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Matthew Nisbet's picture

The details of a proposed Green New Deal, announced this week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, are sure to elevate the political agenda status of climate change and be celebrated by many political progressives.
 
But as I argue in a commentary at Scientific American, we should be wary about what the Green New Deal will do to the already contentious debate over climate change, since it poses deeply challenging consequences for how we think and talk about the problem moving forward, turning policy action into a litmus test for political leaders.
 
The Ocasio-Markey plan pairs the goal of zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity and transportation sectors with longstanding progressive causes that include creating a government job program, increasing unionization, providing universal health insurance, reducing income inequality, and combating gender and racial discrimination.
 
With this new re-framing, actions to address climate change not only mean fully transitioning away from a fossil-fuel dependent society in a matter of decades, already a tough sell for conservatives and many centrists, but this historically unprecedented transition is now only achievable by transforming the U.S. into a social democracy.

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Etsuko Kinefuchi's picture

I was told that COPs are overwhelming, and it certainly was. Previously, my main source of information about what is going on at these conferences was the news. As we are well aware from media framing theories, all representations champion selected aspects of an event while leaving out others, constructing a certain reality for the audience. As my co-participant for the 2nd week of the conference, Mira, posted earlier, there were a whole lot more activities going on besides the diplomats’ negotiations to which observers had almost no access. At any given time, there were multiple concurrent side events – panel presentations, press conferences, workshops and more. Most of these are open to everyone, but some were accessible by invitation. It was interesting to attend the COP and compare my experience to news media’s reports. I want to focus this reflection on the aspects of the conference that did not get widely reported in the news media. The news media understandably focus on the progress of the high-level negotiations that were stagnant throughout the conference. However, what’s left out of the reports are vibrant grassroots and non-governmental efforts to connect, collaborate, and share across the nations. A roundtable discussion on climate education I participated, for example, was facilitated by the Center for Environmental Education in India. Participants across the globe discussed challenges, resources and indicators of meaningful outcomes in promoting literacy and capacity to face climate change. I was able to learn from and share ideas with people from countries in Latin America, Africa, and Europe.

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP24 in Katowice, Poland.]

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Anna Palliser's picture

Chui-Ling Tam’s blog of Dec 4th ‘Why we should stop labelling people climate change deniers’ reminded me of a conversation with a Māori freedom diver on South Island New Zealand, several years ago. Many locals were saying the fish stocks in their harbor had declined dramatically because of overfishing but the diver refused to engage with these perspectives. He said the harbor was a strange place and he spoke a lot about Tangaroa, the Māori god of the sea. It was clear he passionately loved the sea and all its lifeforms, and I could not understand the position he took. I was a newcomer to Aotearoa New Zealand at that time, and while I still don’t fully understand, I think I understand better now. I think he considered the number of fish in the harbor was Tangaroa’s business, not ours, that it is arrogant for humans to assume the ability to control such things. Lately, wandering the endless corridors of COP 24 in Poland, I have been thinking about his perspective.

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP24 in Katowice, Poland.]

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Jill Hopke's picture

The annual UN climate negotiations, COP24, concluded Saturday in Katowice, Poland with an agreement to bring the much heralded 2015 Paris accord to limit global greenhouse emissions into force. There is a stark disconnect between what would be required for nations to ramp up their climate commitments by 2020 and the lower level of public conversation these climate talks garnered.

I attended week one of the talks as an observer participant on the behalf the IECA. If the 2015 Paris climate summit ended with a message of hope and resolve to collectively stem dangerous anthropogenic interference, COP24 underscored the importance of domestic politics for climate policy. The change in national political contexts on the part of not only the United States but also Brazil was fully apparent. The “Yellow Vests,” or "gilets jaunes," protests that have rocked France, a key player in advancing global climate action, since mid-November highlight the critical nature of public support for domestic climate policies and that such policies must include mechanisms to blunt their impact.

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP24 in Katowice, Poland.]

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Mira Rochyadi-Reetz's picture

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP24 in Katowice, Poland.]

What actually happened at COP24 besides the negotiations between parties? The answer is: countless side events and press conferences. Since most of the negotiation process at the second week was not open for observers like me, I spent my time visiting pavilions from countries, banking institutions and transnational organizations like the EU. Those pavilions remind me of the world’s biggest book exhibition in Frankfurt or the tourism industry exhibition in Berlin, which is also held every year. Almost every pavilion was built in a sophisticated way, not simply a square box with chairs and desks. Most of them were well designed with huge LCD walls, meeting rooms, professional light and sound system equipment, private media center and even luxury kitchens. Do they really need all of that to inform the world what each of them is doing to mitigate climate change? What will happen to those pavilions after the COP? I cannot imagine how much total carbon and waste all those pavilions produced during COP.

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