Interview with Ivan Phell Enrile, Climate Justice programme manager of IBON International and Wendel Trio, director of CAN Europe –
|Ivan Phell Enrile is the Climate Justice programme manager of IBON International. Prior to their joining IBON International, they were the policy officer of Asia Pacific Research Network and campaign coordinator of People Over Profit. Their interests include trade and climate justice, and decolonisation. He is located in the global south.
Wendel Trio has been the Director of CAN Europe since September 2011. Wendel has over 30 years of experience working for NGOs, including working as political director for Oxfam in Belgium, as campaign director for Greenpeace Belgium and as Director of the Policy and Business Unit of Greenpeace International. He is located in the global north.
They share their perspectives regarding the actual situation of the Earth, the COP26, their work, and the collaboration bridging the gap between north and south.
1. What is the state of the environment in your region (namely Europe) in terms of environmental degradation (climate, soil, biodiversity, oceans, etc.) and what is the timeline in which you project to experience broader direct and indirect impacts of the environmental crisis ( and the consequential social, political, and economic crises)?
CAN Europe: I am afraid the picture is rather bleak as Europe is experiencing an environmental crisis with high levels of air, water and soil pollution. On top of that we are witnessing more and more devastating impacts of climate change, in the form of floods, heat waves, droughts, forest fires and reduced agricultural outputs. It should be clear that these impacts will only grow, and action to limit greenhouse gas and other polluting emissions is urgently needed.
IBON Foundation: Asia Pacific is one of the regions hardest hit by the effects of global warming, suffering the effects of increasing extreme weather events such as droughts, typhoons and rising seas, which pose an existential threat to the many communities living in low-lying areas. According to the UNDP, some 4300 people are killed annually in the region as a result of climate change. Also, the increasing unpredictability of weather poses a grave problem for those who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
We are also experiencing the indirect effects of climate change. For instance, increasing resource scarcity is leading to large-scale climate migration and intensifying competition for food and water resources, for example in the Middle East, is leading to massive land grabbing. Furthermore, efforts by governments in the Global North to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions can have negative environmental and social impacts in the South when land and resources are taken in the South to produce so-called “eco-friendly” biofuels or extract lithium for e-vehicles. This is nothing but a replication of neocolonialist behavior.
Finally, climate related disasters are also sapping fiscal capacity in the region as funds needed for other needs are diverted for disaster response and protection measures.
Reacting to this situation, many groups and individuals in the South are mobilising to influence policymaking on climate change and resisting harmful economic activities that are driving climate change, such as large-scale extractive activities. However they regularly meet with fierce repression by state forces and the companies involved in these activities and many have been killed because of their work. Recently, governments have used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to suppress the activities of climate activists.
2. How does your organisation respond right now to the environmental crisis in light of the state of the environment (including covid19), the COP26 and the latest leaks of the IPCC report?
CAN Europe: It is very clear that we are in a state of climate emergency and CAN Europe has been calling for Europe to develop and implement a climate urgency plan that would tackle greenhouse gas emissions with a much greater sense of urgency than what we are currently seeing. Action should be taken today to reduce emissions with a view of phasing out the use of fossil fuels rapidly and reaching climate neutrality by 2040. This will need to be done in a holistic way, ensuring both action is taken to reduce pollution and to provide alternatives, which will be both technological and behavioural. And this will need to be done in a way that ensures that climate, environment and social objectives support and strengthen each other.
IBON International: Climate justice is one of the central pillars of IBON International’s work. In our research and policy work we focus on supporting CSOs and people’s movements that are fighting against those that are responsible for global warming, in particular the global corporations with their carbon-hungry projects and the governments that facilitate their activities. At the same time we are demanding that the so-called developed countries fully pay their climate debt through climate finance. We also critically monitor what form climate finance takes, as all too often it fails to take account of the needs of the people and can even be harmful.
3. What is the Brennpunkt for civil society and organisations in this COP26?
CAN Europe: COP26 is an important political moment for the fight against climate change. In 2015 countries promised they would try to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C but it is clear they are failing to do so with temperature projected to rise to 2.5°C by the end of the century. All countries thus need to come well prepared to the Glasgow COP with new emission reduction targets that would bring us in line with the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, all rich countries should also come with additional pledges to financially support poor countries that face difficulties, not only to make the transition away from fossil fuels but also to prepare themselves for climate impacts (so-called adaptation) and to deal with the devastating impacts they are already being confronted with (so-called loss and damage)
IBON International: From a South point of view, we expect strong commitments from the “developed” countries that take account of the historical climate debt of the industrialized countries. Developing countries should be given a certain level of allowance bearing in mind that so much of their share of emissions was appropriated by the North in the past.
Climate finance from the North needs to be increased to enable the countries of the South to make the transition. The North failed to provide the promised 100 billion US$ by 2020, so now we must demand more than that.
It is also unacceptable that even the low level of climate finance that is mobilized is mainly allocated to mitigation and not for adaptation, which is the urgent need of the South. We are not the main ones responsible for the climate crisis, but we are the ones most affected.
Civil society also needs to demand that the reparations made by the North be in the form of grants and not loans. Oxfam recently pointed out that 80 % of public climate finance comes in the form of loans. This can be compared to your neighbor burning down your house and then gives you a loan to rebuild it!
4. What is your evaluation of the COPs, from the first one you have followed to this one? What is the evolution of the arguments? What is your take on the stand of politicians?
CAN Europe: My first COP was in 2007, but before that I also participated in World Conference on Environment and Development in Rio De Janeiro in 1992 where the Climate Convention was signed. Since then we have made substantial progress is the recognition of the climate change crisis. While in the early years the debate focused on what rich countries should do in a further away future, the debate now recognises every country will need to act, while recognising the special responsibilities of historical emitters. And we have a recognition that a phase out of global emissions (called climate neutrality) will be necessary. On the other side, we remain with the same challenge that climate change is a global problem that can only be solved through international cooperation involving all countries. This has the risk that the least ambitious countries can set the pace unless other countries are willing to move forward alone.
Attention for climate change has been high for quite a while now but the pressure on decision-makers to finally deliver has grown, this hopefully will now also be translated in substantial additional action on the ground.
5. What prevents societies in the global north (local, regional, national, international) from responding to the climate crisis? What prevents societies in the south? What are the differences and similarities in terms of challenges?
CAN Europe: This likely can be explained by a combination of vested interests and the complexity of the climate crisis. It is very clear that in North and South those who would potentially lose from a phase out of fossil fuels and fossil fuel subsidies are fighting tooth and nail to keep the status quo as long as possible. In doing so they use all kinds of arguments and tactics including confusing decision-makers and the public at large. Climate change is a complex issue, and taking action in one place does not prevent impacts to happen in the same place. In fact, we witness that those most affected are usually those who are contributing least to the problem. Furthermore, climate change is a long-term challenge and we need to take action now, which will only have an impact in the longer term. For many policy makers this means that the benefit of their decisions might only be visible well beyond their political life. These challenges lead to a situation where more attention is given to the potential (small) negative impact of climate action and hardly any attention is given to the (huge) negative impacts of inaction.
IBON International: The basic reason for the Global North’s failure to respond adequately is economic, as it would inevitably result in their economies shrinking. The North defines development in terms of profit, which is dependent on high growth rates. The reality of climate change is that the growth paradigm has to be overhauled, but the political will to do this is lacking. Instead, Northern leaders talk about committing to net zero emission targets. However, this simply means that their industries can maintain their current emission levels but conceal them through carbon offsets and by developing technologies that capture carbon emissions or by planting trees in the South.
Governments in the South fail to address climate change by collaborating with the World Bank and other international financial institutions and facilitating foreign investments by transnational corporations whose carbon-fueled projects are responsible for large-scale environmental destruction and human rights violations while contributing massively to global warming.
6. What are the biggest challenges for collaboration between civil societies and organisations from the global north with respect to the global south and viceversa?
CAN Europe: I actually believe that organisations from the global north and the global south can work together perfectly as is the case in our network where we at CAN Europe have a close cooperation with several of our colleagues in other CAN affiliates. The biggest challenges to this cooperation are on the one hand a limit of the financial resources that are available for political advocacy work in southern organisations, and on the other hand that climate change is such a massive issue that work at the local/national level is so immense that little time is left for cooperation at the international level.
IBON International: I think it would be true to say that one of the main challenges is capacity. Navigating the technicalities of climate policy poses a major challenge, especially for smaller organisations, and discussions at the COPs tend to be above their heads. IBON helps to make the issues at stake more accessible to them so that they can make their voices heard, which is crucial. They must be empowered so that they can participate fully. On the positive side, working together with our partners in several regions of the world is very stimulating as our contexts are often similar. We are united in fighting against our corrupt governments and multinational companies that trample on our rights, destroy our environment and repress and even kill those who defend our rights and demanding climate justice.