From Climate Change to Climate Emergency
Climate Change already made its impact on our planet, of our making—disastrous impact on humanity and all of creation. We have paid the cost of climate divergence: damaging to humanity, irreparable to nature and a bleak future for the generations to come; and yet global warming is not being treated as an emergency (Dunlop—Spratt).
‘Climate Emergency’offers a new approach to our climate action, more than just a campaign slogan or any sort of parliamentary declaration; it is however, a call to engage governments, institutions, organizations and even individuals to prioritize drastic response to any environmental damages. No more sweet talks, or capitalistic sloganeering on the environmental campaigns.
We have to immediately change from normal mode to emergency mode, “An ‘emergency declaration’ demonstrates that the government rates the problem as very serious, that priority will be given to resolving the crisis, that we are all in the crisis together and that, officially, ‘business as usual’ and ‘reform-as-usual’ no longer applies…”
No hesitation, not allowing space for inaction in the existing climate crisis, “People expect an emergency announcement when there is a life-threatening situation, and will hesitate to take any action themselves if nobody else appears to be taking the threat seriously.” (Dunlop—Spratt).
Here and now, there is climate emergency. We have to step-up our ecological mechanisms in addressing the impacts of climate disruption, Pope Francis underlined this in his encyclical, the immensity and urgency of the challenge we face, encouraging everyone to respond to the challenge of the ecological problems with greater urgency.
The UK Parliament declared an environment and climate emergency last May 1, 2019; the first in the world, approving the proposal of Jeremy Corbyn for the body to declare ‘climate emergency,’ in his speech, he said: “We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now… This isn’t just climate change. It is a climate emergency.”
This declaration was followed by the Republic of Ireland last May 9, 2019, declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency. Cities and towns in Europe are already declaring climate emergency on their own.
There is a need to understand issues and current themes of learning and actions on environmental or climate emergency. First, we need to connect-the-dots existing between environmental and social problems, the interconnectivity of all social issues is rooted in social disturbance brought about by ineffective social programs by society or governments.
Second, we need to re-frame contemporary global strategies; international bodies, organized conferences and formed groups for many years failed to address the roots of the problem, and instead failed to address the climate emergency in an integral manner.
Third, we need to learn from the emerging faces and stories of struggles of activists and collective groups doing the right thing for the environment, and offering the needed action to immediately address the emergency.
Fourth, we need to situate the global stage of the climate emergency, it is not the ideal space where to find action, it is where you are; your contribution in addressing local ecological problem/s will support the collective efforts to address the global stage of climate emergency happening all across the globe.
And lastly, our conclusion offers an organic basic responses on climate emergency.
Connecting the dots between Environmental and Social Problems
The alarming call of climate emergency is disturbing the established political ‘order,’ it can even isolate governments and even pave a way for a new regime change for other countries. The environmental problems affected the lives of the people, the realization that communities has become the victim of every damage done to the environment; governments cannot just dismiss the cry of the victims.
The poorest people will continue to experience climate change through the loss of income and livelihood opportunities, hunger, adverse health effects and displacement. Sadly, this epoch is seeing both the reverberation of ecological voices and the reality of more environmental damages being done across continents.
Pope Francis identified the interconnectivity of all these, he calls it “integral ecology”;“integral ecology”; that the problem is not just ecological, with potentially catastrophic impacts cascading through financial, ecological and social systems.
Failure to address these, leads to a profound destruction of people and planet.
Yes, there is a connection between ‘climate emergency’ with other social struggles. The destruction of communities paving the way for pipeline projects; the continuing destruction of forests in the Amazon region and in countries like Indonesia are affecting the lives of indigenous peoples and the whole of the ecosystem; the enormous deaths caused by stronger typhoons in the island communities—all these impacts create economic disturbances on the affected families and communities, and we have seen that all these lead to displacement (social and economic in nature). “Climate change affects people inside their own countries, and typically creates internal displacement before it reaches a level where it displaces people across borders.”
Pope Francis recently issued a call for young economists and entrepreneurs worldwide to gather, reflect and be able to re-animate our economic system affecting our common homeand our people on March 26-28, 2020, in a conference called the “Economy of Francesco;” he said in his message:
Most of our current environmental problems are the results of the actions and inactions of our government leaders, often justifying the many destruction with economic and development-driven reasons, truly a wrong reading of sustainable development.
As underlined by the 2018 IPCC report that in addressing the climate change impacts, we need to “allow people to live a life in dignity while avoiding actions that undermine capabilities; transform economies; overcome uneven consumption and production patterns and conceptualize development as well-being rather than mere economic growth…”
Re-framing contemporary global strategies
In 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was able to craft the Paris Agreement, a non-binding and yet definitive ‘guideline’ for countries to address and step-up climate action. And yet, we are seeing the commitments of countries only on the level of a more weaker commitments, of speaking only from the economic perspective of climate change.
Even at the start of the climate negotiations and thereafter we have seen how the negotiators sidelined the equity and climate justice approaches; leaving the accountability of big nations that contributed so much the CO2in our atmosphere; and letting the developing countries pay the price.
Naomi Klein, foremost Canadian activist, sounded the alarm of the need of a ‘post-Paris plan’; she was right, year after year of the Paris Agreement, we are seeing more people suffering from the climate impacts without due attention, she said:
The UNFCCC should re-frame the whole nature of any ‘future’ agreements: making it legally binding (making signatories legally accountable); clearly specifying climate financing, improving the liability provision of the loss and damage; overhauling the systemic capitalist attitude related to economic, political and development models; and infusing consistent declaration of climate emergency.
Most importantly, we must avoid in future conference of parties (COP), the element of resignation that any agreement was better than no agreement at all, this is the defeating attitude of developing countries, and the succeeding COP after the Paris Agreement repeated the same mistake.
Many people expected that the Paris Agreement would bring productive development of a fossil-free future, and yet the Paris Agreement does not address fundamental problems with the global capitalist economic system and how it continues to foster reliance on fossil fuel to drive economic growth in the short to medium term.
The deadlines, the rule book, and the targets need to be translated into the realities of climate-related experiences. The attempt to incorporate the Talanoa Dialogue framework is in itself beneficial to the COP, but it shall never remain in the appendix, the challenged communities have a lot to contribute in the negotiations, more than just the ingredients and exhibits being done in every COP meeting.
The outcomes of the conferences should be something that move countries to targeted actions, not just programs. The implementing mechanisms must cascade into the affected communities, most often only being accessed by government institutions, academic entities and non-government organizations (NGOs); only to discover that the responsible agencies have become funding-driven.
Emerging faces and stories
The emerging faces and stories of struggles must sustainably unite a better and broader forces of action on addressing this climate emergency.
In 26 May of 2015, Pope Francis officially published an encyclical entitled: Laudato Si’: On care of our common home, a definitive document by a world leader officially affirming the reality of climate disruption. A widely-circulated document; read and admired by intellectuals, scientists, activists, change-makers, world leaders and ordinary people willing to make a difference on the environment.
Until today, Pope Francis is enriching more and more the message of Laudato Si’ with continuing programs, conferences and with an upcoming reality-driven Synod of the Amazoniaon October 2019. Onwards, Pope Francis inspired people from within and outside the church, to unite in responding with greater hope the greatest problem humanity is facing—environmental degradation.
Since 2015, a group of young activists from all across the globe started the ‘Climate Pilgrimage’, led by Yeb Sano the former Philippine climate negotiator. This group walked from Rome to Paris bringing Pope Francis’ message of ecological conversion globally and at the doorsteps of the signers of the Paris Agreement, amplifying the voices of the climate victims from the island nations the need to target the 1.5 degrees Celsius.
And in 2018, The Climate Pilgrimage embarked on a climate journey again, from Rome to Katowice; along the route they were bringing the message to address the climate crisis with urgency, starting from the personal impacts to institutional; from breaking free from coal to breaking free from plastic. “We continue walking, and sharing the message of protecting the planet; until the climate crisis stops…” said Albert Lozada, a veteran climate walker of the team.
Today, we are seeing a new voice supporting and uniting the many climate voices, in the person of Greta Thunberg. Starting from her own simple ‘school strike’ and rippling across the globe, encouraging young people to do their own version of ‘school strike’ (#climatestrike, #klimatstrejk and #FridaysForFuture) to bring the message of climate emergency. Greta, brings a consistent call for climate justice, bringing her own placard from her school to parliaments, and to world leaders; she said (UN Climate Change COP24 Conference, December 12, 2018, Katowice, Poland):
Her speech is a strong voice calling for change, a warning for world leaders that the people are ready to defend the planet on their own.
More forceful now, is the Extinction Rebellion in the United Kingdom, and amplified across the globe too, integrating the needed non-violent direct action to force governments and local and national leaders that really, “climate change is system change.”
That the greed of powerful countries and corporations resulting to environmental and climate emergency must be drastically stop, at all costs.
They have graphically protested in many areas in the United Kingdom; showing too the diversity of its members from across sectors. The sustained commitment of Extinction Rebellion, is showing the readiness of people to demand from governments and institutions accountability from the impacts of the climate crisis.
The global stage of the climate emergency
Pope Francis saw the urgency to sustainably address the climate divergence, from the voices of struggles of the episcopal conferences scattered around the territories of the catholic church. Four years after the release of his encyclical, Laudato Si: On the Care of our Common Home, he will be convening the Synod of the Amazonia this October 6-27, 2019, with the purpose of examining and taking ground concrete actions on climate emergency, on the ongoing threats happening on the lives of the indigenous peoples and of the remaining forests in the Amazonia in Latin America, in the Congo basin in Africa, and in many island nations.
Locally, climate emergency demands response from among us. The continuing threats to build more coal-fired power plants, the unhampered abuse of mountains and communities from mining and other extractive industries, and the abuse of power of politicians and leaders to justify economic needs versus the call to address the climate emergency.
At present, there are young people and organizations doing the ‘right thing’ in responding to the climate emergency. In Negros Occidental, Philippines, led by Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, D.D. of the Diocese of San Carlos, with 15,000 young people with him, he organized a symbolic 250km human chain in his diocese, manifesting protest against the planned construction of a coal-fired plant in the city of San Carlos.
Last April 26, 2019, in Ecuador, the indigenous Waorani community won a landmark lawsuit against three government bodies for conducting a faulty consultation process with the community before putting their territory up for sale in an international oil auction. The ruling immediately suspends any possibility of selling the community's land for oil exploration.
From where we are, we should speak truth to power, and bring the power down that destroys people and nature. And Greta Thunberg tells us (World Economic Forum in Davos, January 22, 2019):
Addressing Climate Emergency
It is our desire to take action and be able to sustainably solve the environmental divergence, from the analysis and experiences presented; we need to take part in responding to the climate emergency with urgency:
First, the need to embrace the emergency mode, we have to end the climate change romanticism. Or else, the extreme climate events remain in the news, severity and proximity of the consequences are happening. The warnings are real, just recently the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem, underlining in one of its key messages:
The declaration of climate emergency started as a people-driven initiative, they have seen and experienced the impacts directly, with the use of scientific and real data, they are mobilizing unprecedented direct-campaigns against corporate power and passive governments. Undeniably governments must address drivers of climate divergence in emergency mode, “the direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impact have been (starting with those with most impact): changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasion of alien species” accelerating during the past 50 years.
The declaration must be forceful and decisive, government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change. This demands consistent ecological framework among governments. This was clearly articulated by Greta Thunberg, she tweeted:
Secondly, the need to strategize the speed of response, climate emergency demands swift and strategic response. In 2018, thru the IPCC report, the world’s leading climate scientists have warned us that we only have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe—keeping the 1.5°C to a maximum. The grim warning says:
If time was not important before, the current climate emergency situation underlines the necessity of speedy and timely response.
Thirdly, the need to have clarity of targets; targets for a fossil-free future, targets for biodiversity protection, targets for a sustainable future—all warrant sustained efforts without compromise. We need realistic targets, declaring climate emergency is seeing and experiencing the impacts. Without hesitation, companies, institutions and governments must act, accordingly
“corporations must acknowledge the earth’s finite resources and respect our shared common goods. Companies must account for all externalities, measure their footprints on the planet, and restore harmony to the environment for future generations…”
For us to seriously act on climate emergency, we should let our voices be heard, our actions too are important, and amplifying our call to be heard by others is necessary. Well-articulated by Extinction Rebellion, we must demand from our governmentsto:
(1) tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change,
(2) act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025,
(3) create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
We have suffered so much from the climate divergence, and we will not allow the global community to suffer devastating impacts again and again; or else, as Greta Thunberg had warned:
Instead, we should shape and prepare a better future for generations to sustain.