Guest post by Rupert Darwall
Last Tuesday, an event of such magnitude struck the latest round of the climate conference – talks which have been going on in various forms since the early 1990s – that the response of many participants and NGOs is to pretend nothing’s happened and carry on as before. Today is gender and education day at the COP22 in Marrakech. Gender equality and the empowerment of women is written into the preamble of last December’s Paris Agreement, the climate treaty that President Obama ratified without sending to the Senate for its advice and consent. ‘Gender justice is climate justice,’ as one feminist NGO puts it.
There are Feminists for a Fossil Fuel Free Future. You can download a Gender Climate Tracker app for iPhone and Android. ‘Our existing economies are based on gender exploitative relationships,’ one speaker told a side meeting. ‘The first ecology is my body,’ another declared. Sexual and reproductive rights require climate justice. ‘Sixty percent of my body is water. What I’m drinking takes me to my city and to the health of the planet.’
The climate change negotiations are a never-ending process symbolized by the initial adorning every poster and lectern at the conference. Marrakech is the 22nd conference of the parties under the 1992 UN framework convention on climate change – COP 22; the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol – CMP 12; and the first session of the conference of the parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement – CMA1.
Far from creating institutional overload, climate change is much more than it might appear to the naïve observer. It is about remoulding society and changing the global economy. It has set in motion a process that accretes constituencies and sucks in government agencies as it extends its scope and strengthens its hold by creating the justification for huge slush funds of climate finance. Marrakech sees parties being urged to raise their ambition from $100bn a year of annual climate funding to $500bn. It creates a momentum that seems unstoppable. As President Obama’s climate envoy, Jonathan Pershing, pointed out today, it was a Republican Congress that extended subsidies for wind and solar. ‘It’s not going to stop in a context of a change of administration,’ Pershing pointedly added.
Well, it might do just that. When in 1982, Al Haig asked Ronald Reagan why he was rejecting the Law of the Sea, Reagan replied: ‘Al, that’s what the last election was all about … It was about not doing things just because that’s the way they’ve been done before.’ The Paris Agreement and the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan which is its domestic counterpart would, if implemented, damage the United States far more than the Law of the Sea ever could have done. But the answer is the same as Reagan’s. Quit the whole damn shebang.