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Green Economies: When think “out of the box” may be dangerous

Green Economies: When think “out of the box” may be dangerous Posted on October 9, 2019

Will the emergence and growth of the green economy overtake the lumbering giants of the fossil fuel industry in time to make the necessary change? 

By Felipe Montoya

I have four things to say about the PreCOP25, the preparatory meeting prior to the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25), organized to help meet the goals of the Paris Agreement of 2015 and respond to the greatest challenge facing humanity.  The PreCOP25 has proposed this time to be the unconventional convention and focus on solutions. After 25 years of COP meetings, it is probably about time to focus on solutions. The motto of the PreCOP25 is “Who said it was impossible?” The ever present cheerleader of the Climate Change COP, Christiana Figueres urged the more than 500 delegates and participants from Costa Rica and around the globe to think outside the box, and even do away with the box, and she basked in the warm glow of the audience´s expressions of optimism.  I think, however, that everyone got carried away with leaving the conventional box of reality behind.

If the table is set… Why are we not eating?

First of all, it was insisted upon repeatedly that the science is there to inform us without a shadow of a doubt where the problem lies and what needs to be done.  Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of global warming and we must cut these to where we do not permit overreaching the 1.5 degree Celsius increase.  Not only do we know the cause, and the way forward, decarbonization options are also highly profitable. Moreover, the money exists and is available to finance these decarbonizing ventures.  And these options are morally desirable, to whit. So, my first comment is, if the table is set (the science is there, the roadmap is there, the money is there, and the market shows that profitable options are there), then why are we not eating? Maybe because the roasted turkey lies elsewhere, not beyond the box, but rather, right smack dab in the middle of the box.  It is within the box of conventionality, of business as usual, where the fossil fuel industry and economy, are happily going about their business extracting oil and making a bundle. Why would they stop? This would be a question to ask might we linger a bit within the box.

Will the emergence and growth of the green economy overtake the lumbering giants of the fossil fuel industry in time to make the necessary change? 

My second comment harkens back to the point made above, that market based solutions are increasingly arising, solutions that are profitable, and indeed, decarbonizing solutions that are growing at a faster pace than conventional fossil fuel based solutions.  With this information we can take a flight of fancy and project a green economy solution, but once again, I insist on the need to return to the reality check of the box and do the conventional math comparing the breadth, penetration and absolute scale of the green economy and the fossil fuel economy. Only then will we clearly see how it is simply the conventional within-the-box bottom line that counts.  The question then should be: will the emergence and growth of the green economy overtake the lumbering giants of the fossil fuel industry in time to make the necessary change? As has already been insisted, the science is there to project these numbers and give us a clear prognosis. Let us first exhaust the conventional methods and questions within the box, before taking flight on the wings of unfounded fancy.

A paradigm shift is vital

My third point builds upon the previous two, where it is clear that as long as fossil fuels are free for the taking by the fossil fuel industrial giants, they will continue extracting these and turning over unimaginable profits.  Once these giants have invested in the necessary infrastructure to drill and extract the oil that lies in the belly of the Earth, they will not likely give up on extracting this wealth that lies dormant and ready for the taking. Unless this is addressed, the box of conventional business as usual will not disappear.  It is within this box that a paradigm shift is vital. It is within this box that business as usual has achieved the progressive enclosure of the commons, from land and water and seeds, to knowledge and genomes. Whatever can be profitable, will in all likelihood be privatized. But here is where we need to turn the tables.  Just as there are struggles to make water a human right for all, struggles to guarantee land to landless peasants, and initiatives to allow information to be freely accessible, as well as seeds, we should begin questioning the status of fossil fuels as a private good, demanding instead, that it be declared a commons of humanity.  This may be the only way to bring it under control of all of us whom it serves, as well as threatens. Otherwise we will continue at the mercy of the very few who for so long have been able to elude any responsibility, externalizing tremendous and o longer acceptable social and environmental costs.

Don’t be distracted to look away from the box that harbors great part of the problem

My final comment has to do with another attempt at thinking outside the box.  The PreCOP25 has proposed as an innovative proposal the need to pursue nature-based solutions to the challenges and problems of Climate Change.  While it is surely vitally important to consider the protection of biodiversity as equally important and as fundamentally linked to addressing climate change, I would once again encourage you to not lose sight of the box of conventionality and business as usual.  Yes, we must include nature based solutions, but not at the cost of ignoring industry based solutions. It is in the concrete box of the fossil fuel industrial complex that our sights ad our demands must be directed at. So be warned that if nature based solutions begin to take hold of the narrative of the COP25, let us not be distracted to look away from the box that harbors great part of the problem.

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