Paris has to end with a firm decision

by Muhammad Yunus


The global average surface temperature in 2015 is likely to be the warmest on record and to reach the symbolic and significant milestone of 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial era, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The warning comes ahead of landmark climate talks in Paris at the end of this month, when world leaders are expected to agree on measures to stop temperatures rising beyond key measures.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says “this is all bad news for the planet” but I believe now we have in front of us is an unprecedented opportunity, and historical chance to make the paradigm shift that humanity desperately needs. Paris Climate Conference (COP21) presents us this wonderful opportunity to define our future.

At present the future of human civilization is at stake because of the senseless slaughter of the environment and natural resources. It is time that we realize the toll the so called prosperity is taking on the ecology and the climate. We must understand the ominous consequences our unlimited greed and faulty economic practices are having on planet’s future, and what legacy would we leave for our children and future generations if we continue the so called “prosperity” at the current pace? Do we want our children born today to live to see humanity’s end? We must not forget that, the present generation is blessed with a unique opportunity and as well as moral responsibility to save the world. It is now obligatory for us to save the planet  from the mounting environmental threat. World leaders who would converge in Paris for the landmark climate talks at the end of this month must not risk being the villains in the eyes of our future generation.

The paradigm shift that we are needing is a radical change that requires us to move away from the excessive and selfish lifestyle we have been led to believe was the most satisfying one, but that is in reality based on egoistic and unjust exploitation of resources and of human capital, to a lifestyle tilted more on  selflessness than on selfishness, to an economic system which is untied from continuous concentration of wealth and opportunities, that can lead us to what I have been calling a global destination. I believe to this end, the unveiling of the Sustainable Development Goals is a milestone for our collective future and SDGs hold promise for the future well-being of all humankind. However, the long-awaited Paris Climate Conference  can provide critical climate action policy which can be instrumental in achieving SDGs.

We know that present development model is not an option anymore:  it is as unfair as it is unjust, and left unchecked will take us to an irreversible process of self-destruction.But it is not too late.Greenhouse gas emission which is causing global warming and climate change can be reduced. We have the knowledge and we have the know-how to act. Paris Conference  should focus on both long-term in its aspiration of setting a decarbonization –or net zero – goal; as well as have regular short-term review cycles to ensure that progress is on track. The agreement must also underpin the just transition to a low carbon economy and green jobs creation by being grounded in sound equity principles. Achieving this net zero goals is the only just, rational, and humane way forward.

It is sensible because it will revert the trend of economic development and investment being coupled with carbon emissions; it will present an opportunity to allow for local entrepreneurship to flourish, by stimulating creative transformative initiatives that will provide the ground for a sustainable and just development.

The world must work to gradually end reliance on carbon-based fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world’s energy needs for a full year. Even as we tackle the climate challenge, we must also help bring empowering energy services to the 1.2 billion people who lack access to electricity and the almost three billion who cook on polluting, unhealthy stoves. A comprehensive and compassionate response to climate change requires us to help the world’s poorest gain access to sustainable energy solutions so that they can improve their lives while avoiding the dirty energy path that developed countries followed.

I created Grameen Shakti (energy) social business almost 20 years ago – to bring clean solar power to light and communication technology to the villages across Bangladesh. Currently my country, Bangladesh has one of the fastest growing solar home system projects in the world. Our efforts exceeded everyone’s expectations, with the millionth solar home system installed in 2013.  But there is much more work to be done to reach the UN’s global goal of reaching universal access to energy, hopefully they mean clean energy, by 2030. Building a green economy by breaking free from fossil fuel addiction is the smartest and most efficient way to create new engines of sustainable growth and job creation for the next generations.

The effort to achieve zero carbon emission through renewable energy and technological innovation can create jobs, fight unemployment and poverty. According to a 2015 IRENA report titled Renewable Energy and Jobs, more than 7.7 million people worldwide are now employed by the renewable energy industry. This is an 18 per cent increase from last year’s. The region with the most number of jobs created in the renewable sector is Asia.

Mitigating vulnerability to climate change driven crisis has become a critical issue for the Global South. Southern countries lack the means to deal with with climate hazards and their economies also lean to have greater reliance on climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, water, and coastal belts. For these developing countries, adaptation to climate change remains at the forefront of their development agenda. Managing climate change and ensuring environmental sustainability requires use of a wide range of environmentally sound technologies. Focusing on technological innovations to solve human problems is a major way forward. Therefore, transfer of environmentally sound technologies is critical in enabling Southern Countries to pursue their objectives for sustainable development in a climate-friendly manner. But unfortunately technology has always remained under the command of money-makers and war-makers. We need to bring in a new class of players on the playing field of technology who will create new technology exclusively for solving social problems and adapt the existing technology for the same purpose, without any thought of making personal profit out of this. The sooner the socially committed players take charge of technology, the faster the world will reach the zero carbon emission target. I therefore urge all the developed countries to facilitate and finance the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and know-how to developing countries who are at the forefront of Climate apocalypse.

We cannot ignore the ethical implications of what we are doing to current and future generations, whose opportunities in life will be diminished by the harm we are doing to our planet’s natural systems. It is about creating a healthier society, built on the recognition of a moral obligation to let selflessness to come into full play, and restrain selfishness to initiate a process of transformational change. We are the generation that is responsible for puting in motion this trans-generational change.

The writer is Nobel Peace Prize winner; Founder, Grameen Bank and Chairman, Yunus Centre. 

Source: The Daily Star