Preserving the culture, preserving the nature? • 2.12.2012Dohaalkuperäiskansatnaisten osallistuminen

Martta Haveri
Projektiavustaja / project assistant,
Suomen YK-liitto / UN Association of Finland

Thoughts about UN Climate Conference in Doha 26.11-7.12.2012

First there is some good news: the world has a chance to change the course of climate change after many natural catastrophes and other various wake-up calls of the coming reality of the climate change. The chance to make this is now in UN Climate Change Conference in Doha.

The 2012 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in Doha, Qatar from 26 November to 7 December at the Qatar National Convention Centre. The meeting will include the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 18) and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8). People from nearly 200 nations are taking part in the conference. The previous conferences in Durban, Cancún and Copenhagen have not been so great success even though commitments have been made. This year there will be really important decisions to be made, for example the continuation of Kyoto protocol, the public finance package for climate for developing countries.There can be made some political mechanisms that prevent the effects of climate change and slow down the dangerous melting of Arctic ice and overall heating of the planet.

However here comes the bad news: there are many reasons why the conference could fail. The credibility of the place for climate conference is not the greatest when Qatar is producing all its electricity with fossil fuels. That is because Qatar is one of the biggest oil producing country. However the key element of the succesful conference is the participants, the different people from organizations and governments who are securing the wealth and power of their nations. They are naturally thinking their own best. However when the own best is trying not to give up the lifestyle that have been achieved or the wishes that this same lifestyle will be achieved some day, the mutual consensus of reducing the use of fossil fuels is far away.

Culture and climate change

What is this lifestyle or culture, which is based on fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions? One can argue that it is the technology and the culture of consumerism and capitalism that make the people to buy always new things for that the capita grows and people have more money to spend so that capita grows. This is of course the western idea of economic development. It brings more money and well being to the people, when the poverty reduces. For producing things that produce more things we need energy and the fuels. What would be more comfortable than having money so that when you need, you can buy a new phone, TV, decoration or clothing. It would be nice to have a romantic weekend in Venice before the fluids destroys the city. Also it is so easy and quick to take a plane to South Africa to visit the safari before there are no animals left.

This kind of culture isn´t the only one in the world but it is dominating point of view in the conference. We can talk about numbers, economic breakdowns and unknown future but we might forget what is the reality already now in the places where the culture and livelihoods have a strong relation to nature. We don´t want to give up in western countries of our lifestyles, we don´t want to change our culture. But neither want Samís in Northern Europe or farmers in Africa or South America to do that. Not to mention the people living in the islands in Pacific Ocean.

Marginalized people know what it should be done

There are so many people who can´t participate to the conference but who will be the first victims of climate change. These people are especially women in the developing countries, living their traditional life in countryside. I got to know during my fieldwork some women in Peru who want before anything else food sovereignty. It would guarantee that the women have self-produced food everyday and they don´t have to move from the countryside because of the lack of money. Even though they are poor farmers, presenting different ethnic minorities and marginalized in their country as women, they are fighting against the climate change also today by marching and doing advocacy work. They are doing it, because they see how the nature is changing and how it effects to their livelihoods.

In the end every culture in the world has to change dramatically, if the countries don´t commit with the emissions reductions. Climate science clearly shows that to stay below two degrees of warming, global greenhouse gas emissions must begin to decline by 2020. This means that industrialized nations must trim their emissions output at least by 25 to 40 percent below their 1990 emission levels. This needs commitments.

There are many expectations that are controlled by culture and power in this UN Conference ritual. However it seems that the main interest in the conference is economy that is related to the culture and political power. Everything always ends up with the question: how much this all cost?

The other civil society, so called marginalized voices would mention that the main actor should actually be nature, because it is related with everything. Even though the holistic worldview has been thought of being part of indigenous way of life, it is obvious that if the nature changes and dyes, there will not be economy either. Without economy, there won´t be the consumerism culture or social well being as we know it today. No more new technology and travelling. No more development for poor and fragile countries. No home or food for millions of people. Everyone understands that when this happens, the conferences don´t matter anymore.

The experts have doomed the conference to fail even before it has started. It is difficult to fight for something if it doesn´t seem to be worth of. Even though the minority voices, the peruvian womenfarmers always claim that the state doesn´t do anything for them, they still keep going, they have the hope. The UN climate conference might not be the most effective way of solving the problem but it is much better than nothing. It brings the climate change on political agenda and brings together the governmental and non-governmental actors together. It tries to conduct the mass of different interest towards the mutual understanding of the action to be taken.

Let´s see if this time the real reason and actor for the conference won´t be forgotten and the wishes of civil society, in south and north, will be heard. The culture needs the nature and cutting of the emissions.

This text has originally been published on Citizens’ Global Platform (CGP) website.

Citizens’ Global Platform (CGP) brings together civil society actors from Brazil, India, Tanzania and Finland. The goal is to empower marginalised groups and to create new mechanisms for citizen participation in international political processes. The project focuses on combating the climate change and strengthening the appreciation of sustainable lifestyles. More information on website http://www.globalplatform.fi/

Kansalaisten maailmannäyttämö -verkosto tuo yhteen kansalaisyhteiskunnan toimijoita Brasiliasta, Intiasta, Tansaniasta ja Suomesta. Kolmivuotisessa hankkeessa (2009-2012) keskitytään tukemaan marginaalisten äänten kuuluvuutta erityisesti YK:n ilmastoprosesseissa sekä luomaan kansalaisyhteiskunnalle uudenlaisia osallistumisen tapoja kansainvälisissä poliittisissa prosesseissa. Hanketta koordinoi Suomen YK-liitto.