Saturday, January 25, 2020 10:08 am
By Owei Lakemfa.
Ioane Teitiota is from the Pacific nation of Kiribati, a country that is only about two metres above sea level. Faced with land disputes, difficulties of accessing safe drinking and the danger of his country disappearing under the waves due to the climate crises, he migrated with his family to New Zealand.
When his visa expired in 2010, he applied for asylum as a ‘climate refugee.’ He was denied and deported in September 2015. He dragged New Zealand to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (HRC) for violating his right to life under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The HRC ruled that New Zealand violated Teitiota’s human rights by deporting him to his country where, due to the climate crisis, his life is at risk, or in danger of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
In the same hemisphere, Australia had since September, battled forest fires, many triggered by climate change. The people prayed for rain to help put out most of the fires. Their prayer was answered except that the torrential rains and thunderstorms devastated the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria; another effect of climate change. Despite the floods, hundreds of fires continue to burn with many areas remaining dry. In Spain, storms devastated parts of the country leaving four dead.
The climate change, evidenced by rising sea levels, declining Arctic Sea Ice, shrinking ice sheets, global temperature rise, warming oceans and extreme weather, led the the organisers of the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland to make climate change a major topic on the agenda with the aim of moving forward the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
But who would make a landfall at Davos but American President Donald Trump. Yes, the same ‘Hurricane’ Trump who had tried to smashup the Paris Agreement. At Davos this week, he tried again to wreck the Climate Change ship. After praising himself and his country for being the best thing to happen to humanity and boasting that the US was “in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before” he launched blistering attacks against the scientists, environmentalists and activists who are putting climate change on the front burner. He said : “To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse…They are the heirs of yesterday’s fortune tellers and we have them and I have them and they want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen.” “They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives. We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country or eradicate our liberty.”
Obviously with the American evangelical voters in mind, he added: “”We’re committed to conserving the majesty of God’s creation and the natural beauty of our world,” Trump in his foolery, does not seem to realize that climate change is not a matter of opinion or belief; it is science. So to dispute it, he needs scientific evidence. If because you are not a doctor, you tell your doctor off, how does that change your condition; if you are sick, but live in denial as Trump lives in denial of climate change, how does insulting the doctor heal you?
In any case, Davos is not a serious forum; it is more a playground where at the beginning of each year, the rich and leaders of rich countries meet to wine and dine for a few days and make business deals. The forum, now in its fiftieth year, used to be the European Management Summit before changing to a more glamorous name; the World Economic Forum in 1987. It is essentially, a club of the big boys in global business and leaders of powerful countries holding an Annual General Meeting.
Membership does not come cheap. As of 2011, an annual membership costs $52,000 for an individual member, $263,000 for “Industry Partner” and $527,000 for “Strategic Partner” while admission fee costs $19,000 per person.
Capitalism which Davos promotes, is a class system, and despite the high cost of membership, a seven-structure class sytem is practiced; the colour and design of the name badge designates the class of each participant . In the first class are the Heads of State or top executives. The second, are the Deputy Heads of State or senior executives. The third class has the Central bankers, the fourth, are those in ministerial positions, the fifth are local officials, sixth are honorary persons and the seventh, are the functional staff.
As many as 30,000 persons may descend on Davos, but less than nine percent are actual participants, the rest are like free riders. But even this group must have some means because they need to pay for flight and upkeep which are costlier during the conference season. Some of the non-members go to Davos to protest against growing inequality which Davos, like the G7 Summit, has come to symbolize.
Although Davos 2020 claims to be “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World” the future it guarantees is that of the rich getting richer and the poor, poorer. The new Oxfam report revealed that in 2018, billionaires increased their wealth by $762bn, enough to end “global extreme poverty seven times over”
United Kingdom Prime Minister, Boris Johnson once described Davos as “a great big constellation of egos involved in massive mutual orgies of adulation”. This perfectly fits Trump’s participation Johnson was however absent in this summit. He seemed to have better things to do wrapping up Brexit and tidying up the report of the ‘boys’ from former British colonies he hosted this Monday under the UK-Africa Investment Summit which he claimed will “create new lasting partnerships that will deliver more investment, jobs and growth.” Smart Britain, hoping to further exploit its former colonies, claimed that single January 20 meeting, had: “laid the foundations for new partnerships between the UK and African nations based on trade, investment, shared values and mutual interest.”
The African leaders who attended the so-called Investment Summit, seemed to have forgotten that Britain’s wealth was gleaned mainly from its exploitation of the continent and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. So at such meetings, rather than sit listening to Boris Johnson rabblerousing, they should demand reparation from the UK. In any case, it will be difficult for them to have any collective agenda when they do not meet before jetting out to such meetings while their host might even have written the communique before Their ‘Excellencies’ arrival.