I was born and brought up in the Highlands of Scotland an area I am now proud to represent in the Scottish Parliament. A strong supporter of Scottish independence, like most sharing that stance, I am first and foremost an internationalist and care about humanity. I’m Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-party Group on Human Rights and a Member of the Justice and Equal Opportunities Committee and work closely with NGOs and environmental groups.
The world over, we all have much more in common than we have differences. Our basic needs are food, water and shelter. Yet, rather than build on these common interests, too often it’s our differences that take centre stage. Like the vast majority living in the ‘developed world’, acquiring those basic needs has never been a challenge to me or my family. However, each of those fundamental human rights represents a daily challenge for billions around the globe and for many millions in Bangladesh.
I think, or should I say I hope, we are at a point in our human development where no credible authority disputes that man-made climate change is impacting on our planet. Melting polar icecaps and glaciers will cause the sea to rise and countries to flood. Bangladesh’s proximity to the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean makes it vulnerable on both fronts.
Social media has made the world a smaller place and given opportunities to share information and ideas. I was asked by the pervious administrator of the Facebook Page ‘Help Keep Bangladesh Afloat,’ Christine Dawson, a huge supporter of the Bangladeshi people, to assist with Page and was happy to help. Since taking on that role, I have become more acutely aware than ever of the devastating impact that climate change has already had on coastal communities.
Politics is about power and influence and it pains me that multi-national corporations, many whose wealth exceeds that of sovereign nations, undermine democratic process, often through bribery and corruption, in the blind pursuit of profit. An increasing proportion of that profit comes from exploiting developing countries like Bangladesh whose natural and human resources are drained.
Whilst the fiduciary duty of a limited company is to maximise profit for its shareholders, I think that respect for humanity, respect for our environment and a wish to see a more equal world should trump that so called ‘duty’. The developed nations who achieved their wealth by exploiting and polluting our planet now seek to impose their new-found environmental standards on the developing world, very much a case of ‘do as I say not as I did’. Sadly, the developed world’s hypocrisy knows no bounds, enthusiastically importing cheap goods, often produced at a significant cost to the humans in the production line, and at great cost to our already polluted planet.
Technologies to mitigate pollution can be costly and will be passed on to the consumer. I fear that any ‘cost benefits analysis’ undertaken by corporations or governments would place short-term financial ‘benefit’ ahead of the wider global obligations we all have.
I see an urgent moral imperative underpinning how we address the global challenge of man-made climate change and key to that is education with the developed world leading by example.
A few years ago, to world acclaim, Scotland’s Parliament became the first nation to pass laws imposing ‘climate change targets’. Those targets have proved challenging and, thus far at least, have not been met, perhaps a sign of their worth, and the additional effort needed.Of course the actions of one nation alone, not least a small one of 5 million people on the periphery of Western Europe, can not make significant change nor arrest the process of change.
Sadly, of late, those skeptical, or in denial of climate change, have had a resurgence, most notably in the new ‘anti-climate change’ Government in Australia. The United State’s commitment to tackling the man made climate change is at best luke-warm. It appears easier to deny, or do nothing, rather than explain a drop in profits to your share-holders.
The Scottish Government‘s innovative ‘Climate Justice Fund’ has been warmly welcomed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson. It was recently doubled from £3million to £6million, an important signal at these times of severe economic restraint, yet still of course ‘a drop in the ocean’ of what is required. Meantime, that money is going to support projects in related areas of water, food and energy in the same partner countries identified in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda. Whilst I understand the wish of the Scottish Government to sustain projects already funded I have written asking for consideration of future ‘Climate Justice’ funding for Bangladesh.
I’m delighted that the Scottish Government prioritises helping the needs of climate vulnerable people, recognising the disproportionate effect the impact of climate change can have on the poor, women and children in developing countries. I want to see the phrase ‘climate justice’ not only talked about but delivered in a meaningful way for countries like Bangladesh. I fear we are a long way off from that goal, however, with the international co-operation I know exists to help Bangladesh, and with a genuine will to make our small planet a better place for future generations, we can achieve much.
* John Finnie is an Independent Member of the Scottish Parliament, representing the Highlands and Islands region. His personal website is http://www.johnfinniemsp.org
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