As we participate in the second and final week of the COP18 climate summit here in Doha, I keep coming back to the same question in my mind over and over again. Does what happens here at COP18 matter in Argentina?
Together with other developing countries, the Argentinian delegation to the conference has come to negotiate a new legally binding agreement to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. The better question to ask myself probably is: Do any commitments by the Argentinian delegation have any meaning back home in Argentina? I actually think there is a larger problem.
I believe that as one of the ‘developing’ countries in the world that we in Argentina are more concerned about development than about the environment. We are more focused on short-term prosperity than the long-term damage we do to the climate. Even though we are not among the countries that produce higher CO2 emissions, this does not mean that we cannot be concerned about our effect on the rest of the globe.
In Argentina, we do show some concern for environmental issues and human rights through our national laws. We have a very long list of laws and regulations – starting with the national constitution – that protect populations and the environment. We even develop new laws. Yet despite such apparent aspirations, we have very little enforcement or fulfilment of these laws at a policy or practical level.
This lack of protection by the Argentinian state over the country is not the whole story. There are numerous cases where government actions contradict state laws, perhaps out of fear of falling behind other countries economically. We allow overseas investment companies to exploit our natural and human resources, and to then take this wealth outside our borders.
Let me share a few examples:
- we allow the construction of open pit mines in mountain areas
- we allow the use of public seashores for private interests
- we allow the clearing of vast natural areas for local consumer waste, shopping centres and industrial farming (including the use of chemicals fertilizers and pesticides that are banned in many other countries)
Therefore, I believe it is our duty as citizens of our respective countries – but also as citizens of the world – to demand for policies and practices by our governments that are consistent with our laws. And when we need stronger laws to protect the environment, we need to fight for those as well. As Lutherans, our duty is to lead through advocacy and by example in protecting the environment back at home within our own communities and countries.
For my part, I am honoured by the opportunity to participate in this important event here in Doha. I hope and pray that the negotiations will profit the poor and our earth – the creation of God – and not only the rich.
Nahún Stürtz is the youth coordinator for Evangelical Church of River Plate and a member of the LWF delegation to the COP18 climate summit in Doha.