‘Mankind is not likely to salvage civilisation unless he can evolve a system of good and evil which is independent of heaven and hell,’ reads a famous George Orwell quote. As COP25, the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, has entered its second and final week, a clear distinction between ‘good and evil’ nations is being made by the Climate Action Network (CAN), a network of over 1,300 environmental NGOs.
Since 1999, during each annual conference, CAN has been awarding the ‘Fossil of the Day’ prize to countries hampering, if not sabotaging, the climate negotiations. The United Nations’ rulebook prescribes unanimity (and rightly so, as the atmosphere is one and borderless). In this scenario, CAN’s long-standing blaming effort is useful in drawing an informed line between the ‘good and evil’ behaviour of different governments.
This year, halfway from the conference finish line, the United States, Australia and Brazil appear destined to be the clear winners. The US, which reaped dozens of ‘Fossil’ awards during the Bush administration, has been chastised this time for staying ‘as part of the Executive Committee on Loss and Damage despite exiting the Paris Agreement’, for refusing to contribute to the Green Climate Fund, and for insisting on fossil fuel explorations at home.
This year though, the Fossil Award has been particularly generous to Australia as well. While the country is ablaze at record levels, prime minister Scott Morrison has declared that the bushfires are somehow unconnected to the climate crisis. ‘And further,’ the prize organisers declared, ‘he said he doesn’t think that Australia doing more on climate would change fire outcomes this season, despite Australia being the world’s third biggest fossil fuel exporter.’
At every Conference of the Parties, three ‘Fossils’ are awarded each day. In the first week of COP25, many more countries were decorated with a dinosaur prize, starting with Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, two climate-change deniers leading two oil-producing nations.
More recently, CAN has been changing its finger-pointing-only approach, adding some sparse rounds of applause. Yesterday, for instance, Denmark was granted with a ‘Ray of the Day’ award. Why? Its parliament has agreed on a ‘Climate Law that is binding for current and future governments and is in line with the 1.5ºC temperature limit.’ The low-lying kingdom has set the target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 70 per cent in 2030, without playing ‘the game of carbon trade to ensure complete environmental integrity.’ In other words, the promised emission cuts are not going to be compensated with ‘green’ investments in poorer countries or similar tricks.
Orwell proposed a separation between ethical values and religion. However, this is not the case with the ongoing climate crisis, which is not a matter of faith, but rather a matter of science. Life is an extraordinary and wondrous event in the history of the universe, making Earth a ‘heaven’ of resources, beauty and diversity. Even just taking the risk of transforming it into a hell of irreversible climate change is objectively evil.
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