The Conference is crucial if the world is to agree its first universal, legally-binding agreement to lower carbon emissions and tackle climate change by 2020.
It has been billed by President Francois Hollande as the climate’s last chance saloon; without a binding agreement, he said, “it will be too late for the world" to turn things around.
If Paris thrashes out an agreement, the city of love might herald a cooler, and safer, world.
The problem is, after terrorists tried to turn the city of love into one of hate, COP21 delegates will gather as if under siege, with terrorism always on the tip of world leaders’ tongues.
Solutions to climate change are likely to be sidelined, as per usual, and we look to have let the terrorists win — again.
And just as our response to terrorism breeds more terror, our lack of response to climate change provides fertile (or not-so-fertile) ground for it.
With no discernable action even toward the 2-degree-Celsius temperature rise targeted at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change, global monitors warn that we are already halfway toward that controllable limit. What happens if we go beyond it?
We are talking about “a different planet,” says climatologist, James Hansen: “there will be no return.”
This all comes with state destabilization and increased civil conflict as standard, as seen in Syria where prolonged drought increased internal displacement and heightened social unrest: the conditions (not causes) for the Islamic State to thrive.
Jeju, the island of peace
It was while pondering this depressing state of affairs that the role of our little island came to mind.
As the world cowers below drones, shelters from barrel bombs and lives in fear of suicidal killers, surely Jeju, the Island of World Peace, has some answers.
I never thought I would be calling on the visionary wisdom of Jeju governor Won Hee-ryong, yet he repeated again at the 2015 Seoul Climate-Energy Conference on Friday, Nov 20, that embracing new and renewable energy is essential for future peace — and he is right.
Won has cleverly presided over a redefinition of Jeju’s “Island of World Peace” moniker into something (only slightly) more achievable: the end of fossil-fuel dependency and carbon emissions (or at least a passable attempt at it).
Won stressed at the KAIST Graduate School of Green Growth that Jeju’s carbon-free 2030 plans could provide a model of peace for the region and world.
In 15 years time, the island’s electricity will be powered by an extensive wind and solar power smart grid system and all vehicles will be electric. Won says the island can beam a force of “ ‘energy peace’ from Halla to Baekdu.”
It has been a smart move as, let’s face it, Jeju was never going to be an island of world peace; it can, however, realistically provide a carbon-free model of renewable energy self-sufficiency.
Putting to one side (for the moment) Jeju’s questionable environmental record, and its slow progress toward the 2030 goal, the province is at least making the right noises, which is more than can be said of London, Washington and Beijing.
▲ Wind turbines are becoming a common feature of Jeju’s coastlines as wind energy puts down roots for Jeju’s carbon-free future. Photo courtesy Jeju World Heritage Team, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
An end to war?
But what about Paris? Well, the switch to renewables would not only allow us to step back from the climate change precipice, it would also lessen reliance on a primary cause of conflict in the Middle East: Oil.
Oil is deeply entwined with global conflict due to its vital importance to the economy and military, and its irregular geographic distribution.
The involvement of oil companies in the current Middle East quagmire has been confirmed; thus, lessening our dependence on it would weaken the strategic importance of the region, making military adventurism less attractive.
Oil revenue also funds Islamic State and its perverted vision of peace, while the US gives Saudi Arabia free rein (and plenty of not-so-free arms) to export its Salafi ideology around the region as long as it keeps pumping the black stuff.
Gujwa seems a million miles from the Halabja, but jihadis want backdrops of burning oil refineries, not wind turbines, solar panels and Olle paths.
Our addiction to oil is driving militarism and terrorism in the Middle East, yet our only response is short-termism and a fixation on symptoms, not causes.
Jeju has failed in its bid to be an island of world peace, and it is still a long way off its 2030 goal. But in the wake of another atrocity and more military aggression, a carbon-free Jeju could be a step toward a conflict-free world.
If we really want to defeat the terrorists in Paris, let’s face the major cause of global misery, a profoundly sick addiction to fossil fuels, and tackle it with investment in new and renewable energies.
The attacks on Paris posed many questions for the world on Nov 13, so let’s hope that that same city starts to find the right answers as COP21 comes to town on Nov 30.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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