COP24 Katowice: what’s the point?

In December the COP24 global conference will take place in Katowice, Poland. Who dared chosing a country that still use coal for up to 50% of its energy consumption? Katowice is the mining city of Poland. However they’re proud of their change, after a progressive carbon detox and after developing other industries and services.

The Paris agreement, at the end of the COP21 conference, once depicted as a « french victory » in climate change diplomacy, didn’t really lead the world anywhere. France’s head of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, couldn’t hide his satisfaction in front of the very first « complete deal ». That was just before we all woke up and realized that the deal didn’t incorporate any binding mechanism! Plus the Paris agreement faced the U.S. subsequent rejection.

Since then, what have we done on a global perspective? Not much, to say the truth. Nonetheless, climate change consciousness seem to gain ground – especially in the U.S. (recurrent drought, devastating tropical storms, flooding…). As for the Conference of Parties (COP), everyone should admit how difficult it must be to make some progress when almost 200 countries are gathered around the table! There’s a terrible contrast between the large and the small countries, with different relationships with the climate issues, their reasons (who mostly released CO2 in the past 150 years?) and their predictable consequences. Inequalities and rivalry are very high, between the North and the South of the world economy.

COP24 Katowice

As any environmental matter, nations’ economic history and diverse developments causes inertia at COP annual meetings. There is no secret that the North greatly benefited from the world’s natural resources. The North emitted huge volumes of CO2 while developing and becoming the wealthiest countries, with a very high material well being. Then how come the South would have to « pay the price »? Obviously there is something politically and financially unacceptable on both sides. Remember George W. Bush statement: « The American way of life is not up for negotiations! »

But like it or not, apart from demagogy, there is a physical evidence. Every country is on the same boat. We’re all dependent when it comes to the atmosphere, to natural resources, to commons. And according Nicolas Hulot, no round of negotiation ever put so much condition on the future of humanity.

We’ve been into this slow process for already…24 years. If global talks are so slow to deliver measurable progress, why insisting? Can we seriously afford wasting more time? Is there an alternative to international chitchat?

Yes! In fact there’s many other ways to make progress. It’s always good to « land », back to the local level. Back to basics. Local battles can gain momentum and spread globally. Transition cities, agenda 21, etc. All in all, such local plans prove us all that there’s no need waiting for miracles to happen.

Beyond global and local initiatives and negotiations, there’s an alternative. The alternative to negotiation, we know it already: this is called authority. Authority is probably what the COPs missed a lot so far. Authority looks scary or unfashionable in a very liberal (and laisser-faire) universe. Then it’s up to everyone either to build it up, in a democratic way, or to let it spread in an « unwanted » way.

We always have some options in life! That is why some consider it’s time to set up a global authority to balance the WTO. A WEO (world environmental organization) or something that contains legal authority, in order to better balance global trade and investment decisions. A global environmental authority in order to go sustainable. Sustainable for real…

Laurent

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