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The Campaign for People’s Goals for Sustainable Development

The Campaign for People’s Goals for Sustainable Development (The People’s Goals) challenges world leaders gathered for the 20th session of the Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru to heed people’s call not only for binding post-2015 goals and targets to combat climate change and its impacts based on the findings of climate science and the principles of climate justice, but more critically, for an entirely different model of development that redresses unjust and unequal power relations at the root of multidimensional poverty and inequalities, social exclusion and ecological destruction.

The last two centuries have been marked by great strides in technology, production, and progress. However, these have also precipitated global ecological and development disasters. Multiple and interconnected environmental threats confront us, including climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem loss, natural resource depletion, and pollution.

The present climate crisis threatening the planet and humanity is part of a broader crisis of capitalism, an economic system that is now transgressing ecological boundaries. The world has more than enough resources to provide for the needs of all its people. However, the present system of production and consumption undermines the natural basis of life through a need for constant growth, while only a small minority of the world’s population, historically in the North and a growing elite in the South, benefits from the results of such growth. Recent data shows that the 66 richest people in the world have the same amount of wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion.

The current development model has led to the privatization and plunder of the global and local commons and exacerbated inequalities and the exploitation of the working peoples. Mining and energy companies are seizing vast tracts of lands and clearing of forests throughout the world, displacing indigenous peoples from their ancestral domains. Waterways, streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans are being privatized for exclusive use and exploitation of big business. Agribusiness giants’ promotion of monoculture – a highly unsustainable agricultural practice that is damaging to soil ecology, destroys biodiversity, and increases dependency on harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers – occurs side by side with their push for the patenting and monopoly capture of seeds and various life forms.

Rich countries from the global North have consistently turned a blind eye to the pressing call for a change in the global use of fossil fuels – the single biggest driver of climate change. If the current trend remains, the next decade will see over $6 trillion allocated to the fossil fuels industry. Large historic emitters including United States, UK, Canada, Russia, Japan and Australia continue to pursue the dirtiest and riskiest of fossil fuels – from coal to tar sands and fracking – despite vehement protestations of people and civil society. Currently, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that is being negotiated between the European Union and the United States is expected to bolster and promote fracking and other risky new technologies by weakening or overturning safeguards designed to protect the environment and people – all in the name of corporate profits.
The tragic part of it all is that poor people who have done the least damage to the environment, used up the least global atmospheric space, and benefited the least from the economic growth are the ones bearing the brunt of climate change, including losses of lives and livelihoods and limited prospects for development. This is environmental injustice.

Proposed solutions to address the climate crisis, however, are not simply insufficient but are also aimed at furthering the concentration of resources in the hands of the elites and their big corporations. The term “green economy” peddles the illusion that capitalist growth can be made “sustainable.” Despite evidence of the environmental and social harm they pose, market-based and technological solutions promoted by corporations – emissions trading and carbon offsetting, carbon capture and storage, agro-fuels, nuclear and hydropower energy – dominate the range of solutions at the table.

The year 2015 is a unique opportunity in setting the global response to climate change. In this light, we at the People’s Goals would like to reiterate our call to our leaders to commit to adequate climate action to avert the impending global climate catastrophe and foster a new development agenda that seeks to provide for humans’ basic needs while protecting and preserving the balance of the natural world.

Striking a balanced relations between human needs and Mother Nature’s rights requires shifting towards sustainable consumption patterns and lifestyles with developed countries taking the lead in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities.

Governments, but particularly of the Global North, must commit to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C consistent with the recommendations of climate science, through drastic emission cuts and fair-sharing of the global carbon budget that takes into account per capita historical emissions – without resorting to carbon trading or offsets. Additionally, these countries must commit to quantifiable goals that will keep 80% of known fossil fuel reserves to remain in the ground and rapidly shift energy systems towards sustainable, clean, efficient renewable energy systems for people and communities. This must also be accompanied by the delivery of adequate and appropriate climate finance and technology for mitigation actions in the South. The burden of this transition must be borne by the biggest corporations and wealthiest classes globally and within each country.

The post-2015 agenda must categorically repudiate market-based solutions to climate change and, instead, promote economic alternatives based on solidarity and local stewardship of the commons to enable democratic access to goods, resources, and services and ensure egalitarian economic outcomes.

Equally important, too, will be the transformation and regulation of the energy industry to mitigate climate change. The post-2015 agenda must create an independent technology assessment mechanism at international, regional and national levels to assess the social, economic, environmental, cultural, and health impacts of new technologies selected for development, transfer and diffusion, based on the precautionary principle. And while this mechanism is under development, risky technologies must be placed under meaningful moratoria.

Industrialized countries must provide new, adequate and predictable financial resources and technology transfer to support developing country mitigation actions, as well as adaptation to both climate change and the adverse effects of response measures. In this relation, the existing intellectual property rights regime must be revamped to allow easier transfer and development of technologies that help promote ecological sustainability.

Ensuring equity, accountability and transparency are crucial ingredients to sustainability. There must be a regulatory framework requiring the private sector to account and be liable for the environmental impacts of their businesses. Finally, actions should come with consequences. At the national level, countries most severely affected by climate change could adopt legislation to remove legal hurdles to climate liability. The international community needs to come together to ensure that damage awards obtained in one country could be enforced in other countries where companies are based, or where they operate or have assets.

Only people-driven and democratically-decided solutions based on justice, equality, and sustainable human development will offer genuine ways out of the crisis of climate change and towards a humane world. We at the People’s Goals vow to continue pushing for our demands, within and outside the halls of official processes to achieve climate justice and a just and transformative post-2015 agenda

Les opinions exprimées et les arguments avancés dans cet article demeurent l'entière responsabilité de l'auteur-e et ne reflètent pas nécessairement ceux du CETRI.