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Climate Change to Copy Tobacco Control Tactics

19 September 2016 | Feature Article

Just like climate change, tobacco kills many people every year. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is making sure that “the tobacco industry goes out of business”, as stated by Margaret Chan, its Director-General. However, unlike the FCTC, climate change’s UNFCCC had been sympathizing with the fossil fuel industry.

These two fatal industries knew the consequences that their business had in our health and planet, but still lobbied for denial and to influence regulations.

It is November 2015 and the historical Paris climate conference opens its doors to the negotiators. Surprisingly, the very enemies the conference was meant to destroy were the first to take the high-tables.

These were energy giants Engie, Électricité de France (EDF), Suez Environnement and the bank BNP Paribas, were not only welcomed with open arms, but were also part of the sponsors—meaning they had powers to influence the outcomes. These dirty energy establishments collectively own more than 46 coal-fired power plants around the world, including investments in oil sands exploration in Canada and fracking for shale gas in the UK.

Everyone now has the reason to wonder what kind of battle is this where the foe is given a chance. Precisely, how can organisations who directly oppose the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC convention, which is to reduce emissions causing climate change and to protect people and the planet from its effects, participate in a decision making process to stop climate change?

This kind of cagey conflict of interest is being thwarted within the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organisation where the foe is the gigantic world Tobacco Business. In the field of World Climate, it is the UNFCCC versus the monster fossil fuel industry, the polluters of the atmosphere.

Our congratulation must go out to the Tobacco fighters. They are winning the fight. This would mean the lives of 1 million people are saved, a victory that could be fully materialised with the current FCTC’s strategy of excluding their opponents from the debate, incited by an ultimate goal of making sure that “the tobacco industry goes out of business.”

But on the side of climate combat, UNFCCC is still beating around the bush with its opponents. Instead of saying “we are taking fossil fuels out of business like the anti-tobacco guys,” they are saying “well, we can still strike some balanced interests.” It is such things as forging balanced interests that hurts them back in form of cunning lobbies.

To rub salt into wounds is one particular encounter between the EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Change, Miguel Arias Cañete, who after the Paris COP had six times as many meets with fossil fuel interests as renewables or energy efficiency advocates, as meeting replay brings to light.

Therefore the major hurdle still standing in the way of fight against global warming is one: double-standardness of the UNFCCC.

But there’s no magic bullet for that problem. The solution is doing what the Anti-Tobacco fighters do: excluding the Tobacco industry lobbyists.

Just as the Tobacco industry has become number one enemy of the World Health Organisation, the UNFCCC ought to heighten its hostility towards carbon emitters. The first step of doing so is banning this industry from further participating in any of its future conferences.

There’s an African proverb which says: “if there’s no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.”

That means if the big polluters are locked out of the climate negotiations, there will be harmony and fruitful outcomes of the discussions rather than the one grafted with motely interests and pressure groups we have seen from Paris summit and in the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto protocol and it is already threatening to frustrate this year’s negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco.

Tobacco and climate change are now the two world’s biggest epidemics combined killing 1, 300,000 people every year—that’s is why the FCTC fights to preserve public health and cut the consumption of tobacco worldwide, by implementing taxes or more strict policies as UNFCCC establishes rules and guidelines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep temperature increase to safe limits.

To reinforce the already set 1.5 degree temperature limits, Climate Change fighters will need to copy and implement such ruthless measures combating carbon emissions as banning from participation those who only benefit from human sufferings.

By: Boaz Opio

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Boaz Opio

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