It’s Earth Day, which means that once again it’s time for politicians from around the world to make grand promises about the climate action they’re going to take, and how they’re on track to meet the Paris Climate Goals.
The thing is, we’ve heard it all before. Despite the wonderful promises that politicians have made year after year, the Amazon rainforest continues to be destroyed at an alarming rate, carbon emissions keep rising, and activists are still being killed in record numbers simply for defending their land and the environment.
The time for words and empty promises is over. We know what the problem is, and we know who the culprits are: just 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of global emissions, with no signs of slowing down in their dash for quick profits and unsustainable growth.
What we need is real, lasting change to stop these companies financing and profiting from the destruction of our planet.
Kick fossil fuels out of climate policy
Despite the overwhelming evidence that we need to rapidly reduce the rate at which we extract and burn fossil fuels in order to stand any chance of meeting our climate goals, fossil fuel companies are still trying to convince governments that they could be part of the solution.
Intense lobbying by these companies is diverting public money away from genuinely sustainable energy solutions, and towards the same polluting industries which got us into this mess in the first place.
If governments are serious about climate action, they need to kick fossil fuel companies out of climate discussions. Just like we wouldn’t ask a tobacco company for health advice, our politicians shouldn’t be asking fossil fuel corporations for climate advice – especially when it comes to high-profile international summits like COP26.
Instead, governments must listen to the voices of people around the world who are already suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Champion the voices of defenders
Fossil fuel companies are keen to talk up all the amazing technologies to save our climate which are in development. But we don’t need magical future technologies to provide us with climate solutions.
Indigenous communities and environmental activists have been working away for decades on real, practical solutions against the causes and impacts of climate breakdown, frequently opposing big polluting companies that threaten their livelihoods and our planet.
Governments should listen to the expertise of land and environmental defenders, uphold their rights, and protect them from the violence and threats they too often face at the hands of destructive corporations. Meaningful climate action must include stopping unscrupulous businesses from attacking defenders with impunity, and to ensure those responsible face justice.
Cut off the finance fuelling deforestation
If a group of scientists were able to develop a machine which could regulate temperatures across entire regions and suck vast quantities of carbon out of the atmosphere, they would be hailed as climate saviours and showered with funding to enable them to deploy this technology worldwide. Yet, despite the fact that forests perform exactly this function, governments are instead allowing millions upon millions of dollars per year to be funnelled into their destruction.
Banks and financiers are being allowed to finance harmful agribusiness companies, whose irresponsible business practices are driving the destruction of irreplaceable, climate-critical forests. Many of these financial institutions are headquartered in London, New York, Paris, Berlin, and other major cities in the rich nations which are so keen to show off their climate-friendly credentials.
Governments can no longer turn a blind eye to the harm which financial investors based in their jurisdictions are causing around the world. They need to stop the money pipeline which is fuelling deforestation.
As the clock ticks down to the next COP climate summit, we will be watching our elected leaders very carefully and judging them on their actions. No more empty promises. No more excuses. It’s time for action.