Preserving Humanity and Democracy by Fighting Climate Change, Together
2015 is a symbolic year for both democracy and sustainable development, a year that may serve as a reflection about where we are heading as a global community.
Two milestones for democracy are commemorated this year. On June 15, 1215, exactly 800 years ago, the Magna Carta was approved, becoming the first modern Constitution in Britain and the world. Issued by King John of England, it was the first document to object imprisonment without due legal process, subjecting everyone to the rule of law — even the King himself. This idea serves as a pillar of freedom and democracy, inspiring modern constitutions around the world, in addition to charters of rights, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 2015 is also the commemoration for the 750th anniversary of the first elected Parliament in the UK, which was considered to be the first institution that assumed the distinctive functions of a modern Parliament –representation, legislation and control.
The world has come a long way since the introduction of the Magna Carta, with democracy spreading, developing at varied speeds and acquiring different shapes; it has undergone various progresses and setbacks over time and space. Modern history is being positively influenced, making way for the process of democratic expansion and peace. This in turn has fostered global development to an extent never seen before.
Fast forward to last week at the G7 meeting in Germany, democracy continues to evolve and is at the heart of the discussion with leaders from the largest economies in the world. “Even as we work to promote the growth that creates jobs and opportunity, we’re also here to stand up for the fundamental principles that we share as democracies: for freedom; for peace; for the right of nations and peoples to decide their own destiny; for universal human rights and the dignity of every human being.” President Obama, at the G7 Summit in Germany, June 8, 2015.
However, just as there was great conflict several centuries ago during the implementation of the decree, the state of conflict in society hasn’t changed much. Although with the advent of climate change, what has changed greatly is the enormity of the global warming challenge for the whole human race.
No one country can tackle climate change alone.
With the world facing the global threat of climate change, its consequences will harm the progress made within the development landscape. For example, important achievements made under the MDGs framework may experience setbacks due to climate change related events, like extreme natural phenomena – tsunamis, extreme droughts and floods, or heat waves. Not only is development threatened, but also the mere availability of natural resources essential to human life, like water or fossil fuels. In this context, democracy can experience setbacks as well, given the fact that competition over scarce natural resources does not always occur through peaceful methods and can therefore easily turn into major conflicts.
The leaders from the G7 assembly have committed to take “urgent and concrete action” on climate change in 2015 (Guardian) by agreeing to reduce their economies’ reliance on fossil fuels. But, we all know it’s going to take more than the commitment of these seven countries (and the Pope) to really address this issue. The international community has scheduled key events in 2015 that may enhance global action in order to address these challenges. The European Union, the largest donor in development assistance, declared 2015 the European Year for Development; within their framework many climate change initiatives are being undertaken from both EU institutions and civil society. Additionally, the UN is in the process of setting the post-2015 agenda for development by identifying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a replacement for the MDGs. Finally, the Conference of Parties (COP21) also known as the 2015 Climate Change Conference, scheduled for December, will hopefully define the new pledges in fighting Climate Change. Hence, 2015 is full of opportunities to address many of the central challenges facing today’s world.
“[The movement to address climate change is] about something deeper than [justice] it’s about solidarity. Human solidarity.” -Bill Mckibben
A global threat like Climate Change just might be a call for renewal—a renewed sense of belonging, a reprioritization of international, national or sectorial interests, and a restored mission towards a common goal through democratic means. The current high-level international meetings and frameworks can turn this threat into an opportunity for global action, bringing together the efforts of multi-lateral organisations, governments, civil society and the private sector—all operating under the same state of mind; there is only one world, and we all share its fate.
Perhaps the drive for the preservation of Earth will unify humanity, forcing its people to think and collaborate on a global scale like never before. Indeed, there is a huge benefit to a renewed global vision. As Carl Sagan once said about his view of Earth from outer space: “There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known”. (Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.) Preservation, co-responsibility and appreciation: perhaps these three words will define our future as humanity.
From Partners for Democratic Change International we will keep working for democracy to function, for development to be sustainable, and for global threats and conflicts to be dealt with through peaceful means, as we have been doing for the past 25 years.