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Cordaid

Blog: Cry of the poor for climate justice

“We have to make a binding agreement to fight climate change!” rejoiced State Secretary Dijksma in a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives. At the same time, the Netherlands is raising the speed limit to 130 km/h and coal-fired power plants are puffing happily away. Poor countries, meanwhile, are paying a massive price for our inconsistent policy. If we do not mobilize all of our resources now at the climate conference in Paris, then we will face an irreversible humanitarian crisis.

This blog is written by Simone Filippini, Cordaid’s Chief Executive Officer from October 2013 – September 2016. A passionate bridge-builder, she takes a business-like approach to the non-profit sector.

Ethiopia is facing the threat of famine. Again. It remained pretty much dry during the last rainy season in the Afar region. Water resources are becoming exhausted and crops are getting parched. Millions of people are at risk of dying if food aid is not provided quickly. I can’t tell you how fed up with that I am.

Countries such as Ethiopia are paying a high price for our rampant production, consumption and lifestyle.

Like so many other disasters, this one could also have been pre-empted. El Niño, the natural phenomenon that is causing the drought in East Africa at the moment, has never been this turbulent. The cause is climate change, thanks to the greenhouse gases from industrial economies such as the Netherlands. Countries such as Ethiopia are paying a high price for our rampant production, consumption and lifestyle.

The ecological crisis has betrayed the systematic failure of a political and economic order based on vested interests and uncontrolled market forces. The idea of acting for what is good for the world’s future is being completely disregarded. According to the World Bank, if we fail to take immediate action, 100 million people will fall back into poverty by 2030 – not to mention that part of the world that will be flooded, and the flow of refugees that this will bring about.

So what is the Netherlands doing? Minister Schultz is raising the speed limit on 19 highways to 130 kilometers an hour. Coal-fired power plants, which are responsible for more than half of the Dutch energy sector CO2 emissions, are simply remaining open for now, though the demand for electricity could easily be met by sustainable sources of energy. And instead of going ahead full force with the Kyoto climate commitments, the Dutch state appealed the court ruling to achieve a 25% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020. The Netherlands does not seem prepared to live up to its word, even though State Secretary Dijksma, in the run-up to the next conference in Paris, called on other countries to invest more money in the battle against climate change… Now that’s what I call consistency!

So what is the Netherlands doing? Minister Schultz is raising the speed limit on 19 highways to 130 kilometers
an hour.

I am hugely concerned. Not only as director of Cordaid, but also as a world citizen and mother of two children. There is a huge amount at stake in Paris, if not everything. It concerns the future of the earth. If all of us, led by world leaders, do not step up our efforts to prevent the further degradation of our planet, then things will deteriorate beyond our control. More drought, more flooding, more refugees, more conflicts. Even though the misery has already reached crazy proportions.

Dijksma has worked hard on legally binding climate commitments – which in itself is positive. But I am curious what will actually be achieved in that respect. Wealthy countries have to assume responsibility and not only commit themselves on paper. Half measures are not enough to turn the tide on climate change before 2030: the use of fossil fuels has to be cut back, and innovations and the speed with which new sources of energy enter the market have to be accelerated. And the people suffering most from climate violence have to – at the very least – be heard and compensated.

Victims of disasters everywhere are calling for climate justice. Their voices are backed by prominent figures who, just like me, are no longer willing to sit and watch the world turn its back on the unfolding tragedy. Take Pope Francis, for example, who in his encyclical Laudato si’ urged people to respond to “both the cry for help from the earth as well as the cry from the poor.”

This is a humanitarian emergency call. World leaders, stop this hypocrisy!

For a while now, the environmental crisis has not been the point. This is a humanitarian emergency call. World leaders, stop this hypocrisy! And work together to build a new, sustainable economic system that will benefit everyone. We are the first generation to experience first-hand the consequences of climate change, and we are the only generation left that can turn the tide.