I landed in Casablanca for COP22 today. I flew in via Amsterdam and had to wait longer than usual while the officials verified that I should indeed be allowed to be there (Indians don’t get visa on arrival to Morocco and so this was an exception that took them some time to figure out). In spite of this initial hassle, once I was out of immigration, things were so much smoother than I expected that I barely had to lift a finger.
Moroccans have taken their hospitality to the next level with the coming of people from all over the world. They had arranged transit from the Casablanca airport to the city of Marrakech where the COP is being held, and from within the city to get us to our respective hotels. They went to great lengths to ensure that we wouldn’t get lost, given that Moroccan alleyways can be notoriously difficult for newcomers to navigate.
Still, once I found myself in the capable hands of the riad owners I had arranged my accommodation with, it took less than 5 minutes for me to completely forget what roads we had taken to get to where we were. And hence, although I am currently inside a gorgeous riad, I have absolutely no idea how to find my way out of it and then back in. I am also heavily jet-lagged. Good luck to me.
Initial Impressions from COP22
There isn’t much I have seen in the four hours I have been here. The streets are really busy and chock full of people and cars, which wasn’t something I saw back in July when I was here and so I assume it has a lot to do with the COP. There is some street art I spotted in places but I think there must be other spots where there is a lot going on. The city is bustling with life though- little pubs and restaurants on every corner are lit up, the roads have been decorated and there is a general sense of busyness all around.
My only interaction so far has been with a couple of Australians, one of whom is from the government’s environment panning and sustainable development division and talked to us a little bit about the kind of renewable energy work being undertaken in Australia. Their target is to meet 33,000 GWh of their electricity needs from renewables (solar, hydral, wind, bioenergy) by 2020. There continues to be resistance and an American-esque denial of climate change from man-made causes in Australia as well.
One recurring topic of discussion however, was that of Trump’s ascent into the presidency, which threatens to derail and cause more harm to large-scale climate efforts than the Bush administration ever did. This may be because we are on the cusp of fragile progress- the Paris Agreement is just days into being ratified and the urgency to do more has never been stronger, what with recently published evidence indicating that we may be headed towards 7.36 degrees C rather than the previously anticipated top of 4.8 degrees C by 2100. What this means is not just that the devastating impacts we have already begun to see will climb into greater severity and frequency, but that we could be tipped into a world we do not know and haven’t seen, drastically altering life as we know it (Neild, 2016).
There are two options here- we either continue with status quo or with our half-hearted attempts and wait for nature to unravel its wrath upon us, or we use this as an opportunity to voluntarily and steadily alter our ways of life until we are able to pull back from some of the worst things we are likely to see. Don’t get me wrong- we are still headed for a world of climate refugees, uncertain natural disasters, lost biodiversity, food insecurity and much more. But we can meet nature halfway and prevent her from the kinds of drastic alterations that would cause exponential damage to human and non-human life. This is what all scientists urge us to do- but it is easier said than done.
What is holding us back? I have some ideas, based on some classes and reading, but in the coming week I hope to unpack in more detail why some of our international solutions are lacking the kind of panache that we need to set the stage for a climate justice revolution. I want to know why our Nationally Determined Contributions aren’t matching up to scale. I already to know that a lot of it has to do with politics along the North-South divide (think: who is to blame for the crisis? who is likely to suffer the most? who needs to take the first steps? who needs to prioritize development? why do we again and again face the statement: “it’s just not fair!”). But even beyond countries, certain actors are continuously sidelined and rejected as fair participants in a discussion that can alter their lives before it alters those of anybody else.
I do not envy the task of those faced with making these decisions. To recognize the gravity of climate change, we have to draw in everything from geopolitics and war, all the way down to solar cells and hybrid electric vehicles. Taking action is hard because while we can trace climate change over time, we cannot possibly see it happening right before our eyes. Our defense mechanisms and cognitive dissonance starts to kick in- Maybe we aren’t causing this at all? Maybe it is God’s will? Maybe there’s nothing we can do? Maybe we will fail even if we do try. I’m just one person. And so on and so forth. Within this diversity of worldviews, most of the urgency is lost.
Climate change invokes passion and emotion- look at DiCaprio’s latest film for a glimpse of what I mean (Before the Flood). Read poems and speeches given by those on the front lines. This isn’t easy, but it’s happening. And we need to pitch in. Even if we call upon all our deepest, darkest emotions to do so. Fear can be a powerful motivator sometimes. We just have to allow ourselves to feel enough and not a drop more. Let’s see how this pans out.