Thursday, 12 July 2018

Pass on Paris? A change in times, and the ill-fitting accord we’re lumbered with

I get it. There is a changing climate. There are apparently rising sea levels. There’s predicted temperature rises. There’s abnormal weather patterns. I get it. Climate change this, climate change that, and all the rest. It’s not that we haven’t heard about the apparent risk of climate change. It’s not that we haven’t been fed all of the garbage about massive human causes behind climate change. Even if that were real, Paris still wouldn’t work. The push to leave Paris isn’t about the validity of climate change – it’s whether the accord actually works. Surely, on this front, the strongest climate change ambassadors should be calling for the accord to be torn apart. Here’s why.

Why we actually joined in the first place

Image result for tony abbott paris
Abbott, despite signing the Paris Climate Accords, is calling for Australia to
abandon the deal
The debate about leaving the Paris Climate Accord is filled with those calling out “well why did we join in the first place if we’re going to leave?”. These questions, in particular, have been targeted towards former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is one of the high-profile politicians calling for the fall of the Paris Climate Accord. At a first glance, they may have a point. Why would we leave something like the Paris Accord which is so good?

Except, it was good. It isn’t anymore – and this is all based off the claim that humans have caused the climatic changes that are apparently going to ravage the world irreparably. Paris (The Paris Climate Accord) used to represent an international effort to tackle an environmental problem that was, perhaps for the first time in history, truly international. Paris was an agreement to lower emissions together in order to globally challenge climate change – it aimed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2˚, 1.5˚ if possible. Paris represented equal responsibility for the solution – each nation would push to lower emissions in order to reach this global target.

Isn’t this the case? Has the status quo changed?

Image result for chinese emissions rise 1.7% 2017
Despite signing the accord, India and China have continued to maintain, and
raise, their emissions. Are they really taking Paris seriously?
Well, this simply isn’t the case anymore. This theory – that everyone would work together to lower emissions – is exactly that; a theory. It was a hopeful accord that hasn’t worked. One quick look at the emissions that China and India push out is a testament to that.  China is the largest polluter in the world –in 2017 it’s emissions actually rose by 1.7%, while the whole of Asia saw a 3% increase in emissions. That is powered by coal-reliant nations like India, Indonesia, and China in the region, ignoring their pledge at Paris. This hope, that we would all lower our emissions in a global effort simply doesn’t hold true. Australia is this little island down the bottom that holds true to its agreements when no-one else does. Paris has become tokenistic – a feeble, unbacked attempt where everyone pretends to do their bit, but truly doesn’t – and yet we still hang in there. Maybe this is because we don’t want to leave the theatre – sure, everyone’s pretending to be abiding by it, but if you call them out, if you leave the party, then they call you out for it. Despite the fact the accord doesn’t work, they demonise you for abandoning a sinking ship. That’s what we’ve seen with Trump’s exit from the Accord. We’ve seen continued backlash at America for leaving the Accord and no one calling out China. That’s despite a 0.5% drop in US emissions in 2017 compared to China’s growth of 17.%. So those that are actually making small steps towards change are being called out against the bigger polluters in the world. It’s also what we’ve seen at the calling for Syria and Nicaragua – the other nations not in the accord – to join. Ignoring the fact that they happen to be 53rd and 129th ranked in global emission charts respectively. So those that don’t pollute that much, but don’t go to play are admonished, while others continue the polluting? It doesn’t make sense. And that kind of unnecessary, unbacked backlash is what we’ll see if we are to leave. And that’s why spineless Turnbull won’t leave.

Is abiding by the accord actually harming us?

But sticking to the terms – unlike anyone else – is actually hurting us. Because while we plan National Energy Guarantees that guarantee unreliable energy, coal-fired power stations are opening across the world. While we close ours, they open in other countries that are a part of this accord. The largest coal-fired power station in the world is being planned to be built in Egypt (one of the Paris Accord’s signatories) by a Chinese consortium. So, while we play by the rules, we’re actually making our energy sources unreliable while other, major, players in the accord do the exact opposite. It’s hurting our energy sources, and it’s making it harder for Australian households to bear the burdens of daily living expenses – bills have gone up by 183% over the last two decades. I have no doubt that that can’t be felt in the Lodge or Parliament House, but on ‘struggle street’ – at the grassroots level – it’s a major concern.

So, if major players are either leaving or simply ignoring the terms – if the accord isn’t working – then why are we staying? Why are we voluntarily harming ourselves while China, India and the US sit there and laugh? It’s time that our leaders woke up to how deeply they’ve been played, and start taking action that, instead of pleasing Merkel or any other well-to-do politicians in Europe, actually helps those that vote – the people.