Going Directionless: The Disease of Climate Dialogue

As weird as it may have seemed, Greta Thunberg’s sea voyage from Europe to New York is the latest environmental scandal for the irrationals. For the rational(s), she was only biding time to save more than 500 kilograms of carbon dioxide; by taking on a zero emission yacht, Thunberg invited more hypocrisy than appreciation. In almost a decade, a young Swedish activist has put the climate issue on stage, like never before, her bold statements are not asking for swifter actions. It rather sounds like a threat for a global action against the prolonged inaction. Unfortunately, such antics are the only way the world has ever managed to acknowledge the devastating effects of climate change.

This year in September, UN Chief, Antonio Guterres, called international stakeholders to New York; the United Nations Climate Action Summit was rather rushed in the wake of the Paris treaty. Here is the third problem. Guterres convened the meeting to inspire world leaders to enhance their already existing climate ambition. New York was anticipating for an aggressive upgrade in future plans to curb the effects of climate change. Yet, the language was old, climate scientists will testify the scale of ambition required in policies and consumption patterns. While the conference itself was aimed for an action platform, it however, did not live up to its expectations. Participating nations arrived unprepared with expected upgrades; nevertheless, their willingness to seek interaction demands acknowledgement. Climate strategies need time for evaluation and policy recovery. As such, the meeting was in haste. Therefore, it is of no surprise why Thunberg’s voyage became the most talking point.

Climate meetings have seen it all. It is by far the most resourceful experience of how governments apply trickery and treachery, behind explicit promises. As much as new age governmentalism would bereft from the events that led to the Paris treaty, climate dialogue has disappointed to extremes that likeminded stakeholders would no longer trust the global institution. Of particular mention is the Climate Conference held in Durban, South Africa (2011); India, China and the United States retracted from their past promises, rather sensationally, they instead vowed to work on a legally binding treaty, latest by 2015. This is the second order of problem. Appeasement is abundant for dishonest nations, and unlike other global institutions, international policing is absent. There are incentives for the signatories of carbon trading mechanisms but punishment for slackers is non-existent. The viruses of non-conviction have paralyzed climate dialogues. Greta Thunberg had a face when she spoke to the older generation of decision makers; the world has truly failed to make baby steps when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.

This is the first problem. In 1997, Kyoto hosted the first legally binding climate treaty conference. It was proven that human beings would need to limit rising earth temperatures by 2°C.Almost twenty-two years later, Greta’s adventure points to our failure to address the basic climate change problem-reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The year 2019 would have been more about alternative energies and sustainable policies, had climate dialogue taken a more concentrated approach. More than ten climate meetings later, climate dialogue is looping without oxygen; disastrously, world leaders have failed to address the first step. 22 years later, humankind living in emancipated societies cannot yet agree on a collective plan to phase out dirty emissions.

Nation states are still making excuses. Behind Guterres’ hastiness lies the dangerous reality of catastrophe. Regardless of our immediate actions, by 2050, most of the island nations are going under water; ecosystems are going to collapse, our food supplies will take a major hit and fresh water will dwindle by more than 30%. For the climate irrationals, at least, Thunberg is not doing dialogues, she is doing action.

Sisir Devkota
Sisir Devkota
Global Affairs Analyst based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Founder, Trainer & Researcher at "The Protocol" which facilitates analytical research on current affairs and workshops on Diplomacy and Leadership. Masters of Social Science in Democracy & Global Transformations from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Author for a book chapter titled as "Armed Conflicts in South Asia 2013".