I’m in Cancun, Mexico, at the 16th UN Climate Change Conference. Like last year at the 15th Conference in Copenhagen, I am representing Labour as its climate spokesperson; I paid my own way to get here; I am part of the delegation from the International Trade Union Confederation (thanks to Helen Kelly and Sharan Burrow). I’ve done it this way so as to retain an independent voice from the NZ Government delegation to the Conference. I’m here to support efforts to get an ambitious, binding, global deal to limit the problems that we are all likely to face as a result of human-induced climate change, and to support a just transition to the different world we are all to shortly going to find ourselves living in.
Unlike last year, climate change isn’t the big topic on everyone’s mind. John Key hasn’t had to bow to public pressure and agree to come to the conference. Expectations are low for progress to be made this year, especially given Democrat losses at the mid-term elections, and the developing world’s (understandable) reluctance to move to reduce carbon emissions while the US looks unlikely to do so.
So why am I here? Well, just because the media isn’t talking about it so much doesn’t mean that the issue isn’t just as serious as it was last year. My aunts’ home in Tahiti, 6m from the high tide line, is no less likely to be washed away by rising sea levels than it was last year. Millions of people in their position in developing countries are no more able to afford to mitigate or adapt to the effects of human-induced climate change than they were in December last year. The figleaf of a much watered-down ETS aside, National is still failing to put in place any meaningful policies at home to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and also still failing to provide any moral leadership internationally on the climate issue.
In fact, if anything, the situation has worsened since Copenhagen. According to Oxfam, twice the number of people died from extreme climate events in the first 9 months of 2010 as died from them in the whole of 2009. Global GHG emissions continue to rise. Temperature increases over the medium term seem likely to be in the 4 degree range, rather than the 2 degrees that was regarded only last year at Copenhagen as the minimum acceptable level. Don’t even get me started on how much more is now understood about the the likely disastrous effects of increased ocean acidification.
We can all do so much better. We need to get human-induced climate change back on the media’s agenda and back on the minds of the public. And we need to promote and be part of ambitious, binding, and just global solutions to the problem.
I’ll be posting from Cancun every couple of days on progress (positive and negative) made here.