Author : Ny Aina RAMANGASALAMA. Translation by : Clara CHPOUN.
The urgency of protecting the environment is not recent. Back in the Age of Enlightenment, the author Chateaubriand had this to say : “Forests came before mankind, deserts will follow”. This French political figure was already stressing the undeniable impact of human activity on the environment.
If mankind already has exploited most fossil resources available on planet earth, the attractiveness of the capitalistic system seems hard to fight. Yet, the system leads to the destruction of our environment and therefore needs major reformist measures to limit damages made to our planet.
I-The main consequences of climatic disorder
What has been the main topic at the 2015 Paris Agreement ? The answer is : the limitation of global warming to 2°C by 2100 (based on the first measurements in 1880). However, between 1880 and 2012, global temperature has raised by 0,85°C, which leaves us with a margin of 1,15°C. Now, every month sets a new record for high temperature. The oh so filled with hope 21st century has 13 of the 14 most warm years of all times. But what are the consequences ?
They say “What goes around comes around”, and since we have not been taking care of our planet, it has paid us back consequently. Since 1960, natural disasters have tripled. In Australia, temperatures have sometimes reached the 50°C mark, forcing the Australian meteorological bureau to had a new color to their map. 2017 has also been the year of follow-up natural disasters, such as the 2 consecutive earthquakes in Mexico in September 2017 and the hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose that have caused a lot of damages in the United States and in the Caribbean on October 2017. Those disasters must lead governments to awareness and action.
If those figures were not alarming to learn, industrials and governments should wait to hear the following : between 1960 and 2013, wheat culture decreased by 2% and corn by 1,2%. This may seem derisory, but when you know that 2 billion people were suffering from under nutrition in 2015, this should raise questions about the real impact of global warming.
II-Alarm with repressive jurisdictions….
We should remain optimistic because, through various international summits on the environment (such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, known to be the starting point of them, or the 2015 Paris Agreement) has emerged a collective consciousness around the urgency of protecting the environment and governments are slowly agreeing to adopt common juridical norms on this perspective. Nonetheless those agreements seem to represent a mean of geopolitical leverage more than a mean to protect the environment.
Since the end of the years 80, environmental agreements tend to act as geopolitical instruments for member states of the European Union and the United Nations members, particularly on matters regarding waste treatment and industries. Those agreements are testimonies to the share in responsibilities and the integration of environmental preoccupations in corporate governance. The environmental agenda is distorted because financial and economic priorities will always come before environmental matters. Emerging countries such as Middle Eastern countries whose economies are based on resources extraction (polluting activities), have no interests in preserving the environment.
Environmental matters constitute geopolitical stakes not only in Western countries but also in emerging countries (Latin America countries, China, India) where those stakes serve as fuel for political disputes. High pollution is Japan has caused major trouble in the country as the government seems to be powerless against this issue.
But repression and forced measures as a mean to fight against pollution leading to global warming is a hard task to do. As an example, the “écotaxe” proposed by the Fillon government in France in 2008 was a disaster. It was implemented in 2013 and was supposed to tax heavy goods vehicles (from 3,5 t upwards) but farmers did not agree with this measure stating that it would massively impact on their business and slow down their economy. This measure was followed by multiple demonstrations, some violent, leading to a freeze in the implementation of this tax.
III-…or convince with economic growth ?
Punish polluting states and societies by binding laws does not seem not work. What if money was the solution ?
Environment and profit seems like an odd combination, but for certain people money is the key to obtain a consensus on environmental matters. Muhammad YUNUS, a Bangladeshi economist and entrepreneur, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and inventor of the micro-credit said that “we are not job-seekers, we are job-givers”. His concept of microcredit helps social entrepreneurship and many of those social projects are about making money while preserving the environment. Moreover, the Dell institute has published a report saying that 85% of the jobs of 2030 were not created yet, and that those creations will mostly happen in green activities.
Moreover, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), one of the only markets that have not been impacted by the consequences of the 2007-2008 economic crisis was the green energy one, creating jobs when the crisis was suppressing traditional ones. Experts estimate that the growth of the environmental market (including services and products) would lead to a value of 3,1 billion by 2020. This naturally leads us to the following questions : isn’t there a tremendous geopolitical and economical interest in investing on the environment ? Seeing failures and major setbacks (such as the one the Trump Administration did on the Paris Agreement), is the economic interest the only efficient way to federate governments and organizations around the environmental matter ?