That the Madrid climate talks ended with an inconclusive agreement and a decision to ask countries to be more ambitious in cutting greenhouse gas emissions to realise the 2015 Paris accord shows we have, to use David Axelrod’s all-too-apt phrase, passed the swimsuit stage of international negotiations on climate change.
That rich countries, especially Brazil, India and China, were accused by poor countries of blocking measures aimed at tackling the climate crisis and the inevitable impact it will have on them — and us — shows that talks have reached the stage where they will have an impact on balance sheets.
That will not expedite matters. However, the pessimism that stonewalling might provoke was offset by the reassuring statement from Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, who has promised that America will take action and engage with other countries on the climate emergency despite Donald Trump’s dangerous ignorance. She struck a defiant chord:
“Congress’s commitment to action on the climate crisis is iron-clad. This is a matter of public health, of clean air, of clean water, of our children, of the survival of our economies, of the prosperity of the world, of national security, justice and equality. We now must deliver deeper cuts in emissions.” Just as her president might learn from her clarity so might our own Government.
Minister for the Marine Michael Creed is in Brussels today to negotiate fishing quotas and it is feared that his position will reflect the kind of profit-first culture Brazil, India and China were accused of in Madrid. It is feared that Mr Creed will advocate, as Irish ministers do almost by default, that the scientific advice on fish stocks and quotas be ignored.
Birdwatch Ireland has criticised this misplaced optimism.
“The Celtic Sea herring fisheries closed this year due to overfishing... it’s going to be closed next year. That is doing a disservice to the needs of fishermen, we’ve got to stop putting our unique ecosystems through the EU grinder of over fishing,” warned the NGO.
The organisation also echoed concerns felt by ever increasing numbers of people when it pointed out that we have been criticised by the EU because of our lax attitude on super trawlers.
The EC expressed those concerns in a diplomatic way earlier this year when it asked Mr Creedon to review his department’s capacity to enforce fishery regulations.
The criticism, the implication may be tacit but it is crystal clear nonetheless.
Another domestic sub plot in this drama is playing out at the moment. The IFA is electing a president.
Unfortunately, initial impressions suggest the main contenders have yet to reach the swimsuit stage of the inevitable discussion with those outside their sector on how farming might better contribute to climate responsibility.
Hopefully this will, post election change as it must. The status quo is not an option.
In the face of all these challenges it seems an obligation to become more informed, ethical consumers and understand far better the behaviours and cultures we support we make a decision to buy something.
Because, as we are repeatedly assured, the market is the final arbiter in all of these things. Let’s, for once, use it to our advantage.