COP26 Resistance Report 2: The view from space and the frontline
Jeff Bezos came to Glasgow today to defend his trip to space – which lasted a total of 10 minutes, 10 seconds – earlier this year. The launch process of his rocket New Shepard emitted as much carbon as the Drax power station over the same period.
However, Bezos argued that the burgeoning impact of the billionaire space race is in fact worth it because it gave him a view of how ‘finite and fragile’ the Earth is.
The billionaire owner of Amazon was presumably unable to learn this lesson by, say, talking to someone from Bangladesh, or any inhabitant of countries on the frontline who live with this fragility daily.
To do so would demand a level of introspection that the richest are never capable of. But it would also require breaking a great taboo within climate negotiations, namely, the cost to the planet of the lifestyles pursued by the mega-rich in attendance.
The billionaire’s platform as a ‘leader’ on this issue overlooks the deep injustice embedded within the realities of luxury emissions. A single long-haul flight from the UK to Australia generates as much carbon as an inhabitant of the Asian subcontinent does in a year; a space flight emits somewhere between 50 and 100 times more.
On the south side of the Clyde last night Govan Free State was declared, a playful but solemn response to the arrival of COP26, with its own enclave outwith Scottish jurisdiction. At this event, writer and environmental campaigner Alastair McIntosh described the current struggle for climate justice as a process of ‘becoming indigenous again.’
If future generations achieve that, they will surely look back at COP26 with a sense of revilement that a man like Bezos – committed to building mountains of waste on which to perch his own vanity – was allowed to share a stage with the voices of indigenous peoples.
Viewing that sorry spectacle, they will look back at a conference at which the predator and the victim were aligned side by side. The luxury and the immense burden of the billionaire class is a threat to all those peoples who do not need to dream of a trip through the stratosphere, but who know instead that the earth is enough and are already bearing the brunt of the mass death of cultures, ecosystems, species and places that have emerged over millennia.
In this second message to leaders at COP26 that we are privileged to share on Bella, Farzana Faruk Jhumu, an activist from Friday’s for Future Most Affected People and Areas campaign, demands that solutions are led from the frontline, not those looking down from above.
Dear world leaders
I am Farzana, a young climate activist from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is one of the most affected countries in the world in terms of climate change. Also in the leading position in terms of adaptation and right policymaking. Our prime minister is one of the leaders, who asked for 1.5 as the global temperature benchmark. Because we continuously see the effect of inaction in our daily lives.
But leaders, starting from our prime minister, are not doing enough.
Leading a country that is 50 years old and got liberation by losing its scholars, we needed the fossil fuels plants to progress our country. But after 50 years, when Bangladesh can be a success story, another coal power plant project near the biggest mangrove forest in the world is not only questionable but also a threat to biodiversity. We need more action to minimize the corruption to provide the help needed in the coastal area.
COP26 is historically the most important conference of parties, as it is after a pandemic which was dealt with very poorly, that has shown once again how inequality is killing the people. In the fight against climate injustice, we are the ones who caused the least but affected the most.
Historically colonized countries are the ones most affected but have the least resources for adaptation and it’s because of continuous exploitation.
This COP is very important for a country like us, whose economy is indirectly influenced by the USA and China.
After the Paris agreement where the USA is one of the countries supposed to take most action because of their emissions, they withdrew their name from the agreement. The Biden government not only has to compensate for that but also needs to take more additional action. So all of our eyes will be on them. Also, China is continuously growing their emission, but they declared they will not fund any more fossil fuel companies outside their country, so we are looking forward to seeing their action on COP. To the leaders of these countries who emit the most: you cannot champion emissions while promising to lead to the solution.
Furthermore, in the first COP after Brexit, the host UK will have its green plan, and the EU will have its plans to deal with the climate crisis. European leaders, we are watching you.
Leaders from the most affected countries must be ready to ask for compensation for loss and damages: you must be more strong to ask for reparation for the climate.
When your people are dying take the lead to solve this problem. If the frontline doesn’t lead to the solution, we will face inequality again. We as young people will not accept this. We are looking for a just world. We will not accept any more empty promises.
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