COP18 Lacks Energy and Ambition (Unless You Count Ambitious Dirty Energy Corporations)
by Meghan McCarthy
It often feels ironic to have these climate negotiations in a desert. Everything is a funny, dirty shade of yellow. You come home feeling dusty, hazy, with the overwhelming desire to wash the contents of the day off your body and mind. Generally devoid of greenery, wildlife, and colour, this desert is missing many of the reminders of life beyond cars, sand, and smoke. The process develops a lot of similarities with its surrounding environment; humanity is compromised for a sea of dirty politics, which ensures that outcomes pale in comparison to what is needed. Like the sand that you just can’t seem to get out of your shoe, this process seems to be stuck with an industry based on death and dying, with the inability to move forward.
What emerges is a battle for survival. On one hand there is the fossil fuel industry, whose most important goal is to continue to turn extravagant profits and maintain their existence, which requires the extraction of oil, coal and gas. This clashes on a fundamental level with youth, who are and will continue to live in a world that is rapidly warming; becoming increasingly more volatile, unpredictable, and dangerous. With our lives on the line, we need climate change to be brought under control. In order for that to happen, fossil fuels need to stay in the ground, and the corporations who extract them need a serious overhaul in power, influence, and purpose.
The numbers speak for themselves. We have only 565 gigatonnes of carbon left to burn for our entire planet, until we hit a point where we step over the 2 degree limit, into the abyss of climate chaos. But the fossil fuel industry is prepared, ready, and willing to lead us there, with 2796 gigatonnes worth of fossil fuels in their reserves, approved projects, and bitumen mines. The tar sands alone has over 3x the carbon limit of greenhouse gas emissions. With the voices of corporations ringing louder in the halls of plenary, we are soon faced with a question: our survival, or theirs? Which is more important to the UNFCCC, to Parties, to world leaders?
There is a clear choice, a right or wrong. Parties have already committed to keeping below 2 degrees celsius. The world has agreed climate change is the biggest problem facing our world. We know that the devastation of a changing climate.
So isn’t it as clear as this: if we are polluting too much and destroying the planet, why don’t we just pollute less and stop destroying the planet? What could possibly be more important than that?
Meghan is the coordinator for the Canadian Youth Delegation to COP18 in Doha, Qatar.