We need new leadership. Immediately, and everywhere where there is a semblance of democracy on the planet. We need a new kind of political party, one that is not bound by any current type of party politics; not left, not right, not centrist, not theological, not anything to the extreme ends of those creeds, and nothing resembling any of the countless political shades in between them. We need, in short, an intellectual and political earthquake.
We need leadership thinking that rejects national exceptionalism and patriotism forever and instead sees the world for what it actually becoming – an ever closer union of cooperating countries. We need thinking that detaches from the party-political identities we have always known, and focuses instead on rationality, evidence-based decision making, and sensible non-partisan policy formulation. But above all else, this new political breed will need to place strong emphasis on forging workable leadership alliances with other countries to labour together on a global scale to reverse climate change and biodiversity loss, and stave off subsequent economic catastrophe. It will have to be planned and implemented fairly. It must concentrate on “replacement policies” to mitigate costs and losses for those whose jobs and livelihoods diminish or disappear as we push towards more environmentally sustainable economies.
It is not impossible. Globally countries are already working closer and closer together in a myriad range of cooperative initiatives with widely varying aims, climate change initiatives included (link). The European Union, a political cooperative project, is the most obvious example to give here.
Yesterday the news filtered through that Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia refused to officially welcome the IPCC report (discussed here) at a major climate conference in Poland (COP24), instead preferring to merely “note” the report (Link). The type of leadership we sorely need simply does not exist yet in any tangible form.
So what is going on here? Four of the planet’s principle oil producers (Kuwait was also among them) are refusing to acknowledge a report that spells out how bad things are and how bad things are going to get. That they want to preserve their oil producing industries is not in doubt. That they want to not take leadership on the challenges of climate disaster and biodiversity loss is not in doubt either. But being significant world economies, we really need them to do so, along with the European Union, Latin American countries and Asia. Why do strong, prosperous countries with highly educated populations support leadership that is focusing on short term gains to maintain current status quo carbon intensive economies? I am guessing recent events in France significantly swayed the thinking of the American, Russian and Saudi leaders in Poland this week.
There is a cabal of oil industry actors and their representative lobbies influencing governments. So what. That’s just how politics functions. But the report is already out there so they can’t bury it, so they are forced to deny its significance.
To behave this way is incompetent, counter-productive, short sighted, and down right stupid. Nobody benefits by doing it this way. Everybody is going to lose. At the beginning of the conference the English TV naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, pleaded with delegates, who include policy makers and government representatives from around the world, to endorse change through international cooperation. He emotionally called for governments to unilaterally act, stating:
“Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change”
“The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now,”
But he also said:
“They’re supporting you in making tough decisions but they’re also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives.”
I do not see much evidence for that last one, to be honest. They voted for Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Donald Trump in the USA. Both countries are major world powers with huge electorates, and both candidates actively promoted aggressive climate scepticism during their campaigns. They were elected regardless. In France, the President, Emmanuel Macron, clumsily attempted a carbon tax. It swiftly resulted in country wide violence and an eventual retraction of the tax. Poland, a prominent coal producer and the COP24 host nation, has historically ran into major hurdles each time it tries to move away from coal production and coal still accounts for a whopping 80% of energy (link). Heavy pressure from mining unions and industry actors have halted or slowed efforts to make significant switch to renewables and other less polluting energy sources. In a way, this is understandable as the country has over 100,000 people employed in the coal sector, and EU coal reduction initiatives as part of the EU 2030 climate targets understandably terrifies them (link). A recent pledge by Poland to make larger efforts to reduce reliance on coal as part of EU carbon reduction initiatives would still see Poland relying on coal for more than 50% of its energy by 2030 (link).
And almost prophetically (or ironically, that’s probably a better word) in Ireland, today (10th December 2018) as a write this piece with the radio on behind me, news reports are emerging on the hourly bulletins that Ireland is the worst in the EU for performance on climate action (link). So, I am very sorry Sir David Attenborough, but your optimism for mass citizen cooperation for climate action is overly optimistic. Hopefully in time, such widespread and majority citizen support will emerge.
So, in that light, can somebody smart please start a new political party that manages to educate about the dangers we face on the only home we have ever known. Because that is what we need. Education. Then action, backed by broad demographic support. I will vote for you. And then maybe you will start a new world political fire. A nice one that saves us all. Because those people and parties that we have running things for us now are not able to do it. Not the USA, not Russia, not Brazil, not anyone else. Some countries, such as the EU (and many of the smaller low lying island nations) are trying but they cannot do it alone. And some within the EU, like Ireland, are doing so little that they are the slow kids in the class holding the rest back.
Ah but sure look, everyone loves the Irish.
I make no apologies for my use of sarcasm.
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