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Former Minister of Environment of Morocco and climate change activist Hakima El Haité presented “Climate Change and International relations” for the 2023 Benzair Bhutto and Ahmed Ispahani International Lecture Wednesday in Morgan Auditorium.
Julio Minoves-Triquell, associate director of the International Studies Institute and associate professor of political science, opened the lecture by listing El Haité’s accomplishments.
She holds two Ph.D.s, in environmental studies and environmental engineering. El Haité was elected vice president of the Conference of Parties, where she was involved in the Paris Agreement and was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world on climate policy in 2019.
El Haité talked about the historical event that was the Paris Agreement, which was a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference on Dec. 12, 2015.
She said what made the Paris Agreement so important was the involvement of everyone – politicians, civil society and businesses.
“Climate change has no nationality and no religion,” El Haité said. “It is not (just) one country that is responsible. All are responsible.”
El Haité said one of the biggest issues in climate change is when a climate disaster strikes a developing country. She urged the developed world to offer compensation for loss and damages for southern countries, the developing countries, heavily impacted by climate disasters. She admitted she knew this line of thinking would take some time to accept, as climate disasters happen globally every day, but she is optimistic.
“If we want to change our philosophy, our culture and the way we are manufacturing to implement global transformation, we need to reset our way of thinking about the problem,” El Haité said.
She said 1.4 million people die annually, while 74 million have their lives shortened by diseases related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Global water demand is projected to increase by 55% by 2050, while most of the global glaciers fresh water comes from will disappear by 2100. All of these will not only have a huge impact on life, but also on expenses.
El Haité said the rise of returning to fossil fuels and increase of carbon dioxide emission is leading to heavy repercussions, worse than what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is currently predicting.
“We are moving from crisis to crisis, overshadowing the vital issue that is climate change,” she said.
El Haité asked the audience to imagine a world where only electrical cars were used and said the world would flow.
“No country is able to tackle climate change on its own,” she said.
Jason Neidleman, professor of political science, who attended the Wednesday event, said the United States is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, with fossil fuels being burnt for electricity, heat and transportation.
“We probably need to hear the message … more than anyone, and we probably have the most work to do,” he said.
Neidleman said it was impactful to hear about climate change from a representative of the region most heavily affected by climate change but with the least responsibility for CO2 emission.
“They have the least responsibility for causing the crisis and they bear the burden of responsibility for responding to the crisis,” Neidleman said. “That confrontation (of) the part of the world that’s perpetuated the crisis, the U.S. and Europe, against the world that is suffering most from it is striking.”
Amnaa Taha, junior political science and digital media major, asked what ordinary people like herself can do to counter climate change.
El Haité said the biggest thing we can do is decrease solid waste production. One of the best ways to do that is to stop buying new clothes and to give the old ones a second life. She said decreasing electricity consumption is a great way to reduce pollution – turning off lights whenever they are not needed.
“When she started listing things to do… it made me realize that solving climate change starts with the people,” Taha said. “Big oil and gas companies rely on market demand, but if we change our demands by limiting consumption we can actually take away power from these companies that are harming the climate.”
The lecture concluded with Ispahani giving the Bhutto-Ispahani award to El Haité.
“Climate change is causing conflict, when really, it is a peace agenda,” she said.
Taylor Moore can be reached at email@example.com.