When calls for action fall on deaf ears

Another declaration was released last week about holding high emitting countries to account on climate change. This time by the Pacific Islands Development Forum group of leaders endorsing the Nadi Bay Declaration on the Climate Change Crisis in the Pacific. The leaders expressed a “deep concern about the lack of comprehension, ambition, or commitment shown by developed nations” on climate change.

Declarations of climate emergency, calls for urgent action, high level statements and shaming big countries are a constant now – through mainstream media headlines and prominently shared in social media circles all over the world.

The calls are loud and clear – something has to be done to reverse the damage or at the very least slow it down. The science is clear on ways to decrease emissions – yet the big announcements or response for clear and direct action are somehow lacking from any of the countries, industries and corporations that count.

China, US, Russia and India continue to lead the worlds share of carbon dioxide emissions through mass scale energy production, agriculture and land use industry and transportation.

Sad Truth

The sad truth is – profits and convenience trump morals and social responsibility for the industries responsible for the majority of emissions to date. Countries hosting those high emitting industries are reliant on private sector investment and growth to prosper as nations – and as long as their economies lead, there’s little incentive to make a shift. It’s a vicious cycle, and that cycle is apparent in the actions and notions expressed by leaders of the US and Australia among others.

The calls for action, the declarations and the crisis like pleas from small islands and those at the frontlines of natures wrath due to our actions, fall on deaf ears. So what will it take to change? Strong actions from Governments in the Pacific have been noted, Samoa included climate change as part of its National Security Policy in 2018 – we saw this as an issue before it was even declared an emergency situation by others around the world.

S.A.M.O.A Pathway

In 2014 with strong leadership from the Pacific– the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (Samoa Pathway) was launched and endorse – which recognized the adverse impacts of climate change compounding existing challenges in small island developing States and have placed additional burdens on their national budgets and their efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals. The inclusion of climate in the SAMOA Pathway highlighted a drive by small islands globally to influence the global conversation and action on climate action for the benefit of islands ability to achieve the SDGs but also to prospers as small island states.

But there’s only so much that small islands can do, with little power and scale in terms of industry influence, our actions are meaningful but not impactful at the world scale. That is the harsh reality in our numbers. However, demonstrating the linkages between policy, science and action has been a strong point from small islands.

Private Sector

We are able to quickly use the science as a basis for environmental actions and implement policies accordingly. For Samoa, the plastic ban is an excellent example of this science/policy interface. The only shortcoming was that the private sector were not sufficiently consulted or warned several years in advance to shift their practice in order to meet the needs of the new law before it was implemented. By negating advanced inclusion of private sector – it led to more waste as the companies who sold the banned plastic items had already imported thousands of plastic bags before they were informed of the timeline.

For our high emitting countries – as long as private sector are excluded from policy changes or are not brought into the conversation, they will continue harmful practices that directly influence the rise in global CO2 emissions.

Pursuit of sympathy

According to the United Nations – without action, the world’s average surface temperature is likely to surpass 3 degrees centigrade this century. The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most. These include islands of the Pacific.

Alan Miller, a global environment policy expert has reaffirmed the need for private sector at the local and national level in his work with the World Bank.

“Engaging the private sector is essential for multiple reasons. It can mobilize financial resources and technical capabilities, leverage the efforts of governments, engage civil society and community efforts, and develop innovative climate services and adaptation technologies.”

According to Miller private entities and corporations also develop – and often dominate – the design and delivery of many adaptation services such as weather observation technology and early warning systems.

“Drought-resistant seeds and other agricultural products, along with water management infrastructure and technologies, also tend to fall within their purview.”

So as the calls for action keep on coming from different avenues, sectors, individuals and the likes – it’s impossible not to feel a twinge of sadness, as the minorities, the helpless and the sidelined cry out for help which falls on somewhat deaf ears. One can only hope for sympathy to prevail among our high emitting counterparts around the world for the agony of small island states.

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