COP26 and Jersey's Role in Tackling Climate Change
I am writing this piece following attendance at the GLOBE summit for COP26. This is part of my role with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) committee on climate change. My particular interest is the role of small islands in leading the response to climate change.
It has been an honour to communicate with other parliamentarians from around the world. This certainly puts the issue into perspective. You may be interested in my last blog which included a piece written for “Parliamentarian” magazine about small islands and climate change. You can find it here.
Jersey is some way along the path to understanding the threat of climate change. Indeed we have declared a climate change emergency and made an initial commitment to Carbon neutrality. And I use the word initial on purpose.
Jersey has undertaken a Citizens assembly which has reported back and made a number of recommendations. And the Government of jersey has produced a Carbon Neutral Roadmap preferred strategy, that will be debated in the States chamber very soon.
So where are we and why was I so critical in a recent radio interview. Well the radio interview was an honest exposition of my concerns. And that is my role as a political representative. So I will analyse this further and link to some of the input from the COP26 GLOBE summit.
The biggest obstacles to change and addressing climate change as an emergency in Jersey is perceived cost and the belief from some that we are too small to matter. The Carbon Neutral roadmap being brought by government limits actions to be taken according to the funding available. This makes sense to many. So where can the money come from?
This was a major theme through the COP26. One speaker who was a renowned economist explained how private finance around climate needs to be 23 times quicker. He referred to a blended approach to the funding of the world's response to the climate crisis. An example was Offshore wind in Scotland which started public finance now private companies are the driving factor. This does not sit particularly easily with my politics but it is clear that to genuinely react to the climate situation and the infrastructure and economic changes needed, we will need to assess Public/Private relationships. Regulation by state was frequently referred to as important in directing change. More of this later.
But one key point was the understanding that decisions made should be considered as those for several generations. Short term difficulties must be considered in the context of coming generations. And not simply one or two generations that are here now. The concept of “Polluter Pays” has support. But too often it is the individual that is focused upon rather than the large companies making vast profits from Fossil Fuels.
So what of regulation. This is a frightening concept to many who consider the free market as sacred. But in the context of climate change that does not respect borders, we have to look at regulation in a different way.
One very interesting speaker delivered a powerful argument for a Fossil Fuel non-proliferation treaty. Analogous to nuclear proliferation. The existential threat we face from both acting as the link in this analogy. Interesting that it was stated that the Paris agreement at no time mentioned fossil fuels directly.
Indeed, it seems that fossil fuel companies are allowed to design their own decline. Perhaps some do not want to lose what they have.
It is clear that no one should be financing fossil fuels. Currently, $11.2 Million (dollars) per minute is spent in fossil fuel subsidies. A staggering figure which matches those used when discussing the response to climate change, Jersey companies will be benefiting from this investment. Indeed, so might your pension. So can a treaty that controls and determines the removal of Fossil fuels as a viable business option both speed up the change and coordinate the demise in a more meaningful way. Countries are looking at this as a way forward. As a business and finance centre, Jersey must be part of these discussions. Laurence Tibiana European climate change foundation - architect of paris agreement stated that - Greenwashing the new climate change denial. Governments have a key role, however large or small, in preventing this.
It is also vital to widen the understanding of the situation we are in as a planet. Dr David Cooper (UN convention on Biodiversity) made clear that countries living in current 1.2oC increase are already seeing destruction of Biodiversity. Each degree or part of a degree of warming exacerbates this destruction. A 2oC rise being twice as bad as a 1.5oC rise. The intimate relationship between Climate change and the impacts on threats to Biodiversity must be understood. As so clearly explained we must all be ecologically literate. Particularly our legislators. Which means that nature based solutions such as preventing deforestation, sustainable farming methods, protecting Biodiversity etc must be addressed with emission reduction. And in turn we must address emissions reduction to enable these nature based protections.
One key outcome of this is the possible effect of offsetting our emissions rather than reducing them. This could be counter intuitive and lead to effects on Biodiversity. Same with biofuels. Again understanding is key and a strong legislative framework will be essential.
As we consider this, we come to a very interesting and powerful idea suggested by a great speaker named Jojo Mehtah from a group called Stop Ecocide. Is it time for an Ecocide law? This is a vehicle for driving change to treat mass destruction of nature in the same way as international laws addressing genocide. After all, many populations, in particular indigenous peoples, are having their lives destroyed by a combination of habitat destruction for profit and the real consequences of climate change. Climate change does not know jurisdiction boundaries. So an international response to laws is required.
An area of real interest is the use of Environmental impact assessments on policies re climate and biodiversity. This is a process of monitoring the impact of actions. In any emergency mistakes will be made. Rather than governments being defensive, this is a way to reassess as we go. Set strict targets and be realistic but do not give up before we start. Particularly on small islands. We will lose the ability to be agile as a small jurisdiction. A Balance between short term challenging targets and a long term assessment of their success will maintain a sense of urgency to act and will be more beneficial. And there is a good argument that acting earlier is both cheaper in the long term and gives a “First mover Advantage”. Something addressed by Caroline Lucas. A green party MP. Regardless of your political hue, this is an interesting concept and needs to be explored,
Young people have been at the forefront of action on climate change. The Scottish youth parliament presented their work which includes 41 calls for action. Tangible ideas for change and action that must be addressed if we are genuinely going to accept Article 12 of the UNCRC (United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child) and listen to the voices of children. I encourage young people in Jersey to act in the same way. It was clear from Jersey's Youth Parliament that climate change is at the top of the agenda.
So what about Jersey. A small island with big ambitions in this area. I believe the discourse is changing. As little as 4 years ago, climate change was not discussed at the council of ministers. Or across government in general. But this changed with a declaration of a climate change emergency. A move not from the government, but from the backbenches. And that was very ambitious.
By setting ourselves a challenging target without the backstop of Carbon offsetting, we maintain our ability to be agile and react quickly as a small island. We promote the development and testing of new technologies. Mistakes will be made. They are during an emergency. But actions will be taken and there will be many successes.
Adding 20 years to a target, aligning with a larger country and targets made for them will remove this agility. And the chance to gain from what I heard referred to as the “first mover advantage”. Indeed, the compromises made at COP26 will prove to be a triumph for Corporate colonialism over the needs of the planet.
We must remember that the damage being done to Biodiversity and climate changing emissions are inextricably linked. Both must be addressed together. Prioritising either is a mistake and will not address the problems.
It is clear that we need a Green 'New Deal'. A movement which is growing across parties and political groups in the UK and beyond. The need for socio economic justice along with the environment and ecosystem is clear. Too often, and this is happening in the discussions in Jersey, those least able to pay for change are not considered in the narrowed discussions on climate change and how we address the issue. We need a change from measuring GDP (Gross Domestic Product) from simple monetary indicators of wealth, to wider indicators of health, environment and well being. The pandemic has taught us this.
A powerful contribution from the conference I attended was from a Deputy who had come from the Brazil Amazon and spoke about the reality of climate injustice and threats to populations. Climate change does not recognise inequality but inequality is amplified by climate change. And that is in all societies regardless of size or their own emissions.
Acting early and with the wider thoughts of what our economy is for will mean a more secure future for Jersey.
We are a small island. But we must all be ecologically literate. That includes a new economy. We must avoid the vicious cycle of negative climate impact and create a virtuous one. Jersey can not only be part of this. But can lead the way. And can play our part in the same way all others have to. If you think being small means you do not count. Trying sleeping with a mosquito.