Paris a test of world leaders' resolve

By Op Rana
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, December 3, 2015
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Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015.[Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015.[Xinhua]

Paris started the year on a tragic note. The terrorist attack on the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan 7 killed 12 people and injured 11. Ten months later, Paris suffered the worst terrorist attack Europe has seen since the 2004 Madrid bombings; the coordinated attacks on Nov 13 claimed at least 129 innocent lives and left more than 350 injured.

Less than three weeks after the deadly attacks, Paris hosted what many see as a breakthrough UN climate change conference. Many want Paris to end the year on a positive note. If it does, that would be a fitting reply, in true French tradition, to the menace that is terrorism. After all, French President Francois Hollande paid homage to the Nov 13 victims on Friday saying that instead of being cowed by acts of terrorists, France would "sing even more ... They (the terrorists) cultivate death, but we have love for life".

The love for life, however, requires some sacrifices, the sacrifice of wealth and power, and most of all of greed. World leaders know full well what needs to be done to save our planet. They know natural disasters are wreaking havoc across the world, and we humans are mostly responsible for them. They know that this year could be the warmest in recorded history.

The UN weather body, in fact, declared last month that the global temperature this year is set to rise 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or halfway toward the targeted UN ceiling of 2 C. If this indeed is the case, voluntary carbon-reducing pledges submitted by countries, even if totally adhered to, will raise global temperatures by 2.75 C to 3.5 C, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has said.

Despite this, world leaders know that if they take action now they could still save the planet from doom. Even climate skeptics accept that greenhouse gas emissions have to be reduced, although some of them suggest the use of advanced technology to do so, instead of reducing the use of fossil fuel and restricting economic growth to the optimum, as opposed to the maximum.

But the world's obsession with growth will not allow that. The global consensus (excluding the opinions of some climate skeptics who seem to be advocates of big business) is that we have to restrict the rise of global temperatures below 2 C, or else our planet could spiral out of control. That goal already seems beyond reach thanks to the world's greed for profit.

And it is this greed that in more ways than one has fuelled terrorism. If religious terrorists have misread the sermons of prophets to become desperate to secure their afterlife by trying to force their way of life on others, the wealthy and the powerful are obsessed with securing their future by making more money and shaping the world according to their beliefs. Both are harmful for the planet.

Sunday was the biggest climate action day in history, marked by processions and protests across the world, including in Paris. The more than 130 heads of state and government who have gathered in Paris know the difference between the demands of an overwhelming majority of the global population and the minority that includes the rich, climate skeptics and terrorists. The world leaders have gathered in Paris with the promise of fighting climate change, as well as to express solidarity with France in the fight against terrorism. But they also know terrorism has become the biggest immediate threat to humankind because its root causes were not addressed in time.

Climate change is no different from terrorism. We have allowed it to gather strength for much too long. It is already spreading terror across the world, especially among the poor who have contributed the least or nothing to its strength. In every way, climate change is more devastating than the Islamic State group for humankind. Whether or not Paris will see the world rise as one against climate change, as it has against the IS group, will depend on the world leaders.

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