U.S.-China Climate cooperation, Climate [In]Security, Media Repression in India and More (UPDATED)

UPDATED: PROGRESS AT COP26?

This is what we wrote on 12 November at noon EST:

The 6pm [GMT] deadline for the talks to finish at COP26 has passed without an agreement being announced.

The official deadline for agreeing a text at the vitally important “do or die” climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland has passed but agreement has been reached for continuing the negotiations, possibly even into Sunday.

We will update this post when the final agreement is reached, so don’t forget to check!

Here is that update.

Was enough progress made to keep hopes alive for COP27?

In the view of Ceasefire.ca:

The answer to that question really depends on who you ask with activists, many young people, calling the Summit an “utter betrayal” and others arguing that the goal of 1.5C of climate heating “is alive but only just“.

Aljazeera English has provided superb media coverage of COP26 throughout its two-week duration. This culminated with an Inside Story panel discussion which amply demonstrates the difficulty in assessing the results of COP26.

To view the video discussion in full, click What has the COP26 climate summit achieved? (inside-story.com, 13 Nov 20121).

We end with a quote from the Guardian.com, which also provided excellent print media coverage throughout:

So, with the final deal settled, does Cop26 look like a success or failure? The unsatisfactory answer is both, but it’s more the latter than the former.

For more on the further steps needed, see: We need far more radical thinking than any COP26 deal to save the planet (Paul Rogers, opendemocracy.net) 14 Nov 2021.

Historic China-USA Climate Cooperation Agreement

For the full statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, click here.

Global leaders and climate experts welcomed an “unexpected” agreement between the U.S. and China to work together on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Paragraph 5 of the two countries’ joint statement reads:

The two sides are intent on seizing this critical moment to engage in expanded individual and combined efforts to accelerate the transition to a global net zero economy.

Of particular significance, the two sides will revive a working group, discontinued by Trump, that will:

… meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, focusing on enhancing concrete actions in this decade. (para 16)

Nonetheless, experts also caution that more is needed from the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters if COP26 is to succeed:

The statement is not enough to close the deal. The real test of Washington and Beijing is how hard they push for a 1.5C-aligned deal here in Glasgow. – Bernice Lee, Chatham House

Barbados Prime Minister addresses COP26

The pandemic has taught us that national solutions to global problems do not work.”

For an utterly riveting speech on what is at stake and the urgent need for “leaders to lead”, click on the arrow below to see and hear Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley address COP26.

UN Security Council unable to address climate security holistically

A topic that is not receiving enough attention at COP26 is “climate security,” which encompasses not only climate-induced violence but the ways that the climate crisis and efforts to mitigate and adapt to its effects are impacted by violence.

Climate experts Ulrich Eberle and Andrew Ciacci, in a new Crisis Group post entitled Getting Conflict into the Global Climate Conversation (crisis.org, 5 Nov 2021), write:

A debate in the UN Security Council over a climate security resolution illustrates the divisions among states over how to deal with the issue of climate security and the bright line some governments draw between climate and conflict.

The resolution aims to create a “baseline for discussions of how climate shapes international peace and security” but permanent Security Council members Russia and China, together with elected member India, oppose its passage, fearing it will lead to “meddling in states’ internal affairs”.

Not dealing with climate security in the Security Council is a mistake.

The authors argue that addressing climate security in certain specific situations is no substitute for systematically predicting, assessing and responding to such climate-related risks. They conclude:

…advocates should continue to bring climate security issues before the Council for piecemeal treatment, even if the path to its systematic incorporation into the Council’s agenda is blocked for the time being.

How is climate security being addressed at COP26?

Eberle and Ciacci address the concern that climate security is not an official COP26 agenda item:

The issue is not whether climate security figures as an official agenda item. The issue is whether COP26 negotiators take account of conflict dynamics in their talks about achieving the conference’s aims.

They offer many examples of the inter-relation of climate change and conflict including:

  • Flooding causes displacement, aggravating land use tensions between cattle herders and farmers (South Sudan);
  • The ceasefire by FARC rebels in Colombia in 2014 meant they no longer protected the forests where they had been sheltering, leading to accelerated deforestation, exacerbated further by the peace deal;
  • Across the Sahel, climatic distress has led to a breakdown of traditional land use arrangements, exacerbating ethnic tensions between farmers and herders.

In the authors’ view:

Climate change and conflict do not exist in isolation from each other….Half of the most climate-fragile countries in the world also face conflict and crisis today, according to Crisis Group’s calculations.

A particularly important area for improvement relates to climate finance, which has heretofore largely avoided committing adaptation funds to conflict-affected areas:

Aligning climate finance with development priorities was already a goal for COP26. Moving forward, a goal should be aligning it with conflict prevention and resolution priorities as well.

Climate security and COP27 in Egypt

The Crisis Group climate experts also look ahead to COP27, to be hosted by Egypt, arguing that formal billing on the agenda is not as important as climate security being threaded throughout relevant parts of the agenda:

The delegates need to take account of climate-induced violence as it relates to the conference’s objectives, chiefly adaptation and finance.

Most fundamentally, they need to understand that it is impossible to effectively treat climate fragility and conflict dynamics on separate tracks in the many places where they overlap and that are already feeling some of the most extreme impact of climate change.

For more on the complicated inter-relationship of global warming, resource scarcity and outbreaks of violence, see: The Central Sahel: Scene of New Climate Wars? (crisis group, 24 Apr 2020).

WESTERN SILENCE OVER REPRESSION OF JOURNALISTS IN INDIA

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders has ranked India at 142 out of 180 countries, calling it “one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.”Their report further states that, since Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a second mandate in 2019, pressure has increased on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line.

The Nation magazine draws much-needed attention to this situation in an article by Suchitrat Vijayan and Francesca Recchia (the nation.com, 8 Nov 2021) with the byline:

The police now routinely file criminal charges against journalists, including sedition​ charges, for the ​crime of reporting​.

The article cites the example of journalist Siddique Kappan, in prison since October 2020, and charged under India’s sedition law and the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), for trying to report on a horrific gang rape and murder case in a marginalised community.

Kappan’s story is not unique as the Nation article recounts:

Most recently, others have been harassed and threatened for reporting and documenting anti-Muslim violence in the Indian state of Tripura, where Hindu mobs attacked mosques and properties owned by Muslims.

Since then, Tripura state police have charged 102 social media accounts, including journalists Meer Faisal and Shyam Meera Singh, under terrorism laws for posting about anti-Muslim violence in Tripura.

The article documents “constant attacks” on journalists who question or criticize the ruling Modi regime:

Journalists are routinely threatened, intimidated, arrested, booked—and silenced through gag orders and charges concocted by the state.

Those who speak up against the current government are also at risk of being booked for sedition or arrested under draconian laws such as the UAPA, which unilaterally designates individuals as terrorists without the need to provide evidence.

The Nation also cites UNESCO and other authoritative sources on the scope of the systematic aggression perpetrated by the Modi regime, particularly the police in ruling BJP party-controlled states.

Most problematic of all is the active complicity of the judiciary in the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of political and ideological appointments of the Modi government. The authors conclude:

The complicity between the state, the judiciary, and the police in the attempt to silence journalists needs to be acknowledged and countered. When the judiciary is the midwife of tyranny, law becomes the most lethal weapon of a fascist state.

UK House of Lords Library report on allegations of Indian media repression

Canada and the United Kingdom co-hosted a Global Conference for Media Freedom on 10 July 2019 so it is pertinent here to consider how the UK has been handling the issue of the gross repression of journalists in India.

A House of Lords Library report by Claire Brader, entitled Human Rights concerns in India (19 July 2021) cites Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2021, indicating that the BJP-led government had:

…increasingly harassed, arrested, and prosecuted rights defenders, activists, journalists, students, academics, and others critical of the government or its policies.

The report further noted that Amnesty International also raised concerns about incidences that have taken place in India in 2020:

Freedom of expression was guaranteed selectively, and dissent was repressed through unlawful restrictions on peaceful protests and by silencing critics. Human rights defenders, including students, academics, journalists and artists, were arbitrarily arrested, often without charge or trial.

In response to a House of Commons E-Petition relating to concerns over press freedoms and the safety of protesters in India, the UK government stated in part:

We consider the right to peaceful protest, freedom of speech, and internet freedom vital in any democracy. We also recognise that governments have the power to enforce law and order if a protest crosses the line into illegality. We look to the Indian government to uphold all freedoms and rights guaranteed in India’s strong constitution.

In short, the official UK government response omitted any hint of criticism of the actions of the government of India, whilst at the same time professing its “commitment to media freedom” and to “championing democracy and human rights around the world.”

Whither Canada?

The Media Freedom Coalition is a partnership of countries, including the UK and Canada:

… working together proactively to advocate for media freedom, online as well as offline, and for the safety of journalists and media workers. The Coalition aims to hold to account those who harm journalists or severely restrict them from doing their job, as well as support the work and initiatives of the Global Campaign for Media Freedom.

The Global Affairs website asserts the high priority that Canada gives to media freedom and outlines the various initiatives that Canada supports. It also lists the Media Freedom Coalition Statements to which Canada has been party since the launch of the coalition in Feb 2020 and the latest statement on 2 Nov 2021, on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

Many of the statements draw attention to specific cases of repression against journalists, including in Hong Kong, Russia, Belarus, China, Uganda, the Philippines and Yemen.

There are no statements relating to India, one of the worst offenders against press freedom.  

We call again on the government of Canada to end its cynical selectivity in the defence and promotion of human rights by taking concrete steps, through the Media Freedom Coalition, and elsewhere, to hold India accountable for its grave and ongoing repression of media freedom in that country.

For a (paywalled) article on the broader implications of the erosion of human rights in India, see: In a Region in Strife, India’s Moral High Ground Erodes (Mujib Mashal, nytimes.com) 6 Nov 2021.

EAST ASIA STRATEGY FORUM (EASF 2021) – NOVEMBER 17-18 2021

The Institute for Peace & Diplomacy (IPD) will host the inaugural East Asia Strategy Forum (EASF 2021) on November 17-18, with a focus on the geopolitics, strategic thinking and economic trajectory of East Asia and the Pacific.

Click here for information on speakers, the virtual conference programme and registration information.

A HISTORY WE ALL NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT

This year is the 100th anniversary of [the poppy’s] adoption by Canadian veterans to mark war, loss and the obligation of remembrance.

Tim Cook, Canadian historian and Director of Research at the Canadian War Museum, has written a history of the poppy in an article, the title of which captures the essence of his message:

The Remembrance Day poppy is 100 years old in Canada. Our attitudes to war and peace must keep evolving with it.

It is a remarkable story, from the famous poem, In Flanders Fields, penned by gifted physician, poet, and soldier John McCrae, which was initially used along with the flower to recruit more soldiers to the war effort, to its new post-war significance as a poem about – and a symbol of – remembrance and commemoration:

The poppy has always been tethered to those Canadians who served and sacrificed, to acts of violence and heroism, and as a symbol of commemoration and observation.

It is a flower infused with tears for loved ones long gone and sadness for humanity’s flaws that lead to war.

For the full Globe and Mail opinion piece, click here.

Photo credit: Wikimedia (President Xi Jinping and then Vice-President Joe Biden)

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