NEW YORK –Costa Rica says it will let its oil lie. Germany will not invest in new coal power plants. Norway is saving forests abroad, while its oil wells bubble away in peace at home.
It has been a memorable UN climate summit in New York. A number of government leaders and dignitaries have held climate talks that will be remembered for a long time.
Drawing the line here
But, aside from all the vaunted political rhetoric, it was the keynote address of a 26-year-old new mother and poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands whose country is about to sink into the ocean because of climate change that made the biggest impression. The Marshall Islands sit about a meter and a half above sea level.
She spoke of the difficulties of solving the climate challenge was maintained confidence that it would happen – because it has to happen. And she insisted to the delegates that she and her daughter will continue to live in their home.
“No one’s drowning, baby,” she said. “No one’s moving. No one’s losing their homeland. No one’s becoming a climate change refugee – We are drawing the line here.”
Her words brought the gathering of distinguished world leaders to their feed in applause. Even for a tough old hardcore eco warrior like me, it was a poignant moment.
“I pretend for a living. But you do not.”
Actor and climate ambassador Leonardo di Caprio also presented a strong speech. In line with Bellona’s thinking, di Caprio pressed the delegates to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.
“We need to put a pricetag on carbon emissions, and eliminate government subsidies for coal, gas, and oil companies,” said di Caprio. “We need to end the free ride that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free-market economy, they don’t deserve our tax dollars, they deserve our scrutiny. For the economy itself will die if our eco-systems collapse.”
Di Caprio said that climate change has for too long been regarded as a fiction that will just disappear if you refuse to believe in it.
“I believe humankind has looked at Climate […] as if it were a fiction, happening to someone else’s planet, as if pretending that Climate Change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away,” he told the delegates, concluding powerfully wiht: “Honored delegates, leaders of the world, I pretend for a living. But you do not.”
“You can make history,” he told the delegates, “or be vilified by it.”
Di Caprio’s homeland accounts for almost one third of global emissions. And yesterday President Barack Obama acknowledged that the United States carries a large share of responsibility for climate problems, and therefore needs to work on solutions.
In an exceptionally clear speech Obama summed in one sentence why world leaders must act now, he said: “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.”
Oil wells simmer in peace
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg spoke to the UN summit Tuesday night. She reiterated that Norway should give more money to the international climate fund, and vowed that Norway will provide around $ 500 million each year to rainforest initiatives. Yesterday she also made it known that Norway would establish new forest cooperation with Liberia and Peru.
It is very good that Norway is lending a hand to help preserve the rainforest. But Solberg should also have talked about what she will do in Norway. Costa Rica has said it will let its oil to alone. Uruguay will cut 85 percent of its national emissions by 2030 Germany will stop investing in new coal power plants. But Norway’s gets to keep its oil and gas wells simmering away in peace.
What Solberg should have told the UN delegation is the Norway would cut 8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next few years. I am also disappointed that Norway hasn’t breathed a single word about carbon capture and storage, a vanguard technology on which for several years Norway held the international forefront.
Be a Rockefeller
Monday’s announcement by the Rockefellar Foundation that is was pulling any investments it has in fossil fuel made be want to hear something similar from Solberg. I’d like to see her present a clear political direction regarding the Norwegian oil fund, with constitutes some 5600 billion kroner. If only a small portion of this were invested in renewable energy, it could bring about major international restructuring.
That said, you in New York are more positive than anyone at previous climate summits! You have greater confidence that you eventually will reach a global agreement. It is not least because you are seeing concrete measures which, among other things, the finance and insurance sector have taken responsibility for and forward progressive measures.
It is also encouraging that Norway’s state oil giant Statoil and other oil companies have agreed to commit to cutting emissions of the short-lived greenhouse gas methane. The next step must be to include unconventional oil and gas, shale gas and tar sands, in this agreement.
There is also a greater commitment among the population in general. It’s like Obama saying: When 400,000 people are demonstrating in the streets of New York and climate demonstrations took place at over 2,000 locations worldwide, world leaders must listen.
A version of this blog first appeared in Nettavisen in Norwegian. It was translated by Charles Digges.