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  • Dhaka Mon, 17 MAY 2021,

Are we doing Enough for the environment?

Faizi Nuzhat Supti
|  03 May 2021, 21:05
Are we doing Enough for the environment?
Faizi Nuzhat Supti
Introduction:

Climate change has become a global threat all over the world. Humans are the cause of climate change happening as we are adding a massive amount of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuel that creates global warming and changing our climate more quickly. Global climate change refers to the average long-term changes over the entire Earth's weather pattern. Humans and the ecosystem will face humongous disasters soon because of climate change, such as sea-level rise, ice melting, shrinking mountain glaciers, change in ecosystem patterns. Because of this, many lowland countries will suffer the most. Environmental ethics play a significant role in the global environmental deal. Climate change is one of the most important ethical challenges of our time. Industrialized countries release a massive amount of Green House Gas (GHG) into the atmosphere we all share. For the sake of economic development, environmental ethics often overlooked. Recently some countries are coming together to fight against climate change, and they are thinking about the right of mother earth.

Background:

In the time of the industrial revolution, people were focused on the development and economic growth. They were consuming carbon that was increasing GHGs in the atmosphere when the scientist discovered that GHGs are causing global warming and destroying the Earth, how people/ countries tend to think. Do they think about the Earth, or will they think about the profit of their own?

  • Climate Convention: Environmentalists came together, and they discussed how they could tackle climate change. They decided we need to control global warming. Thus, the countries need to reduce greenhouse gasses emission. For that, governments need to work together to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Kyoto Protocol: in 19997 Kyoto Protocol started operating to reduce carbon emission. UNFCC set a binding agreement for industrialized countries. Annex 1 (industrialized  countries) countries have to decrease 5% carbon emission by the year 2000 (Chasek, Downie& Brown, 2017). But governments weren't agreed to sign the deal as they need to cut down their production, resulting in economic downfall.  Annex 1 countries gave more priority to the economy than the climate. But in 2005, 192 countries sign the Kyoto Protocol when it came into force.
  • Paris Agreement: It is a legally binding international treaty. This climate convention was held in Paris in 2015. At that time, 195 country's representatives came together, and they speak up about carbon emission problems. Al the developing and developed countries need to take action towards carbon derivatives. Annex 1 and Annex 2 countries had the same goal but different roles to play. Annex 1 countries used alternatives of carbon to reduce carbon emission, but Annex 2 countries do not have the financial stability to do so. Thus, Annex 1 countries will help Annex 2 countries financially and technically (Chasek, et al., 2017). But here, the USA played a significant role. Obama’s presidency time, the USA was a part of this convention, but Trump declined the agreement in his presidency. Biden again agreed with the Paris agreement. Also, some major GHGs emission countries like Iran, Turkey, and Iraq yet to join the deal.
  • Montreal Protocol: Scientists have also discovered that UV rays are trapped inside the Earth because of ozone layer depletion, and it is also increasing its temperature. Montreal Protocol is the most successful convention until now, as all the countries depleting the ozone layer have agreed with this protocol. It has evidence that the ozone layer healed after the protocol took action when scientists discovered that CFCs and HFCs are destroying the ozone layer, impacting human health and the ecosystem. The USA took the lead role to active Montreal protocol but China, European Union countries, Russia, and the developing countries gave vato at that time but later on, everyone came under a negotiation where Annex 1 countries will provide help to Annex 2 countries and everyone successfully played their part. It was indirectly helping to reduce global warming.
  • Copenhagen Accord: It is a non-binding agreement between countries. China, India, and G77 they were creating massive GHG emission but didn’t want to go for a legally binding agreement it was made for them to control GHG emission. It was similar to Kyoto Protocol, but it was more of a volunteering agreement.

Climate Change: Ethical Challenges

 

Climate change is defined as a “perfect moral storm” as it combines ethical challenges mutually. First, climate change is a genuinely global phenomenon. GHG emission affects climate regardless of their source but here place tragedy of commons. Collectively all countries think it is necessary to reduce GHGs emissions to reduce the risk for the future. When it comes to acting individually, they all tend to continue emitting.

Skewed vulnerabilities are another problem in an ethical context. Most of the vulnerable countries and people emitted the least carbon. They continue to emission relatively low though the burden should fall primarily on developed countries; thus, this appears unfair to secure global collaboration (Gardiner 2011).

Present generation using GHGs and carbon will be staying atmosphere and negatively impacting the climate for the future generation. It is unfair for the future generation that they will have to pay the consequences of their ancestor.

Theoretical tools are underdeveloped in many relevant areas, like international justice, intergenerational ethics, scientific uncertainty, and the apposite relationship between humans and nature. Climate change can affect nonhuman animals, unique places, other natural elements. Then the question arises, Do we have any obligation towards them despite all the complications? So it became more of a moral value to protect nature as a whole.

Global politics is another complex challenge for environmental ethics. All human activities contribute CO2 to the atmosphere that contributes to global warming. So in order to solve the climate change problem, all nations need to cut down their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission, means they need to sacrifice their development and economic growth. But countries have the right to develop and grow. So here comes the ethical context of how much production they want to have and determine their GHG emission.

There are two ethical issues for nations' GHGs emission reduction deal:

  1. An atmospheric GHG concentration goal.
  2. The nation’s fair share of safe global GHG emissions (Brown & Taylor,2015).
A nations’ target is to use an acceptable level of GHGs. But the question is, what is the adequate level of carbon emission. It is the ethical act that nations need to decide as their actions will determine the harm on people and nature.

Allocating emissions at a particular time is another big challenge. Suppose developed, and developing countries have the same time limit. It will be unfair for the developing countries as developed countries emitted most of the GHGs, and developing countries will suffer more for their emission. Also, developed countries are much richer than developing countries, so why they need to bear their consequences? But developed countries do not show any interest in paying for their emission or abide by rules that can limit their production.

Unavoidable impacts are injust for indigenous people and nature. Some of them can be avoided by the adaptation method, but some can not. For example, because of sea-level rise, people need to migrate to another place, and it's impossible to recover the habitat destruction of nonhuman beings. 

Individual responsibility is another ethical challenge. Individual emission doesn't show any global effect. Also, individuals have little or no obligation to change their consumption or lifestyle choices (Sinnott-Armstrong 2005). Some maintain that individuals ought to take responsibility for their personal decisions and develop a set of "green virtues" that are not contingent on how others respond (Jamieson 2007).

Veto Power and their impact on Climate Change:

The significance of Veto power is an essential characteristic of global environmental politics.  One or more states cooperate in every global environmental issue is necessary to make a successful agreement. Also, they have the potential to block international climate change actions. The veto coalition is central to negotiation in global environmental politics. Veto power plays a vital role in creating environmental regimes. For example, Montreal Protocol was successful because veto power and Kiyoto Protocol had to face difficulties because of the veto coalition. Also, Powerful states are not free to impose a global environmental agreement on any country if the coalition is firmly against it. For example, industrialized cannot pressure tropical-forest countries (Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia) to accept the binding agreements. But the weaker state can demand compensation from the industrialized countries in the form of nature’s treatment because of veto power—some global examples of veto and veto coalition that played an essential role for climate change regimes.

European Community agreed to cut 50% CFC to reduce Ozon Layer Depletion.

USA, EU, and Japan agreed to ban exports from preventing hazardous waste trade, and thus the percentage of dangerous waste reduced significantly.

The European community and USA  agree to create the Global Mechanism as a funding mechanism and give a percentage of official development assistance to reduce desertification.

Countries Role on Tackling Climate Change:

Every country has different policies and set of rules in order to rescue climate change. Everyone is playing their part in this global issue.

Africa: Ethiopia is one of the highest growing economic cities, but its carbon emission is still modest. It is also one of the vulnerable countries to climate change. In 2018 7 African countries, along with Ethiopia, decided to reduce CO2 emission even if they need to transform their transport, production, and other strategies. They banned all the illegal dum sites for reducing CO2 emissions. Also, they created a transit network for C40 countries along with some other  African countries to reduce carbon emissions from transportations. Ethiopia is a member of C40. The member of C40 countries working together to reduce GHG emissions. C40 cities are working to promote local climate initiatives by facilitating local representatives and government. This way, they can practice an environmentally friendly approach from the local level and participate in decision-making. Some of the cities also exceeded the Paris agreement 2015. C40 is helping countries to reduce GHG emissions while developing.

Canada: Canada is the ninth largest GHG emission country, and most of the emissions came from oilsands plants. In 2009, the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) told Canada to reduce GHG emission target of 25% to 40%.to prevent global warming from rising 2 degrees. They also signed the Copenhagen accord and promised to reduce GHG emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, but the target was achieved roughly half. They also withdrew from the Kiyoto protocol and weren’t able to reach their target. Their prime minister also stated that their main target is economic development, not climate change. Canada has taken three obligations/ equity commitment towards climate change. They reduce their domestic emission, provide financial and technical support to the developing country to reduce their carbon emission, and help the climate change vulnerable people by adapting to a new change. However, the ethical failures of Canada are recognized by various coalition and global organizations.

Canada is trying to frame climate change policies, but some ethical and justice issues arise under the law of Canada, and that contradicts with human rights law of Canada.

China:China has been one of the largest CO2 emitters in the world. China causes about 29% of the world’s total GHG emissions. Thus it plays an essential role in climate change. China is a Non-Annex 1 country; therefore, it has no GHS emission reduction target under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). But they have made some commitment to Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA). They are: they will reduce CO2 by 40%- 45% by 2020, increase non-fossil fuel in primary energy consumption by around 15%, increase forest coverage and forest stack 40 million, 1.3 billion respectively. The Chinese government claims they are a responsible developing country and take climate change seriously, but they need financial and technological support to mitigate climate change. However, they tend to avoid any binding agreement to any international climate politics, and they believed the developed countries should take responsibility for climate change. They also assured that their emission is justified because GHG emissions are caused by poverty mitigation and the rise of living standards for their poor people. But they are no longer poor. They told us that they wouldn't follow industrial countries to develop, but they will try to adopt some ways to control the situation.

United States of America: After all the international negotiations on climate change, the USA never set a target for GHG emission. At the time of Obama’s presidency, they form a target GHG reduction of 17% below 2005 (2005 is a baseline year of GHG emission) level by 2020 and an 83% reduction by 2050. Still, that was pending legislation and never passed by US congress. Later on, Obama announced that new regulation would limit GHG emission by 30% only from the electricity generation sector (Davenport, 2014). But he didn’t explain how this linked with safe global emission from their side. Obama tried to justify his decision by US citizens' health. Still, he failed to see the US ethical responsibility for climate change and future generations while focusing on the scientific and economic argument. Also, Obama signed with Paris agreement at the time of his presidency period. But at the time of Trump, he disagreed with the Paris agreement, and the USA was out no longer a member of the Paris agreement. Joe Biden again signed in with the Paris agreement. The USA played the lead role in making the Montreal protocol successful, and they influenced other countries to protect against Ozon layer depletion. That helped to reduce global warming as the Ozone layer depletion substance also causing global warming. Also, 30 states of the US adopted a climate change action plan in both the short and long term to reduce GHG emissions.

Bangladesh and Climate Change:

 Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries for climate change. There are some observed changes due to climate change. For example, seline water entered an area along with tributary channels during the dry season, change in the rain pattern is also causing harm to the agriculture sector. None the less devastating flood and cyclones occur every year, leaving the people in an unfortunate state. Our coastal areas like Sundarban are also much vulnerable to sea-level rise.

Bangladesh signed Paris Agreement in 2016 and continues to have NDC (Nationally determined contributions) to achieve its long-term goal. However, we contribute to global emissions below 1%. Also, Bangladesh targeted to reduce 5% emission all by ourselves even without any international support. But if we can get help, Bangladesh promised to reduce it by 15%.

Bangladesh has also prepared a long-term plan called Bangladesh Country Investment Plan (CIP) for Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change (EFCC). Our main goal of this plan is to increase the involvement of the EFCC sectors to reduce poverty, improve environmental and human health assistance, and increase resilience to climate change. The government created a fund to achieve these goals “Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF).”

EFCC has recently conducted a survey, “Nationwide Climate Vulnerability Assessment (NCVA),’’ which covers the hotspots of coastal, drought, and flood-prone areas around the country to help the government make decisions.

Climate Change and Ethical Principle:

Climate change is a threat to our ecosystem and future generation. It also becomes our fundamental right, creates injustice, and develops inequalities. The principle of ethics tends to shape and govern our behavior towards the environment.

No Harm Principle: We should act in ways that don’t cause harm to the environment and cause climate change. We should implement responsibilities and effective policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Also, we need to foster climate resilience through the low emissions GHGs initiative.

Precautionary Principle: We should apply the precautionary principle every step of decision-making to fight against climate change. We can not delay or wait to take mitigation steps only because of proper scientific evidence. Montreal Protocol is an example of the practice of the precautionary principle. The countries didn’t wait to take action for ozone layer depletion based on incomplete scientific evidence.

Justice/ Polluters Pay Principle: GHG emitters should bear the cost of managing and preventing climate change to make justice to others and the environment. Paris agreement follows this principle as for the agreement Annex 1 country have to give the financial and technical support to annex 2 countries.

Sustainable Principle: Adopt a new path of development that can balance a population and the carrying capacity of an environment. To implement this principle, we need to have a strong sense of justice. So we need to focus more on climate change vulnerable areas.

Loyalty Principle: Countries can not trap or deceive other countries and the climate for their benefit. It requires a commitment to secure or at least not to jeopardize any people and environment.

Effectiveness and Efficiency Principle: Countries need to be efficient to minimize wasteful use of natural energy. Also, they have to make effective policy instruments; thus, they can reduce climate change.

Responsibility Principle:Both developed and developing countries have the same goal to reduce climate change, but they have different responsibilities. Developed countries need to minimize their production to reduce GHG emissions and provide financial support to developing countries; thus, they can adapt to climate change vulnerability. And developing countries need to use resources to tackle climate change and go toward green energy. They need to establish themselves without emitting GHGs.

Participation Principle: Every country and people are vulnerable to climate change. We all have participated collectively in climate change decision-making and acting towards reducing GHG emissions. Climate change is a global environmental issue, and every country in the world needs to participate collectively to fight against it.

Conclusion:

Climate change is a serious ethical issue globally. Developed countries are creating an ecological debt to developing countries. The environment has the right to exist and flourish, and we have a responsibility to protect the environment.  The nations with the largest ‘footprint’ or GHG emission must now take on this responsibility and pay their climate debt.

(Faizi Nuzhat Supti is a student of department of Environment Science and Management, North South University.)

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