Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Empty Fair: COP 23

"Es ist wie eine Messe"
So said someone with intimate knowledge of COPs. A Messe is a 'trade fair' in German, and I didn't take the comment to be complimentary, as the full sentence translates to a rather acidic 'it's like a trade fair'. Said with a shrug, as it was, it amounts to about as complete a dismissal of the credentials of the COP as you could possibly imagine.

My island home Australia seems to intimately understand the link between money and environment. The Minister for Environment these days is Josh Frydenburg, the former Assistant Treasurer and former Deutsche Bank employee. Australia’s leader of the delegation to the Fiji/Bonn COP is Patrick Suckling, whose background includes serving as High Commissioner to New Delhi and extensive work in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Both are politicians with a background in international politics and trade (and not, say, science). So there’s not really any doubt about what Australia is there to do, and it’s not about preserving nature, it’s how to turn environmental crisis into opportunities. It’s a position Germany seems to share, where grave and ernst (serious) rhetoric is seldom met with actual political sacrifice. Rather, the energiewende (energy revolution) is sold domestically as a way to sell more product, create new industries and extend humanity’s harnessing of nature.

 Climate Planet - Source: CLEW 2017

At best, COPs can be what they pretend to be – places for coming together and negotiating outcomes for protecting the environment. At worst, they exacerbate the commodification of the environment, facilitating the sectioning-off of resources prior to their inevitable exploitation. Sometimes, these things happen in the same gesture. When the world is watching, as they were in Paris, political leaders might just create some rolled-up sleeves theatre to show that they mean ‘business’. The reality is that it’s more likely that they really, *actually mean business*, as can be demonstrated when the world is not watching.