Climate emergency, democracy and social cohesion |  Opinion

Climate emergency, democracy and social cohesion | Opinion

In memory of Olof Palme

The Sharm el Sheikh climate summit has ended. Real progress has been made in the concept of “loss and damage”, which will undoubtedly contribute to improving the deteriorated confidence of the countries of the global south towards the more developed ones. However, regarding climate ambition, the summit has been disappointing. The agreement that emerged from COP27 does not measure up to the seriousness expressed by the latest IPCC report, which the United Nations Secretary General himself, António Guterres, has described as a “red alert for humanity.” The momentum for climate action expressed in Glasgow has slowed. The European Union has found itself almost alone in pushing that agenda. In a year in which the climatic impacts have been very serious in all parts of the world, it is still surprising, to put it kindly, the slowness in the response of the international community. In any case, the massive financial assistance that countries in the global south need to strengthen their resilience is a central element of climate justice, so this important step should be celebrated. Likewise, the resumption of climate talks between the United States and China in the framework of the parallel meeting of the G-20 in Indonesia, as well as the offer of President-elect Lula da Silva to hold the 2025 climate summit in Brazil, which, if confirmed, it would have all the ingredients to become a very relevant milestone in the global climate response.

From Egypt 2022 to Sweden 1972, half a century of climate-environmental commitment that invites a brief reflection. In 1972, the first world conference on the environmental problems of humanity took place in Stockholm under the leadership of the Swedish Prime Minister, the Social Democrat Olof Palme, who would also become President of the Socialist International. The result of it was the implementation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which in 1988 promoted the creation, together with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ), whose role has been decisive in analyzing the most serious threat of our time.

Since that date, the understanding that we inhabit a finite planet has become widespread in which, as a result of anthropic processes, serious environmental problems have emerged that put the continuity of the human adventure on Earth at risk, at least in the current form of complex societies. We have collided with planetary ecological limits, and the spillover of various tipping points in the climate system poses a formidable threat on the horizon. This serious crisis has a special impact on the lifestyles, health and well-being of the most humble societies, the global south, precisely those that, by far, have contributed the least to the destabilization of the climate. According to the latest IPCC report, 3.5 billion human beings live in environments that are highly vulnerable to climate change. Consequently, a question of global justice and equity that makes the aforementioned topic of losses and damages so relevant.

The demand for international economic aid by these countries takes place in a context of sharply rising energy costs, which, according to the International Energy Agency (WEO, 2022), has generated profits of two trillion dollars for energy companies. hydrocarbons (oil, gas and coal) and electricity. These immense extraordinary benefits, the result of the brutal invasion of Ukraine, as well as the design of the respective markets, should contribute to alleviating the effects of a climate crisis caused by the emissions of these fossil fuels, as well as financing a good part of the policies aimed at alleviating the consequences of inflation on families and companies. The shock in supply derived from the use of oil and gas exports as vectors of power at the service of the Kremlin and the consequent aggravation of the highest inflation in the last 40 years cannot be paid exclusively by the middle and working classes or the small and medium-sized classes Business.

What is at stake with a distribution of costs that is perceived as fair by the social majority is not just an economic question. We are witnessing the third shock in the last 15 years, after the Great Recession (2008-2012) and the contraction derived from the covid pandemic (2020), and the social seams of democratic countries are under stress. The rise of far-right movements has been fueled to a large extent by this underlying social discontent. The solidity and durability of our democracies ultimately rests on a society that needs to feel that democratic institutions are useful for the defense of its interests and its quality of life. The covid experience has shown that public institutions are crucial to leave no one behind. A self-perceived society as a community is not a jungle; in it people protect each other through institutions aimed at preserving the common good. And when society is cohesive, it becomes resistant to the attacks derived from the inevitable technological, economic, energetic and geopolitical transformations of the contemporary world. On this fertile soil, it is much more difficult for insurgent social and political movements to succeed, such as those that led the assault on constitutional institutions on January 6, 2021 in the oldest democracy in the world. In other words, distributive policies are also decisive for protecting and consolidating democracy and its institutions.

The current global energy crisis is, according to the International Energy Agency, a watershed as were the shocks of oil in 1973 and 1979. And, in contrast to what some simplistic considerations have hastened to diagnose, the energy transition towards savings —it is essential to advance in sobriety in our way of life—, efficiency and renewables not only is not going away to stop, but rather to speed up. For the first time in contemporary history, three powerful reasons are aligned in favor of this transformation: the climate emergency, the high relative costs of fossil fuels and the realization that depending on oil and gas imports supposes a strategic vulnerability that external actors can handle. And the transformation towards savings and renewables is the only option capable of satisfactorily responding to this triple equation. Along the way there is undoubtedly the risk of denialist positions and, above all, of “retardists”, who without denying climate change question the compatibility of climate action with economic prosperity. Nothing, however, is more false: in Spain, climate action supported by European Next Generation funds will mean the creation of thousands of jobs and will place our country at the forefront of innovation. The response to the climate emergency is the decisive political and moral struggle of our time, and the energy transition is at the heart of its solution.

From Sharm el Sheikh to Stockholm, after half a century of tireless struggle for contemporary environmentalism, the influence of that visionary leader Olof Palme continues to inspire our unwavering commitment to the most vulnerable, to the young and to future generations.

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