By Rose Davis
The United Nations met from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 for the annual Climate Change meeting and I’m unsurprised it was lackluster. At one time I’d be disappointed, even infuriated, by a lack of mass action. However, at this point it’s expected.
At one time larger society was placated by individual actions of recycling, reusing and reducing. It fell short in comparison to mass companies polluting more than a person could in a century and the mass production of plastics.
It’s tiring, watching as companies try to portray themselves as “green” and push for climate action in an offensive form of green washing, an advertising tactic where products are depicted as environmentally friendly when they aren’t truly. Meanwhile, they actively lobby against environmental laws that would impact profits.
I’m so used to being humored with laws that barely do anything below the surface. I see companies push for individual action, while they pollute water, waste food, and destroy forests freely. I don’t have the imagination for mass action being taken by any governmental entity when these companies are enabled by them.
Even within their own sector they fail to act on positive environmental action. After all, it was too easy for the Trump administration to remove the nation from the Paris Climate Agreement. It was even easier for them to remove over 100 environmental laws and climate policies regarding anything from endangered species to water pollution. Yet, I watch the Biden administration struggle to push even a singular bill through a Democrat-dominated senate without it being cut down to scraps.
The United Nations may push for a coal pledge to eliminate coal as a fuel source, with over 77 countries signing on, but there’s a distinct absence of the largest nations like China or the United States. It can’t be ignored even when the two countries have made an “intention” and pledge to address the climate crisis by meeting frequently. It’s grotesque political wording that I see far too often.
The United States, along with five others of the world’s biggest methane polluters, did sign a pledge to cut methane emissions by 30%. However, China, one of the three countries that make up 35% of global methane emissions, failed to show. Incremental progress is still progress, but 2030 is far later than where the goal should be.
Additionally, the largest group present, over 500, were fossil fuel lobbyists, who work for the fossil fuel industry to influence governmental decisions. This group included Internal Emissions Trading Association (IETA), who are known to include major fossil fuel companies. Others call this event an “exclusionary dystopian hellscape” with a lack of countries south of the equator.
How am I supposed to feel when the meeting of the world’s countries to fight climate change feels like a PR event to appease the masses with surface-level changes? Am I supposed to feel comforted? Relieved? I can’t truly describe the existential dread I feel as I watch the people in power do nothing about an issue that presses so heavily. Worse, they argue if climate change is real, when it very clearly is.
I have no faith in politicians anymore. I don’t have trust in the government’s choices over the environment when they are actively arresting protestors for protesting an oil line through legally recognized Native American land. The people in the governmental sector are disconnected from the public need.
However, it is unhelpful to simply retire from the climate change discussion. There are proper places to put one’s times in the climate change discussion. “Build Back Fossil Free,” a collection of various environmental groups, was present at the UN Climate meeting, advocating for President Biden to “change the fossil fuel era” by advocating for non-oil-based energy source infrastructure.
As I watch the UN climate meeting finish; I don’t possess much hope for it to make any substantial changes. Not when the biggest nations refuse to cooperate, industry heads ghost the issues, and public voices go unheard.