Enabling them to continue within an overarching philosophy of perpetual growth and development will only see us in our graves more quickly — and, protected by wealth and power, their CEOs will be the last to go.
At the NGOCSD conference, Professor Lynn Dash pointed out that the financial systems that sustain the private sector might suffer breakdown due to climate change, anyway. Christine Clarke, Climate Reality Leader from New Jersey, urged us not to let one conference gone awry dissuade us from our crucial mission. Waterspirit agrees with both Dash and Clarke on this point: change must come from us all, at all levels. Renewable energy must be prioritized among these changes. May we all — to borrow Dash’s parting words — continue moving into the future with optimism, courage, and persistence.