COP21 is not going to work!

Jasser Auda

News of the COP21 deal and jubilant celebrations that politicians showed the world gave a false sense of achievement to millions of people around the world. I believe that it is an ethical responsibility to express the truth, regardless of how strange it might sound in the middle of the celebrations and propaganda. And the truth is: there will be no reverse of the disastrous path that we took the earth towards unless, in my opinion, we change the way we do these things: politics, business and media.

National and international politics in the current political system of nation states, and the way United Nations is structured and functioning, do not allow any real progress on the climate front. Governments are either dictatorships or elected democratically. Dictatorships do not care about the human nor the environment, to cut a long story short. Democratically elected governments, on the other hand, are there to represent at best the interests of their nation states and at worst the interests of pressure groups within these states. However, it is a fact that government policies and decisions that would preserve the environment for humanity go against both interests, at least on the short run. National interests are firmly defined in terms of the economics of "growth", which by definition requires a negative impact on the environment. Pressure groups are tied to money and they even push for a greater negative impact. Therefore, as long as the concept of justice in the laws, policies and governments is defined based on national borders not ethical values, nothing will happen.

And the way we do business needs an ethical revision as well. "Social responsibility" is defined as some charitable or community work that businesses donate with a small fraction of their profits. But the environment will continue to deteriorate until "social responsibility" is defined as the very core of business. Some could say that this is not realistic, which will take us back to the way governments work. Governments are the only powers that could re-define how businesses should behave, which is even more unrealistic. As long as governments are not using their hard force to correct businesses, nothing will happen. And as long as media is tied to big money, there will be no public pressure and nothing will happen either.


Finally, religion – and ethical convictions for those who subscribe to an ethical worldview – is one of the few solutions left for the global environmental crisis. Ethics – and faith – is about individual behaviour and is therefore transnational and very powerful. If religious and ethical leaders and communities around the world get together and encourage their followers to act, individually and collectively, in ways that preserve the environment and change the course of climate change, then there is hope. This might be wishful thinking but we have to continue to hope for ethical politics, ethical business, ethical media, and ethical religion! This is the only way out of the crisis.