The 4th and Final Blog from Ian Lumley of An Taisce at COP22 in Marrakech

18th November 2016
Press Release

(This is the last of a series of Blogs from Marrakech by Ian Lumley giving his impressions of the event).

Climate Justice Day at COP22 Marrakech

17 Nov, was Climate Justice Day at COP22, and marked by a number of events with Mary Robinson taking a prominent role, and giving extensive interviews in the media area.

Alas Climate Justice principles featured little in the business industry and national Governments dominated presentations on which I have focused attendance over the last two weeks.

There was an unspoken assumption pervading all of the mainstream sessions and events at COP, that the current developed world model of economic growth and consumption levels is a given. It was only at one NGO co coordinated event on agriculture, that I would hear one of the speakers from the Netherlands representing the Global Forest Coalition raising the reality of planetary boundaries. When discussing the impact of the western lifestyle on the developing world with one of the side event organisers, a European living in China for the last year, their answer was that "we" do not have the right to question the growing expectation of developing countries. I had to try to give the challenging answer that the western lifestyle is unsustainable in having an ecological and resource footprint requiring more than three planets, if it were to extended to a rising global population, and that the developed world had to change.

In most of the national pavilion and main "side events" co coordinated by UN and other international organisations, Governments, business and industry groups, there were no NGOs on the panel presentations. The few NGOs who were on platforms were obliged to be part of the system, understandably seeking to engage in and influence the process by becoming specialist in the torturous negotiations of carbon pricing, carbon offsetting, financial mechanisms, and the bewildering number of acronyms this world has generated. Again and again, a speaker advocating a positive energy and transport decarbonisation action like solar investment, has to bend over backwards to justify it on the grounds that it would not conflict with, or would even have a positive economic benefit in jobs and growth.

It was Sadhbh O Neill, representing Friends of the Irish Environment, who raised ethical questions at agricultural and aviation events. When Andrew Murphy of the Brussels based Transport and the Environment (T&E) was able to ask Dr Fang Lui Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN body, about the impact of airport expansion, her reply was that aviation put flowers and fruit on "our" tables.

Most striking, was the tone and content of the intensive full day presentations under the title of “Agriculture and Food Security Action Event @ COP22" on 16th November, Co-hosted by the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, FAO and other organisations.

A FAO policy document circulated on the table outside the conference hall had the title “The State of Food and Agriculture - Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security” under “responding to climate change mitigation” it had the statement: "Rebalancing diets towards less animal - sourced foods. - Could help reduce GHGs and pressure on natural resources with co - benefits for human health"

None of these concerns were reflected during the 8, usually 5 of 6 speaker, platform presentations throughout the day, which opened with a group including the EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, French agriculture minister Stephane Le Foll, Emanuel Faber CEO Danone, and Laura Tuck of World Bank. Detailed presentations followed for most of the day pervaded by the phrases "sustainable intensification" and "climate smart agriculture".

Jean Baptiste Dolle, Head of Environment Department, French Livestock Institute was promoting "Life Beef Carbon". This programme in 4 EU countries including Ireland was lapped up by the largely agri-business audience. It is the methodology by which beef is accounted for according to carbon footprint and the aim is to achieve marginal abatement. This does not address the reality that beef, whether sourced from Europe or South America, still has a very high carbon footprint. At one point the moderator of the morning part of the conference, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences of Ohio State University, Rattan Lal, referred in passing and uncritically to the massive additional tonnage of animals agriculture needs in future decades. Absent in the panels, was any critique of the climate, health or resource consumption impact of extending the western beef and dairy diet to developing countries. I was given the opportunity to raise questions on the WHO and other studies on heath impact of beef and diary, and the overarching one is “Is the promotion of increased animal agriculture by the EU, New Zealand and other developed countries to extend the western beef and dairy diet to the growing middle classes of the developing world compatible with the Paris Agreement Climate targets, food security, heath, biodiversity and global food nutrition justice?”

In contract to the Siamese twin like relationship between global agribusiness and the Departments of Agriculture in nearly all national Governments, it was refreshing to meet organisations working on food, health and sustainability issues, including Amal El Bekri of RAPAD Morocco, concerned with the decline in traditional low meat Moroccan food and the rise of the global burger and pizza diet, and the New York based Brightergreen.org, which focuses on both animal and human welfare.

It was also encouraging to see the International National Trust Organisation (INTO), of which An Taisce is part taking such as strong role in highlighting the impact to the culture of threatened communities for the Artic to the Caribbean and Pacific islands, and to the impact of climate on Cultural heritage.

Preparing to leave COP, and the fascinating city of Marrakech, after Climate Justice Day for the return rail and sea journey is to be both overwhelmed and energised. The scale of the issue and actions required on climate, consumption health and global equity is immense, but being here gives an unparalleled insight into how global systems work. The response of the environmental movement should be to establish a wider alliance with health and development organisations and society at large, in what is above all an ethical question, for which Climate Justice principles now enshrined in Irish law under the 2015 Climate Act provide the answer.

Ian Lumley, Marrakech

ENDS

Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.