WHEN the special leaf-shaped gavel was brought down to the sound block to signify the adoption of the ‘Paris Agreement’ – a universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change – the large exhibition hall at the outskirts of Paris erupted in applause and cheer.
Such applause and cheer were resonated on the streets in Paris where tens of thousands people from across the world gathered in anticipation.
I can also imagine the hearty cheer and applause of the millions around the world who followed and witnessed the signing of the agreement live on their televisions, or watched or read the news when the day broke in their part of the globe.
The United Nations (UN) has had a series of international climate change conferences, first held in Berlin in 1995 to the last one in Copenhagen six years ago – all failed miserably.
But in Paris two weeks ago, the leaders, delegates and representatives of 200 countries had decided to turn what was deemed impossible or even unimaginable, into an historical accord to make the subsistence of Planet Earth and human kind workable and achievable.
In their incredibly feat, governments around the world have agreed to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, a complete answer to the compelling scientific finding that the 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels mark is the tipping point in the warming of the planet that will trigger serious climate catastrophes.
The 187 countries had submitted their pledges to cut and curb their carbon emissions, with their plans beyond 2020 and up to 2030, and submitting themselves to a global stock take review mechanism every five years, from 2023. They have promised to peak global emissions as soon as possible, then to achieve a balance between anthropogenic (human activity-related) emissions by sources and removals by sinking of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century – meaning getting to ‘Net Zero Emissions’ between 2050 and 2100.
The Paris Agreement also provides for the mechanism to address financial losses and other damages that vulnerable countries face from climate impacts.
And the rich, developed countries have agreed to raise US$100 billion a year by 2020 and more from 2025 to help the poorer and developing countries to adapt to climate change, develop clean energy and transform their economies.
In this era of political and corporate environment, the international accord has certainly conveyed an important message to governments and the corporate players. The shifting away from fossil fuels to renewal energy is inevitable, with the growth in strength of bodies such as the International Investors Group on Climate Change, which on its own is said to be managing more than 13 trillion euros worth of assets!
Something for crude oil and natural gas producing nation state like Sarawak to think about. Instead of producing and exporting crude oil and natural gas which are depleting and non-renewable, maybe we should start to undertake strategic planning and reformulate our petroleum policy to invest in and develop production facilities for synthetic fuels or crude-oil-processed-fuel equivalents, which will ensure that our oil and gas reserves will last us longer and at the same time, position ourselves to be a major producer in these future major energy products.
Back to the Paris Agreement, there have been criticisms too. Environmentalists are not too pleased that there is no specific date for global peaking of greenhouse gas emission, but an aim of ‘as soon as possible’; and the negotiation being focused entirely on the consumption of fossil fuels and not their production.
However I think everybody will agree that the Paris talks have made significant progress. It is now left to the political will, wisdom and commitment of the world leaders and governments to carry through the agreement.
The elephant has moved.
How is it like when the elephant moves? Hopefully, like what we have sung in our childhood activity song:
“The elephant moves very slowly, oh so very slowly.
“He doesn’t like to move too fast because he is so big and heavy.
“But when he moves and starts to run, the elephant shakes the ground.
“Rumble, rumble, rumble, hear the jungle rumble. Rumble, rumble, rumble, hear the jungle rumble.” It is a new leaf in human history. There is hope that the planet would rumble and the future of Mother Earthand the future generations of humankind are sustained.
In fact, it is as difficult to accomplish what the Paris Agreement has set out to achieve as it is difficult to move the ‘clumsy and heavy elephant’ which is the UN. Few would have dreamt that the US and China would sign an agreement to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but they did.
I have been positive and maintained my optimism in the universal accord to safeguard the future of the planet because of my belief and faith in humanity, that the people have shown times and again, in our human history, that they would be awaken and rise up to ambitious global visions; and the movement of the people from around the world gets underway, the visions however ambitious, would become realities.
Up until the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, efforts to lower emissions were very much left to the arguments and negotiations of governments and global leaders. Global and regional environmental groups and activists mustered their best efforts but the ‘global warming deniers’ funded and supported by fossil fuel lobbyist corporations and governments had the upper hand.
Quite clearly, the force (movement of the people) was not awaken!
The ‘big elephant’ (of humanity) must be moved, and she did.
Petitions by the environmental and civil rights groups presented to governments and the UN are no longer with signatures of thousands or tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands and even millions.
And these conscious global citizens are not limiting their endeavour to signing petitions on their computers; hundreds of climate matches, vigils and rallies were organised on all continents and in the 200 nation states at the same time, at climate summits and G7 meetings, with ever-growing crowds.
At the UN Climate Summit held last year, 400,000 people marched on the streets of New York City, and another 500,000 gathered across the globe, prompting US President Barack Obama to remind leaders and delegates in his address that: “Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend that we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”
As world leaders gathered and taking their seats in the hall in Paris, they were fully aware that there were at the same time, more than 785,000 people marching at 2,300 events in 175 countries, on Earth.
Only the unfortunate terrorist attack in Paris a week before the scheduled UN Summit had caused organisers to call off the mega-marchin Paris, of which hundreds of thousands had registered to participate. But within days, more than 22,000 pairs of shoes of would-be rally participants from all corners of the world had arrived in Paris, and organisers collected and lined them on the streets in Central Paris.
The Pope and the UN Secretary-General added their shoes too.
Obviously, the world leaders, governments and delegates could hear and feel the movement of the ‘elephant’, the growling of Paris, the thundering of the planet.
Back to our home, no one can deny that we have an ‘elephant’ in the room. No, we can no longer stand in a corner of the room and ignore its existence.
Thankfully, over the last two years, we are able to talk about the autonomous powers of Sarawak (and Sabah) openly. The government and political leaders have talked about it. Even the prime minister had agreed to address it. The Sarawak State Assembly has unanimously passed a motion that has listed out the ambit for discussion with the federal government.
At the same time, concerned Sarawakians are in their final push to gather 300,000-signature to petition the government on enacting a law allowing referendum in Sarawak, for Sarawakians to decide on the autonomy in the state.
More and more people are conscious that this ‘Fairland Sarawak’ deserves better.
Concerns were raised that the infamous NSC (National Security Council) Bill, which was hastily rushed through the both houses of Parliament, might have an eye trained at the movements in the East Malaysian states.
Personally, I do not think that ‘bolting the elephant’ is a good idea.
The force has awakened, and as the activity song has taught us: ‘When the elephant moves, she shakes the ground and the forest rumbles’.
Year 2016 will be most challenging. However, whether you will be at the street party at the Tun Salahuddin Bridge or at private parties for the countdown to usher in the New Year, let us shake the ground and hear Sarawak rumble.
Let us all put in our efforts in the new year, for a significant ‘Fair Land Sarawak’.
Happy New Year 2016 and wishing all the best to Everyone.