Governments and action on climate change
Governments seem reluctant to act upon climate change, even after a number of meetings and summits e.g. Copenhagen, action is still not taking place. The news is filled with headlines that suggest action “South Australia commits to 50% renewable energy target by 2050” or others like “Climate summit advances towards Paris deal” but time and time again headlines follow like “Despite the UN climate summit, fossil fuel firms are still in for the long-term”. I’d suggest this happens because governments think, why act when others are simply not going to, they are self-interested. Why let people be free-riders benefiting from your preventative measures e.g. renewable energies, when you could just have that extra power station yourself, which would cost less and give you more energy and money. I believe limited action will take place until governments stop being self-interested and see climate change as a global issue that needs a global solution. I’m not alone in this, Frank Bainimarama (Fiji’s interim prime minister) has similar views, suggesting the global communities will to fight climate change is “receding” and countries are “selfish” by not fighting climate change and allowing pacific nations to “sink below the waves”. I believe governments will only take action on climate change when they have first-hand experience of losing their great nations to the ocean and it’s all too late to take action.
Lack of action – The disparity between those causing climate change and those suffering the effects
The tragedy of the commons paradigm is to blame for this. MEDC countries are willing to put increasing pressure on the climate system as it’s provides them with rewards (more money/energy). However this creates negative effects that occur on a global scale, which are concentrated on those countries less able to cope, who contribute little to CO2 emissions. Figure 1 helps to clarify the above and highlights the high emissions of MEDC countries. Overlay Figure 2 and you realise these countries are not suffering from the effects of their actions and that’s where the injustice occurs. The injustice deeps when you realise that these countries also have to burden to costs of dealing with climate change, which they simply can’t afford and shouldn’t have to pay for.
Rectifying the situation
Some major polluters are trying to right wrongs by helping vulnerable nations, but I would say this action is both limited and inadequate. The latest attempt is the Green Climate Fund, founded in 2010, it currently contains $1 billion from France and $1 billion from Germany (Figure 3). The funds target is $10-$15 billion, so the current performance is poor. Many of the major polluters have large GDP’s, so between them should be able to muster up $15 billion (Figure 4). It’s being put into force in November so we will see in the current months to come, whether governments are going to take some major action. A flick through the history books makes me doubtful. We’ve had the Adaptation Fund (2001), created during the Kyoto Protocol which only managed to secure $300 million for developing nations, and further evidence suggests that promises during Copenhagen in 2009 to help vulnerable countries were not kept. I also cannot find any map/chart or statistic on climate change aid funding, suggesting if it’s happening it only on a small scale. Therefore, in view of the evidence above, I’m doubtful this fund will be any better than the last and remain sceptical of comments released by America that they will be giving a “major contribution” to the Climate fund in November.
To summarise, I would argue that countries action against climate change is inadequate, causing a disparity between those causing climate change and those suffering its effects, and attempts to help rectify this disparity are insufficient. The comment by Graca Machel highlights all the above clearly, “there is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response… the scale is much more than we have achieved.”