The year we have all been anticipating and waiting for is finally upon us. It is the year when the world will choose whether or not to make fundamental changes in the way it currently does business differently from any other period in known human history. For pro-climate change action advocates, the year holds the promise of validation of their efforts after many years of hard work, yet the politics associated with international decision making processes may once again exacerbate the difficulties associated with tackling this subject.
Such reasons (among others) include the fact that climate change is a politically charged subject (i.e. involves Big Oil); it affects long-standing way of doing things; it deals with science (are you surprised?); it involves uncertainty (doesn’t everything?); it involves potentially expensive changes (Big Finance); it also involves potentially scary changes; for some, it confronts religious beliefs; and some believe that supporting the climate action movement is equivalent to supporting the broader agenda of “the left”. These complex webs of factors play out especially in the US ultimately spilling over to the rest of the world.
Due a myriad of factors which have been interpreted by contradictory explanations, the world has witnessed a sharp decline in crude oil prices since June 2014. The IMF has posited that while the drop will boost the overall growth of the world’s economy, it has the real potential of devastating efforts to combat climate change in the energy sector. Consistently declining oil prices will hurt renewable energy sources current competitiveness and impede their future competitiveness by discouraging research and investment on the supply side. On the demand side, governments, companies and consumers will not be motivated to pursue more energy-efficient practices.
The world also continues to depend on non-binding commitments to tackle climate change which obviously puts us on a dangerous climate trajectory. A recent example of this is last year’s ‘historic’ China-US Climate Change Agreement. Whereas the world cannot afford a slowdown in efforts to combat climate change, perhaps this year offers new opportunities to contribute to climate safety rather than climate ruin at the July inter-governmental meeting to hammer out a new framework for global finance in Addis Ababa and in December at the 21st meeting of the COP to sign a new global agreement to control human-induced climate change.
All these efforts will be capped by the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which have a broader scope and build on and supersede the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which focused on development assistance and the relationship between donor and developing countries. The major differences in scope between SDGs and MDGs are that former are goals for all countries as none in the planet has achieved sustainable development. Secondly, SDGs are about the environmental, social and economic aspects of development, whereas the MDGs focused predominantly on social development. And third, SDGs are being developed through a more inclusive process than the MDGs, involving not just all countries, but also a wide range of stakeholders.
2015 is thus a year when Big Oil and Big Finance (and the world at large) can start to put development objectives in the right direction, for we do not have much time left.