The last few days have, for once, seen world leaders and the global media focussed on the big issues of our time: poverty, inequality and the dangers of climate change. President Obama admitted he acted too late on climate change and agreed with China´s President Xi Jinping on very significant —if still insufficient—additional actions. The Pope called on governments to act, not just declare that they will, the UN agreed on a new to-do list for humanity, including giving energy access to all via more renewable energy and calling for an end to deforestation. Some 30 world leaders agreed at climate lunch that more needs to be done to shift to renewable energy and that they must agree in Paris on a long term clean energy vision. At the same time, thousands around the world joined the latest action day to put additional pressure on governments and businesses to act.
Not too bad for one weekend! There is clear momentum to take #ActionsonClimate on the road to the Paris climate summit later this year – and, crucially, beyond. The climate crisis will require us to act courageously going forward, independent of what exactly world leaders decide at #COP21.
But the last few days have also often left me feeling uncomfortable. There was a mood of self-congratulation in New York. Governments and business suggested in their speeches that all is under control, that we are already on track to solve the big issues and that all are united in doing the right thing.
I wish that was true, but I know it is not. There is still so much hypocrisy in the announcements of so many governments, as my friend, Salil Shetty, the head of Amnesty International, pointed out in his powerful speech the UN summit. We still face too many vested interests that stand in the way of a clean and safe future. Too many governments are turning a blind eye to corporate abuses that poison us—as the Volkswagen scandal has once again exposed in recent days. President Obama, in crass contradiction to his fine words, is still allowing Shell to drill for more oil in the Arctic —oil that must remain in the ground. And while we know that there are no technical and economic barriers to achieving 100% renewables for all by 2050 worldwide, even progressive governments this weekend only committed to decarbonization by the end of this century. By which time it will be too late.
We must redouble our efforts. We must expose these contradictions. We must tell the stories of real transformation that are already underway, stories like this one from Canada, where the community of Little Buffalo, in the heart of the oil rich tar sands, decided to forge a new future and become powered by the sun.
Tune in to the Social Goods Summit Livestream tomorrow to hear me speak about the acts of courage we must take now at the Social Goods summit.
Dr Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.
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