An “integral ecology” approach is very much a part of what Climate Express proposes, though it doesn’t necessarily use this language. Both also rely on the principle of the common good. In the words of Pope Francis, this calls for “justice between generations” where we see the world as a gift — not in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit — that demands intergenerational solidarity.8 How do we seek to leave this world we have inherited? In this regard, the “ambitieus klimaatplan” of the Climate Express might well be on track. However, what ambition does require is intent! Its intent should not just be with “what” it seeks to achieve but also “with whom” it seeks to achieve it. Will the plan’s ambition belie itself of its responsibility to the marginalised, or would it rather partner with them more effectively, in solidarity? There are reasons to believe that Belgium could gravitate towards the later. Apart from being a strong economy measured in terms of its GDP, Belgium enjoys a high sense of wellbeing as indicated in the OECD Better Life Index.9 Similarly, the Social Justice Index ranks Belgium well above the EU average.10 While a Better Life Index does not necessarily translate into such commitment, the Social Justice Index does reflect on the possibility of such a commitment to the marginalised, that in turn also results in societal wellbeing. However, apart from what statistics might indicate, an ambitious climate plan must also be grounded within the UNFCCC principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities:
We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.
Laudato Si’, 139
I borrow the argument for differentiated responsibilities from the Laudato Si’ which is very incisive in articulating our responsibilities in the context of “care for our common home” — our common good.
“… the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions …”11
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Just as climate marches and activism like this evening’s Claim the Climate11 will continue to engage concerned citizens of our common home in the near future, they need to be supported by research data that helps us make translatable changes in our daily life practices. Such climate activism in claiming the climate is also key in effecting government policies that can have far-reaching consequences on our ecology. While this evening’s climate march will remain a work in progress, it is also a reminder that our struggle with climate change is also about leading an active life — physically, mentally and spiritually — together. It is also a struggle that we could well celebrate together. And today’s cycling ride was just a case in point. PS: In case you are not yet convinced about climate change — or are just curious about it — these seven charts on climate change might be a good starting point.12
The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future. The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, yet access to ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relations and ownership which is structurally perverse. … The poorest areas and countries are less capable of adopting new models for reducing environmental impact because they lack the wherewithal to develop the necessary processes and to cover their costs. We must continue to be aware that, regarding climate change, there are differentiated responsibilities.
Laudato Si’, 139
- The Paris Agreement 2015 sought to limit the increase of global temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to eventually limit it to even below 1.5 degrees Celsius. It seeks to realise this goal by building a collaborative framework between countries where financial resources and technological knowhow is shared. This is key to more vulnerable and underdeveloped countries. Read the full text: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “Adoption of the Paris Agreement”, United Nations, 12 December 2015, http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf (accessed 2 December 2018) | Also read: Rogelj, Joeri, Michel den Elzen, Niklas Höhne, Taryn Fransen, Hanna Fekete, Harald Winkler, Roberto Schaeffer, Fu Sha, Keywan Riahi, and Malte Meinshausen. 2016. “Paris Agreement Climate Proposals Need a Boost to Keep Warming Well below 2 °C.” Nature 534 (June): 631. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature18307. ↩
- Cook, John, Naomi Oreskes, Peter T Doran, William R L Anderegg, Bart Verheggen, Ed W Maibach, J Stuart Carlton, et al. “Consensus on Consensus: A Synthesis of Consensus Estimates on Human-Caused Global Warming.” Environmental Research Letters 11, no. 4 (April 1, 2016): 048002. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002. ↩
- Climate Express, “Wat willen we” http://climate-express.be/eisen-2 (accessed 2 December 2018) ↩
- OECD (2018), National Accounts of OECD Countries, Volume 2018 Issue 2: Detailed Tables, OECD Publishing, Paris. https://doi.org/10.1787/na_ma_dt-v2018-2-en (accessed 2 December 2018). Belgium’s GDP for 2017 was 439,052 million euro (cf. pp. 32-40) and it currently accounts for among the top 25 countries in the world by GDP. ↩
- Green Climate Fund, “Resource Mobilization”, https://www.greenclimate.fund/how-we-work/resource-mobilization (accessed 2 December 2018). ↩
- Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, Vatican City: Vatican Press, 2015 https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html (accessed 2 December 2018). ↩
- Laudato Si’, 54 ↩
- Laudato Si’, 159 ↩
- OECD, “Belgium”, OECD Better Life Index, http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/belgium (accessed 2 December 2018). ↩
- Daniel Schraad-Tischler, Christof Schiller, Sascha Matthias Heller, Nina Siemer, “Social Justice in the EU – Index Report 2017”, Social Inclusion Monitor Europe, Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2017, https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/fileadmin/files/BSt/Publikationen/GrauePublikationen/NW_EU_Social_Justice_Index_2017.pdf (accessed 2 December 2018). Belgium ranks 13th among the EU countries with a score of 6.18, a notch higher than the EU average of 5.85 points. Interestingly, it ranks among the top ten EU countries in two of the six social justice parameters — health (6th) and social cohesion and non-discrimination (10th). ↩
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations, 9 May 1992, https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/conveng.pdf (accessed 2 December 2018). ↩
- Claim the Climate, http://climate-express.be/claim-the-climate (accessed 2 December 2018) has now been regarded the largest mobilisation ever for climate, in Belgium. ↩
- Nassos Stylianou, Clara Guibourg, Daniel Dunford and Lucy Rodgers, “Climate change: Where we are in seven charts and what you can do to help”, BBC https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46384067 (accessed 2 December 2018) ↩