SUNIL DOWARKASING

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special 1.5° report has been released on October 8 in South Korea. It does confirm that the situation is highly alarming. One of the headlines statement of this report that deserves a bright spot in this article is that “Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.”

How did the IPCC come to this conclusion?

This is based on science and is science driven. 6,000 independent research papers were scrutinized and 41 top scientists worked to reach this conclusion. It was a mammoth undertaking, with 91 authors from 40 countries compiling evidence from more than 6,000 papers and addressing 42,001 comments from experts and governments. There have been week-long deliberations by government representatives from 130 countries.

The impact of global warming is greater than what was anticipated earlier. The world, which is already 1.0°C warmer compared to pre-industrial levels, is facing the climate wraths in some form or the other. A further 0.5 degree Celsius rise would unleash more havoc in every corner of the world and in Mauritius we will not be spared either. The unequivocal message from this report is that every half a degree of warming matters. We have already been hit by 1-degree rise in temperature and its impact is here. Limiting warming to 1.5C is necessary possible and urgent. It is the only option for a safe, prosperous and just future, especially for those at the frontlines of impacts. The call for ending coal and fossil fuel is the way forward to a safe future.

What does this mean in real terms?

In 12 years from now we will have used our entire carbon budget if we continue on the same pathway, which means we have little time to act. The report points out that a radical shift is needed to decarbonize by 2050, and preferably by 2040. This assessment must spur the rapid switch to sustainable solutions across all sectors in the next decade driven by advances already underway in the real economy. Science has spoken, and it is now time for leaders to determine on which side of history they will stand on. There is need for political will to heed science and lead the transformational change we need. We need to act locally and fast. Beautiful speeches at the UN on climate change will not help to keep global warming under control. Mauritius, once a SIDS leader on sustainability, is stuck in the stalls and instead Green Washing and mimicking the sustainable development concept have set roots at all levels. Hypocrisy at its highest level when we are still more than 75% coal locked. Is it lack of political will? Is it the influence of the coal cartel (for sure one exists)? Is it the strong push back by technicians both from the CEB and the government? Or is it simply lack of vision for a safer and cleaner Mauritius? Is it the collusion between the IPPs and the power? Or simply all of them.

The challenge is broader

The actual fate of the planet should also compel us to think that even if the consumption of all kinds of fossil fuels, including coal, is to be completely stopped and fully replaced by renewable energy sources, we may not have the solutions to all the threats of Climate Change, unless the global level consumption of energy and materials is also kept within the limits of the nature. Simply by replacing the fossil fuel sources with renewable energy sources, and continuing with our extravagant ways of consuming energy and materials will put us in similar situation as we are in within next few decades, if not immediately. A new life style is needed. Materialism and my car-my status need to change.

A new economic imperative

In this context, we should also consider advocating for a careful review of our economic growth philosophy as highlighted by the high GDP growth paradigm or perpetual growth paradigm. The conventional economist will keep running behind growth and lose track of the other externalities that are neutralizing the gains from GDP growth. Development need to happen but with respect to the boundaries of the natural resources. When will the local community of politicians understand this simple equation?

The main reason for the ills of many of the countries in the global south like Mauritius … is our obsession with high GDP growth, which is leading to various kinds of pollution/contamination, and accelerated depletion of natural resources, even though our average per capita energy requirements are not high, and being a tropical country we can have much simpler life style, as far as energy needs are concerned. But in the mad obsession to ape the life style of countries in global north we are artificially jacking up their needs in almost all spheres of life, including depletion of all our natural resources.

At the United Nations, the Prime Minister of Mauritius declared: “We are living in troubled times, marked by uncertainties and complex threats to peace, stability and sustainability of our planet…”. I and the wider population expect you to walk the talk.