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human activity and the destruction of the planet

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CHAPTER 8

Climate change, the loss of species, global warming, the increase in the human population, trading systems, the type of economy and poverty are all factors that affect every nation of the world in one way or another.  If there is to be a change of direction, in order to save the planet and its inhabitants, it must happen on a global scale and include every country, or at least those countries which have industrialised.  We need to get citizens across the world understanding the implications of climate change and industrialisation, so that they realise the need for urgent action and lobby their governments to make appropriate changes.

The most obvious organisation to initiate such a change of direction is (and has been) the United Nations.

un-logo

 

The Efforts of the United Nations to reduce carbon emissions

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Fig.70:  The Rio Summit

 In 1992, the United Nations Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, produced a document, called Agenda 21, which was a non-binding, voluntary-implemented action plan with regard to sustainable development.  It provided an agenda for the UN, other multilateral organisations and individual governments around the world that could be executed at local, national or global level.  The UN body proposed in Rio to take this forward was the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), whose director is currently Halldor Thorgeirsson. Since Rio, regular meetings have been held in different countries of the world, under the title of COP (conference of parties), the latest being COP21 in Paris.  A further appraisal of the major COP agreements reached over the years is given in Table 699.

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 Fig.71

As the United Nations does have a role in addressing the issue of climate change, let’s have a closer look first at how it functions and what it has achieved on climate change. The UN was first formed in 1945, as an intergovernmental organisation to promote international co-operation. The motivation for its formation came as a result of the Second World War, to prevent other similar conflicts from occurring. There were 51 member states initially and now there are 193, each country having one vote at deliberations of the General Assembly.  The headquarters of the UN is in New York, with further offices in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna. It is financed by contributions from its member states, the United Kingdom providing 5.19% of the total budget.

The UN currently operates through five principal bodies: the General Assembly (the main deliberative body); the Security Council (peace and security); the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (for promoting international economic and social co-operation and development); the Secretariat (provides, information, studies and facilities needed); and the International Court of Justice. There are also various UN bodies, which have particular functions: the World Bank; the World Health Organisation; the World Food Programme, UNESCO and UNICEF.  The current General Secretary is the South Korean, Ban Ki-moon, whose term of office comes to an end during 2016.


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Fig.72

Structure of the United Nations

Many people are highly critical of the United Nations. Some commentators believe the organization to be an important force for peace and human development but others have called it ineffective, corrupt, biased and bureaucratic. I believe that, if the United Nations is to be taken seriously and respected, it needs to have more clout and to be reformed to be more inclusive.  Its initiatives on climate change certainly need to be more decisive and more closely targeted. The problem is that, trying to get 193 or more nations to agree on one issue, is virtually impossible.

Agenda 21

The original Agenda 21 was divided into four sections:

  • Combating Poverty;
  •  II  Environmental Issues;
  • III Strengthening the role of major groups;
  • IV. Means of Implementation.

The “21” refers to the 21st Century and has been affirmed and modified at subsequent UN conferences. It is a 700-page document that was adopted by the 178 countries attending the 1992 conference.  In 1997, the UN General Assembly held a special session to appraise the status of Agenda 21 and this has continued every 5 years since then. In 2012, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the attending members reaffirmed their commitment to Agenda 21 in their outcome document called “The Future We Want”. 180 leaders from nations participated.

  The implementation of Agenda 21 was intended to involve action at international, national, regional and local levels. Some national and state governments have legislated or advised that local authorities take steps to implement the plan locally, as recommended in Chapter 28 of the document.  The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Division for Sustainable Development (ECOSOC) monitors and evaluates progress, nation by nation, towards the adoption of Agenda 21, as well as progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and makes these reports available to the public on its website.  Europe has turned out to be the continent in which it was best accepted, as most European countries possess well documented Agenda 21 statuses. France, for example has nationwide programmes supporting it, though there are opposition groups in this country, as there are in other countries.

In Africa, national support for Agenda 21 is strong and most countries are signatories. But support is often closely tied to environmental challenges specific to each country (such as desertification in Namibia) and there is little mention of Agenda 21 at the local level in the indigenous media. Agenda 21 participation in North African countries mirrors that of Middle Eastern countries, with most countries being signatories, but with little to no adoption at the local government level. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa generally have poorly documented Agenda 21 status reports but South Africa’s participation in Agenda 21 is similar to that of Europe.

Whilst the United States of America has been a signatory to Agenda 21, there is a strong business lobby, which opposes it on the grounds that it is bad for business. The Republican Party have stated that “We strongly reject the UN Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty.” Several state and local governments have considered or passed motions and legislation opposing Agenda 21, Alabama being the first state to prohibit government participation in it. Activists, some of whom have been associated with the Tea Party movement by The New York Times and The Huffington Post, have said that Agenda 21 is a conspiracy by the United Nations to deprive individuals of property rights.  Interestingly though, in view of these opposition lobbies, the president of the USA, Barack Obama, recently participated in a TV documentary, in which he and David Attenborough discussed the issue of climate change and what needs to be done; he referred to a number of American initiatives to reduce carbon emissions.

Yet, despite the focus on environmental issues since the 1992 Rio Summit, global carbon emissions continue to rise, with petroleum, coal and natural gas being the worst culprits contributing to this increase.


Table 6

From Rio to Paris, UN milestones in the history of climate change discussions


International negotiations on climate change have been going on for over 20 years. In the meantime, the Earth has become hotter, wetter and wilder. Like scientists, the vast majority of governments now agree that urgent steps are needed to reduce our impact on global warming. So far, they have failed to sign up to a universal plan of action.

  • 1992: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted during the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. It acknowledged the existence of human-induced climate change and gave industrialised countries the major part of responsibility for combating it – but without specifying how.
  • 1997: The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in Japan in 1997 marked a milestone in international negotiations on tackling climate change. For the first time, binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets were set for industrialised countries, with obligations to reduce emissions by 5%. The protocol came into force in 2005, but was soon derailed by the failure of some of the world’s biggest polluters, notably the US, to ratify it. As a result, other countries, such as Canada, Russia and Japan also pulled out.  Another weakness of the Kyoto Protocol was that it exempted three countries, who were in the early stages of industrialisation (China, India, Australia) and now these are amongst the worst polluters. Protocol runs until 2020.
  • 2007: A longer-term vision was introduced by the Bali Action Plan in 2007, which set timelines for the negotiations towards reaching a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012. It was expected that an agreement would be reached by December 2009.
  • 2009: Although the COP15 summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, did not result in the adoption of a new agreement, the summit recognised the common objective of keeping the increase in global temperature below 2°C. Furthermore, industrialised countries undertook to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 to assist developing countries in climate-change adaptation and mitigation, barring which poor countries had threatened to scupper any deal. That pledge became more tangible with the establishment of the Green Climate Fund in Cancún, Mexico, in 2010.
  • 2011: Countries signed up to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), thereby agreeing to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” applicable to all states that are party to the UNFCCC. This agreement was scheduled to be adopted in Paris and implemented from 2020.

At subsequent gatherings in Warsaw, Poland, in 2013 and Lima, Peru, in 2014, all states were invited to submit their pledges towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the COP21 summit in Paris.


The Paris Agreement

The objective of the 2015 Paris COP21 conference was to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world.  I would like to see the UNFCCC go even further than this, to be involved in an internationally evidenced marketing initiative to demonstrate how urgent it is to take robust action to reduce carbon emissions.  Just talking about it, and making gestures to the world press, is not going to achieve what is needed.

 The COP21 talks in Paris set out more ambitious goals than many anticipated and was heralded, with much media attention, as an historic accord, though many hours had been spent in finalising the wording of this agreement, signed by 195 countries. Many believe that, in getting agreement, the main focus of the document was watered down. I have heard it said that certain oil-producing countries were the ones who caused the watering down of the Paris agreement, a similar action to that of Exxon Mobil, described in Chapter 3. The self-interest of powerful people in the world yet again holding back the actions required to really address the crisis that we all face.

The agreement included:

  • Clauses to limit global warming to less than 2˚C above pre-industrial levels and to endeavour to limit it to below 1.5˚C;
  • For countries to meet their own voluntary targets on limiting emissions between 2020 and 2030;
  • For countries to submit new, tougher targets every five years;
  • To aim for zero net emissions by 2050-2100;
  • For rich nations to help poorer nations to adapt.

 

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Fig.73:  World leaders celebrating “an historic agreement” in Paris 2015

The agreement would come into force only after it had been ratified by 55 countries, who represented at least 55% of global emissions. If this target was exceeded, then the agreement would become operational in the same year.

A March 2016 report from the BBC indicated that the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, the US and China (40% of emissions together), had produced a joint statement to say that both countries were ready to sign the agreement in April. Ban Ki-moon invited leaders to a signing ceremony in New York on 22nd April and expected 120 to turn up for this. The USA and China represent almost 40% of global emissions, so this was a huge step forward.

The move was not initially welcomed by some developing nations100, led by an influential, Malaysia-based think tank who wanted to receive stronger assurances on finance, technology and compensation for damage from extreme weather before signing.  Meena Raman of the Third World Network, was quoted as saying: “It will be more advantageous to developing countries to wait this year and not rush into signing the Paris Agreement. Otherwise… we lose the political leverage that is critical to secure the necessary conditions that will enable developing countries to meet their obligations.” Developing countries have therefore been advised not to attend or sign at the 22nd April ceremony.

That date has now passed and a list of 175 nations who signed on 22nd April 2016 was included on a UN website (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2016/04/parisagreementsignatures/)

as follows:


“List of Parties that signed the Paris Agreement on 22 April 2016101

The Paris Agreement will be open for signature by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on 22 April and will remain open for signature for one year. This list contains the countries that signed the Agreement at the Signature Ceremony on 22 April:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Union, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mauritania, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, State of Palestine, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.”


 

This is a very comprehensive list indeed and a significant achievement by Ban Ki-moon, though there are some notable absentees from the list (some oil-producing countries).  Many people are now quite optimistic that there will be significant reductions in the use of fossil fuels and the subsequent carbon emissions. Others feel that the promised emissions’ cuts are totally inadequate. In a review of the Paris agreement, Michael Le Page in the New Scientist (no. 3052) stated that he thinks time has nearly run out for limiting global warming even to 2˚C and he quoted from various scientists and leaders as follows:

“Emissions targets are still way off track, but this agreement has the tools to ramp up ambition, and brings a spirit of hope that we can rise to this challenge”. Tony deBrum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands.

“If we wait until 2020, it will be too late.”  Kevin Anderson, Climate Scientist at the Tyndall Centre in Manchester, UK.

As for 1.5˚, it would take nothing less than “a true world revolution”.  We need renewable energy, nuclear power, fracking, zero-carbon transport, energy efficiency and housing changes.  Even international aviation and shipping which were excluded from this report will need to be tackled”. Piers Forster, University of Leeds.

I personally don’t agree with this last person in terms of nuclear power and fracking, as I believe both to be dangerous cop-outs.

In a later, full length New Scientist Article, Michael Le Page102 discussed the likelihood of countries being able to keep to the promises made. He reminded his readers that each signatory has to formally approve, or ratify, the deal in their parliaments and only five had so far done so: Fiji, Palau, Maldives, Marshall Islands and Switzerland an interesting group of countries most at risk of rising sea levels or melting ice. The Telegraph reported on 22nd April that there had been 15 ratifications103.

Kimberley Nicholas, writing in the Scientific American (December 19th 2015)104, discussed what is required to bring about the meeting of the 1.5˚ target. She quoted from an article in Nature Climate Change by scientists Rogelj and colleagues, that it will require “rapid and profound decarbonisation” from its current 81% of fossil sources in order to meet net zero carbon emissions as early as 2045 (recognised in the long-term goal in the Paris agreement to balance greenhouse gas emissions and removal). Further they had found that meeting the target would ultimately require actively removing carbon from the atmosphere, through means that have yet to be widely tested or implemented.

The December 2015 Newsletter of Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs)105 had the following statement about the Paris agreement:

As the fallout continues, many of you may be confused by the outcome of the recent COP21 climate talks in Paris, variously reported as:

“A victory for all of the planet and future generations” ~ John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State
We did it! A turning point in human history!” ~ Avaaz
“10/10 for presentation, 4/10 for content” ~ Kevin Anderson, climate scientist
A historic moment and positive step forward … but not the legally-binding science and justice-based agreement that was needed” ~ Friends of the Earth UK
“A sham” ~ Friends of the Earth International
“It’s a fraud really, a fake” ~ James Hansen, climate scientist
Our leaders have shown themselves willing to set our world on fire” ~ Naomi Klein, author/activist
“Epic fail on a planetary scale” ~ New Internationalist
The US is a cruel hypocrite. This is a deliberate plan to make the rich richer and the poor poorer” ~ Lidy Nacpil, Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development

COP21: a clear win for political reality – a clear loss for every life form dependent on a liveable climate

The TEQs newsletter105 continued:

“Our take is that when there is a fundamental rift between the physical reality of our changing climate and the political reality tasked with responding to this, this agreement – based on voluntary emissions pledges which even if met would mean more emissions in 2030 than today – is a clear win for political reality. In other words, a clear loss for every life form dependent on a liveable climate.

Sadly, it is not hard to identify the agendas of those hailing the Paris agreement as a great success. The whole conference has, in essence, been smoke and mirrors, distracting us from the real work of reintegrating human society with the reality that it depends on. As most impartial observers predicted, the UN have again failed to deliver an agreement that preserves the future of either humanity or the wider biosphere.

The Paris agreement is, in short, based on non-binding commitments to deliver on dodgy mathematics through the application of technologies that do not yet (and may never) exist.”

 Greenpeace have also criticised the Paris agreement106, whilst applauding parts of it, such as setting 2018 as a review date. The main failure of the agreement, they feel, is that it failed the “justice test”; this relates to the human rights, where indigenous peoples affected by climate change are not given the protection they deserve. However, Greenpeace feel that what did not happen in Paris had already happened in Manila, where a human rights probe has been launched with the Human Rights Commission106.

Thus, the challenge facing the world in 2016 is significant.  This has been reinforced by the excessive rain experienced in the north of the UK over the last few weeks, leading to extensive flooding, as well as in France and Germany and other extreme weather events in other parts of the world, such as the second strongest ever recorded tropical cyclone Winston which devastated Fiji.

I find it hard to reconcile these quoted comments with the “business as usual” attitude of our present government in the UK, a government which we will have to tolerate until 2020, unless something major happens in the next four years, to bring about an election.

In his book, “Why are we Waiting” (MIT Press), Professor Nicholas Stern107, author of the Stern Review on the economics of climate change, sets out some of the goals that now face humanity in the 21st Century.  The goals include:

  1. The elimination of mass poverty and the risk of catastrophic climate change;
  2. These goals are complementary;
  3. The case for action is overwhelming because greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for centuries.

A recent research report in Science, and quoted in the Guardian108, provides hope that carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere by pumping it underground. The new research pumped CO2 into the volcanic rock under Iceland and sped up a natural process where the basalts react with the gas to form carbonate minerals, which make up limestone. The researchers were amazed by how fast all the gas turned into a solid – just two years, compared to the hundreds or thousands of years that had been predicted. Juerg Matter, of the University of Southampton in the UK, led the research. Further research clearly needs to take place on this potential resolution to the problems we face.

But, are there other global networks can we call on to make a greater impact than that so far made by the UNFCCC?

Other initiatives

  1. The Elders

In 2007, Nelson Mandela set up a group, called “The Elders”; it originally included elder states-people, such as Kofi Annan (now chairman of the group, former UN-Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Laureate), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Laureate and honorary elder), Aung Sun Suu Kyi (honorary elder until her election in 2012, Burmese pro-democracy leader), Ela Bhatt (India, pioneer of women’s empowerment and grassroots development), Lakhdar Brahimi (Algeria, conflict mediator and UN diplomat) Martti Artisaari Finland, Nobel Peace Laureate), Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway, deputy chair, doctor who champions health as a human right), Fernando H Cardosa (Brazil – former president), Jimmy Carter (USA former president, Nobel Peace Laureate), Hina Jilani (Pakistan, pioneering lawyer and pro-democracy campaigner), Graça Machel (Mozambique, international advocate for women’s and children’s rights), Mary Robinson( first woman president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for human rights),  Ernesto Zedilla (former president of Mexico who led profound democratic and social reforms).

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Fig.74:  A group of The Elders in 2010. From: www.theelders.org

The Elders is an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights.  The concept of the Elders originated from an idea from a conversation between the entrepreneur Richard Branson and the musician Peter Gabriel. The idea they discussed was simple: many communities look to their elders for guidance, or to help resolve disputes. In an increasingly interdependent world – a ‘global village’ – could a small, dedicated group of individuals use their collective experience and influence to help tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the world today? Branson and Gabriel took their idea to Nelson Mandela, who agreed to support it. With the help of Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu, Mandela set about bringing the Elders together and formally launched the group in Johannesburg in July 2007.

The Elders work strategically, focusing on work where they are uniquely placed to make a difference. One of their latest campaigns is for the UN, now over 70 years’ old, to be adapted so that it is fit for purpose.  They have four proposals on this (more details available on their website: http://theelders.org/un-fit-purpose):

  • A new category of members;
  • A pledge from permanent members;
  • A voice for civil society;
  • A more independent Secretary-General.

I believe that the issue of Climate Change is now so urgent that it may be too late to wait for a reform of the United Nations to tackle the issue more robustly.  Perhaps a new body, independent of the United Nations, but respected globally, needs to take on the issue, cutting through all the bureaucracy that creates a climate of inaction on major issues.

Whether these proposals will bring about the changes necessary to generate greater respect and support for the United Nations, remains to be seen.  However, the United Nations is the most obvious body to take forward the urgent imperative to work together with global co-operation to turn back the current surge of ever increasing carbon emissions and the devastating effects of climate change. Most of the concerns about climate change come from faith-based networks.

b). Christian-based organisations and networks have had much to say about the need for urgent action, as good stewardship of the earth is a major tenet of the Christian faith, as are the Jubilee principles of environmental restoration and fair allocation of wealth.

There is an ecumenical organisation, Operation Noah, with a seven-year plan to encourage Christians to work together to address climate change109.

Recently, the Pope has issued an encyclical on climate change, which hasn’t gone unnoticed110.

For the Anglicans, Archbishop Desmond Tutu initiated a petition asking governments, and the United Nations, to set a renewable energy target of 100% by 2050111.  Tutu, a  Nobel peace laureate, who rose to fame for his anti-apartheid activism, said: “As responsible citizens of the world – sisters and brothers of one family, the human family, God’s family – we have a duty to persuade our leaders to lead us in a new direction: to help us abandon our collective addiction to fossil fuels. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow.”

There have also been statements published by:

  • the Baptist Union112
  • the Anglican Synod113
  • the Methodist Church114
  • the Quakers115
  • and other ecumenical bodies, such as Christian Aid and Tear Fund.

A particular initiative is called “Eco-Church”116, which encourages churches to switch their energy supplier to green forms of energy, with special rates being negotiated if a number of churches join the initiative117 (called ‘Big Church Switch’).  Other bodies of Christians network to encourage individuals to reduce their personal carbon emissions, in various ways.  A recent conference in Coventry, “Hope in a Changing Climate” provided much information to inspire hope, as many groups of Christians are working together, rather like the 3G groups I mentioned in Chapter 7, to reduce their personal emissions and to encourage their friends to do so as well. One speaker, a climate scientist, talked about efforts already underway to develop a plan for net zero (from the Paris agreement), with the aim of keeping 80% of fossil fuels in the ground.  This included measurable actions to reduce carbon emissions per degree of warming.

There was also discussion about how churches might disinvest any funds they have with those companies who emit the most greenhouse gases, as well as taking action by joining the boards of such companies to influence their future direction.  A similar action brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa. Indeed, it would appear that such an initiative is already underway through an organisation called Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, based in London118.

There has also been a Green Bible119, which outlines text in green, which relate to environmental issues and teachings.

c). Other faiths

Other faiths making statements about climate change include Baha’i; Buddhism; Hindu; Islam; Sikh; Unitarian Universalist Association120.

It is possible, therefore, that combined interfaith initiatives on climate change may have more impact on the activities of the global population than the United Nations has been able to do.   Indeed, in 1995, at a conference in Japan on Religions, Land and Conservation, a declaration was made – The Ohito Declaration121 which stated ten spiritual principles:

  1. Religious beliefs and traditions call us to care for the earth.2. For people of faith maintaining and sustaining environmental life systems is a religious responsibility.3. Nature should be treated with respect and compassion, thus forming a basis for our sense of responsibility for conserving plants, animals, land, water, air and energy.

    4. Environmental understanding is enhanced when people learn from the example of prophets and of nature itself.

    5. Markets and trade arrangements should reflect the spiritual needs of people and their communities to ensure health, justice and harmony. Justice and equity principles of faith traditions should be used for maintaining and sustaining environmental life systems.

    6. People of faith should give more emphasis to a higher quality of life in preference to a higher standard of living, recognising that greed and avarice are root causes of environmental degradation and human debasement.

    7. All faiths should fully recognise and promote the role of women in environmental sustainability.

    8. People of faith should be involved in the conservation and development process. Development of the environment must take better account of its effects on the community and its religious beliefs.

    9. Faith communities should endorse multilateral consultation in a form that recognizes the value of local/indigenous wisdom and current scientific information.

    10. In the context of faith perspective, emphasis should be given not only to the globalisation of human endeavours, but also to participatory community action.

That declaration was made 11 years ago and, although people of faith make up the majority of the world’s population, it is surprising that very little has been done so far to really get to grips with the damage to the environment and the planet that humans are responsible for.  Perhaps the time has come for a new purposeful faith initiative. Table 7 gives a summary of the recommended actions proposed at the Ohiti Conference.  Maybe it is time for all the religions of the world to take another look at it.

d). Other agencies

In chapter 7, I gave details of the European Environment Agency and the Green Economy Coalition, both of which bodies are providing suggested frameworks for moving away from a market economy, which has been so damaging, to a green economy. Maybe either or both of these agencies can be reinforced to be the body to create more urgent change than the UNFCCC has done.

There is also Forum for the Future122, an independent non-profit organisation, which works with business, government and other organisations to solve complex sustainability issues; they particularly focus on food and energy.


Table 7
Recommended Courses of Action made at the 1995 MOA International Conference on Religions, Land and Conservation, held in Ohito, Japan


1. We call upon religious leaders to emphasise environmental issues within religious teaching: faith should be taught and practised as if nature mattered.
2. We call upon religious communities to commit themselves to sustainable practices and encourage community use of their land.
3. We call upon religious leaders to recognise the need for ongoing environmental education and training for themselves and all those engaged in religious instruction.
4. We call upon people of faith to promote environmental education within their community especially among their youth and children.
5. We call upon people of faith to implement individual, community and institutional action plans at local, national, and global levels that flow from their spiritual practices and where possible to work with other faith communities.
6. We call upon religious leaders and faith communities to pursue peacemaking as an essential component of conservation action.
7. We call upon religious leaders and communities to be actively involved in caring for the environment to sponsor sustainable food production and consumption.
8. We call upon people of faith to take up the challenge of instituting fair trading practices devoid of financial, economic and political exploitation.
9. We call upon the world’s religious leaders and world institutions to establish and maintain a networking system that will encourage sustainable agriculture and environmental life systems.
10. We call upon faith communities to act immediately, to undertake self-review and auditing processes on conservation issues on a regular basis.


A new body?

But some have no confidence in the United Nations and have no faith, so should we consider looking to form, or adopt, some of these other networks into a consortium, to bring about greater consensus about achieving measures to stop or reverse current trends?  If so, how will these bodies be funded?  Perhaps a global tax on all offending organisations would be apt, though probably unenforceable.

I leave this as a question for others in more influential positions than myself to answer, and/or implement, as necessary.  Quite clearly there is a need for the nations of the world to stop seeing each other as competitors, rivals or enemies, for the desired results will not occur without global co-operation.

The Business World

There are businesses who are aware of the problems and who invest their profits in carbon reduction initiatives.  These are showing the way for those large corporations who have been investing their profits in hiding the reality of climate change and in deceiving the public about their products and in paying so-called scientists to question the reality of climate change.

But so much more could be done, as it is often big business who has the financial resources to make a difference. Richard Branson played an active part in bringing The Elders together. As part of the business world (including the airline industry), which has brought us to the current dilemma, could he take a lead in getting business leaders together to understand, and rectify, what they have been responsible for, rather than burying their heads in the sand and continuing in their money-making at the expense of the planet. Recently, a podcast has been produced by Kyung-Ah Park123 of Goldman Sachs on “The Business Case for Climate Action”, as a result of attending the Paris Summit on behalf of this company. It is warming that some businesses are beginning to come up with strategies for the future.

How to make a global impact on the issues facing us

The writing of this book has changed my own attitudes and thinking.  As a result I am no longer influenced by the rhetoric propagated by UK government and its economists to focus mainly on economic growth.  For I know that, in promoting economic growth and redirecting funds to the business world, they are actually multiplying the effects of industrialisation and its by-products, which will further damage and destroy the ecosystems and atmosphere of this world.

I do not support initiatives to get involved in bombing countries far from our shores, in the name of national security, for I know that this all adds to the carbon footprint, as well as driving many indigenous people to flee their homes, adding to the thousands of refugees seeking new homes elsewhere.

But how can we reverse the centuries-old trend of global trade – of believing that free trade is a good thing?  Trading systems and merchant cultures are at the root of all of the cycles I have described and I think I realised this when writing the End Piece to my first book.

There is still so much ignorance about the cycle of activities, described in the pages of this book.  The general public tend not to see the urgency of the situation, or dismiss it as not their concern. If you have been influenced by the descriptions in the pages of this book, then use it to lobby for the changes that need to occur urgently.

 

 

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