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Mainstream Vol. XLVIII, No 17, April 17, 2010

Climate Change and Justice

A World Plan to Reduce GHG Emissions Adequately while Meeting Basic Needs of All and Ensuring Disarmament

Monday 19 April 2010, by Bharat Dogra

While the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions adequately and with the greatest urgency is widely recognised, this extremely important issue has not yet become an issue of mass mobilisation particularly among weaker sections. The reason is obvious—people are too involved in their day-to-day problems. On the other hand, if any world level planning for reducing GHG emissions is linked to meeting the basic needs of all people, then this will be a plan in which all weaker sections will have a vital stake. Hence mass mobilisation on such a plan for meeting GHG emission reduction targets while meeting basic needs of all will be possible. This will also increase the opportunities for movements of justice and peace to work in close collobaration with the environmental movement.

Actually as soon as such a plan is prepared it becomes obvious that in terms of the constraints of carbon space and other related constraints, there is no place in such a plan for most waseful production and consumption as well as for weapons. Hence disarmament and concerns of the peace movement are built into such a plan.

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The very pressing need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions adequately is now widely recognised, but a plan to achieve this needs to be integrated with a plan to meet the basic needs of all.

This plan will have the following components:

1. All wasteful forms of consumption will be listed carefully and quantified. Those forms of wasteful consumption which involve particularly high GHG emissions will also be identified and quantified. A time-bound plan will be prepared to reduce all wasteful consumption as much as possible.

2. In particular an effort will be made to stop the production of all weapons to the maximum extent possible. In addition to the previously known reasons for disarmament, we now have the additional reason of trying to curb all wasteful/harmful manufacture due to the urgent need to reduce GHG emissions.

3. Possibilities of war and civil strife should
be minimised, as apart from causing enormous distress to people modern wars and the pre-paration for such wars involve a lot of GHG emission.

4. A plan to increase the production of food, other goods and services to meet the basic needs of all in the world should be prepared, together with the most environment friendly and least GHG emitting technologies that can be used for this purpose. This plan should be implemented in such a way as to ensure maximum local self-reliance in meeting basic needs, so that unnecessary transport is avoided and maximum local employment is generated.

5. The socio-economic changes that are needed to ensure that the adequate availability of all goods and services to meet all basic needs can actually be accessed by all should be identified and implemented.

6. Energy planning should focus on replacing fossil fuels with solar, wind, hydrogen and other technologies which avoid or minimise GHG emissions and are environment friendly.

7. All new technologies that are necessary for reducing GHG emissions and related objectives should be free from patents so that these can be used as widely as possible whenever needed. But technology transfer has its limits and local solutions for local problems should get the most encouragement while keeping the door open for any input from outside when needed.

8. As far as possible, no remaining natural forests should be cut. Timber needs should be curtailed as much as possible. Forest-dwellers or people living near forests should get first rights over minor forest produce, while also accepting responsibility for protecting forests. They should not be displaced but instead should be involved (with adequate incentives) in the protection of forests and wild life.

9. Very high priority should be given to reducing pollution and protecting habitats so that conditions for the healthy living of all life forms, whether on land or in water, can improve significantly.

10. Farming and village based life and livelihood patterns should get more help and priority compared to big industry and city based life and livelihood patterns. Small-farmer based farming using environment friendly methods to produce healthy food with kind care of farm-animals should get the top-most priority and help.

11. Top priority should be given to protecting fresh water sources and conserving water.

12. All hazardous products, technologies, substances and chemicals should be carefully monitored and reduced.

An important role of this plan will be to make it very clear that if the constraints relating to carbon space (keeping emission levels low enough to restrict global warming at most to 20C) and other related constraints are to be respected, then now there is no room for wasteful consumption and energy-use, for weapons production, wars, deforestation and increasing exploitation of fossil fuels. Once the constraints are clearly understood, then the case for strictly using the available resources and carbon space for meeting only the basic needs of all becomes very compelling and strong.

The author is currently a Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.

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