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The battle to protect the climate by parties to key conventions

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Added 22nd October 2016 01:40 PM

These conventions establish strong platforms upon which integrated momentum is strengthened.

The battle to protect the climate by parties to key conventions

These conventions establish strong platforms upon which integrated momentum is strengthened.

By Ann Grace Apiita

When transnational corporations are bent on profit-driven activities that alter the entire climate system and steeply threaten human lives from the Amazon over the African plains to the Asian horizons, then we should not only ask ourselves what kind of earth we intend to pass on to the next generation, but rise up to save the situation through collaborative approaches to bring their operations to a halt.

During the first week of November 2016, global leaders will converge to reinforce two important treaties of our time: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC and the United Nations Health Treaty on Tobacco commonly known as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - WHO FCTC.

These conventions establish strong platforms upon which integrated momentum is strengthened to stop the influence and involvement of transnational corporations in climate negotiations. In addition, other significant aspects in these treaties will focus on effective implementation of policies on climate change, public health and reduction of inequalities.

To address increasing international trade in tobacco products which deteriorates human health, Article 15 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was approved in 2012. No sooner had forty parties ratified the treaty than its immediate effect commenced. The treaty valued human health above all profits the Tobacco industry was generating. Since its inception a decade ago, the WHO FCTC has labored to protect policy from all kinds of interference from Big Tobacco.

On the contrary, oil industries had the freedom to interfere with the commitments of the UNFCCC for more than two decades. Policy protection was hardly included in this treaty let alone discussed. However, it's not yet all doom and gloom because the roadmap to Marrakesh will ensure the protection and rigorous implementation of the climate change policy by all parties who have ratified the Paris agreement and those who are in the process. Currently, the passionate progress by UNFCCC parties to check the interference of polluting oil industries in climate negotiations is a green light for the climate and on humanitarian grounds.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change whose goal is to ‘stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,' is working to ensure that parties to the Paris accord of 2015 break fossil fuel dependency and equally restore justice to the vulnerable groups most impacted by climate change.

Before the year ends, the Paris commitment will soon take effect by more than 60 countries that have ratified the treaty. The UNFCCC and the WHO FCTC will provide long-term strategies for governments to collaborate in holding oil-tobacco industries not only accountable for climate damages, but isolate them from negotiations. Both treaties provide a platform to capacitate government and their people to regain power that was craftily withdrawn from them by transnational corporations.

If these transnational corporations persistently infiltrate climate negotiations and have the freedom to operate as they please, it will render these key treaties meaningless in their commitments to protect the climate. More vividly, how many lives will be lost to Non Communicable Diseases by 2030 if parties to both treaties barely progress with their commitments set out to implement policies on public health, climate change, inequalities?

Indoor Air pollution is a silent killer and annually it claims the lives of two million people while more deaths occur from fire accidents according to data validated by World Health Organization. Like all other countries in Africa, access to electricity is still limited in Uganda with only 15 percent connected to the grid: therefore, kerosene is still treasured extensively in households and schools as a source of light according to performance sector records. This has adversely impacted on education. Most households in Uganda per se still use kerosene for cooking whereby its cost exceeds what goes into the cooking pot; diverting essential funds from what could have catered for educational and nutritional needs for children.

Personally, I have interacted and interviewed women from north-eastern Uganda majority of whom spend more than 6 hours scavenging for fuel wood in regions prone to insecurities.  Other groups of women labour to cook a simple meal using kerosene in an inefficient stove that exposes them to smoke which causes Lung Cancer, Cardiovascular and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary diseases among others.

In the current climate, the security of humanity is paramount and the burdens of the vulnerable, dominated by women and children from climate fragile zones cannot be overemphasized. The influence of transnational corporations in climate negotiations is an absolute insult to human rights.  Therefore, UNFCCC and WHO FCTC are two significant treaties of our time justified to stop the involvement of polluting industries from climate talks with immediate effect.

The writer is a climate tracker


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