So, it’s the Rio summit again. And it seems that over the last 20 years, we have gone backwards. We have made some changes, sure. But worst of all, we seem to have stopped caring. With some of the world’s most powerful leaders not even turning up (hello, Obama, Cameron and Merkel) and the likely feeble outcomes, it’s hard to see why they’re even bothering. The text so far has been described as notable only for it’s “lack of clear commitments, timetables, financing or means of monitoring progress” (The Guardian). The problem seems to be partly the same as that at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 – dilution of many of the goals by developing nations who are often unfairly disadvantaged by them. But it’s also partly an apparent lack of imagination and willpower amongst nations that should be setting the way forward.
The cause of this failure of leadership is likely to be the current economic crises around the world. The environment is being pushed onto the backburner, while politicians scramble for ways to reboot their countries’ economies. It’s understandable…but it overlooks a few key things. Firstly, investment in clean energy technology is likely to generate more job growth which in turn will impact the rest of the market – more jobs means more disposable income, means more spending in other parts of the economy. In 2009, the Pew Center described the clean energy economy as being ‘poised for explosive growth’ and there are numerous examples of where green energy investment has led to significant job creation (one such example is Ontario, Canada).
Secondly, unless action is taken now, we will be paying dearly later. If climate change reaches its predicted worse-case-scenario, there will be enormous numbers of hungry, poor and ill environmental refugees turning up on the doorstep of these developed nations. And we won’t know what to do about it.
I’ll be interested to see how the summit progresses, but I can’t say I’m hopeful. At the moment it seems like a fancy, empty PR exercise on the road to nothing.