As many of you are probably aware of, COP21 is currently taking place in Paris and it could have some monumental effects on the whole world. Although its predecessors have not had much effect (if any) on legislation so far, the interest and demand for change regarding climate change is certainly growing. There has been an enormous amount of publicity and community action to increase the awareness and thus the effect this forum may have. Some of you have probably seen information regarding COP21 across your Facebook news feed, or possibly publicized on the television. I personally saw a phoenix pool contractor discussing the topic on my Facebook feed, because the implications COP21 and similar forums could have on his business. Although much of the discussion revolves around climate change, there is a global conversation regarding building materials, building standards and so on that could effect a wide range of people and businesses in the coming years. Sustainability and COP21 is bigger and more elaborate than most of us probably realize, sure we want to reduce the degradation of the world, but at what cost, and who will be footing the bill? Ho will it effect the general population, local businesses and the government at large, much of these questions remain unanswered, but I’m sure we will have some more clarity as COP21 wraps up towards the end of this week.
For those that are not aware, COP21 is a sustainable innovation forum being held in Paris, aimed at reducing the environmental effects that modern development is waging on the planet. COP21 is not the first forum of its kind, and is in part the grandchild of previous protocols and forums. The first public conversation at the global level of this kind was the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was geared towards reducing green house gases by all its signing parties. This formally acknowledged the fact that man was having an effect on the climate, and initiated a global effort to begin reducing further effects. A subsequent protocol was adopted in Japan on December 11, 1997 that outlined greenhouse reduction strategies for each individual party involved, called the Kyoto Protocol. In 2005, there was an attempt to enforce this agreement, but the non-participation of certain large countries, for example the United States, made that process highly ineffective. Due to the historical difference in carbon emissions, there is no easy solution and simple percentage you can put on every country regarding allowable greenhouse emissions. Many developed countries have historically polluted at far greater rates than currently developing countries, which makes the agreement all the more difficult. However it is believed that if all developing countries are allowed the same amount of carbon emissions that were created historically by already developed countries, than we would far exceed the capacity of carbon emissions the earth could handle.
One way this has been approached is by creating what are called carbon credits. This was something proposed and enacted, to let economic forces help to create a solution for our growing sustainability needs. Carbon credits, were essentially vouchers that allowed for a certain amount of carbon emissions, 1 tonne to be exact, or the equivalent of 1 tonne of carbon emissions by other green house gasses. So once the carbon credits were put into circulation (distributed to governments) then that would be the extent to which carbon emissions were allowed into the atmosphere. Meaning if a country wanted to produce more carbon than it received in carbon credits, then it must buy them from other countries. By purchasing carbon credits from other countries there finally became a price on carbon emissions, rather than just freely producing carbon at no expense. Additionally, countries who purchased carbon credits from other countries, were funding most likely developing countries, who could intern use the profits of their carbon credits on furthering their infrastructure, to produce less carbon intensive development. Though in theory allowing the market to handle this issue is promising, in practice it did not perform that well. The carbon credits received a lot of contention because one, the targets were not set low enough, countries like Russia received carbon credits exceeding the amount of carbon they were already producing, allowing for them to either dramatically increase the level of emissions they were producing, or sell them off to allow for high rates of pollution by other countries. Essentially countries who had not historically created high levels of carbon emissions, were given a lot of credits which they sold to already high carbon producing countries, which resulted in a 0 sum gain for the world. In short, there was far too many carbon credits put into circulation to account for the historical difference (developing countries got a lot of extra carbon credits), which did not create any sort of pressure to reduce emissions on anyones part. Also the money made from the sell of carbon credits, did not necessarily fund more sustainable development. Overall it was a fail, but hopefully one we learned from.
Coming to an agreement has been anything but easy, the United States for example did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, being that it would legally bind them to reducing their carbon emissions, which could be devastating to their local economy. With large players like the United States, Canada, China and India stating they will not ratify something that would legally bind them to reducing carbon emissions is disheartening for activist and politicians alike. However, this has not slowed on the ground efforts and political efforts held by the climate change movers and shakers. There simply seems to be no stopping these passionate folk, no matter how unwilling large governments are to take action.
For me the story is not so simple. Though most would agree that the verdict is out – and man is responsible for some degree of climate change, this fact however is still highly contested. There are still many reputable scientist that have not moved onto the activist side of the fence, and still question the effect man has really had. Sure humans has done an innumerable amount of damage to Mother Earth, from polluting water ways, polluting the air, and polluting the food systems, but have we gone as far as to create global climate change?
The reason I bring this up is because we are all so conditioned to jump on the bandwagon. By simply looking outside and seeing the amount of development and smog in the air, its easy to agree with someone who is screaming climate change. However, the focus of COP21, the Kyoto Protocol and future negotiant are centered around carbon emissions. SO what does that mean? that means every human is a polluter by virtue of being alive. That means volcanoes, who pollute enormous amounts of CO2, well over what humans have created with industry, are polluters. So are we going to start seeing all these natural processes, like humans breathing, animals breathing, and volcanoes erupting as pollution? If so, does that mean we will be taxed for breathing, just as governments are being taxed for their carbon emissions? I bet so…
I am personally on the ball with everyone until we get to that point where we discuss who will foot the bill. I have mentioned the authority corporations currently have in the geo-political space in previous posts, and how with litigation and favorable law making have resulted in corporations being able to move around regulations and potential financial pitfalls. Where society at large is not so fortunate, taxes on average have gone up, and public welfare has gone down. So who do I think will get caught with footing the bill for all this corporate pollution? Me and you of course.
I’m sure their will be future legislation that will be global in effect, or at least a trans-national, to tax the public for carbon emissions. Parents will probably have to pay for their household emissions, and we will probably all celebrate as they reduce lower Co2 emission taxes from time to time (just like gas prices). Where as corporations will be rewarded as being job creators, and pay little to no carbon taxes, despite the heavy Co2 emissions they produce. However they put it, whether its citizens directly paying the tax, or governments, the publics tax money will still go towards paying for CO2 emissions that most of us having nothing to do with.
Im in agreement that something needs to be done, but lets pass this off to corporations on a global level, since they are the insidious polluters in the first place. And lets look at all at the science, and not just be caroled into a mental and physical framework that makes us believe the world is going down the toilet and the only way to save it it to pay more money in taxes. I want to hear about local action we can take to help the earth, not just be reliant on global policy makers to save the world for us. For now that is all I have to stay, but I will follow this up as we learn more from COP21.