COP28 is a pivotal opportunity for governments to come together and take real and meaningful action on climate change. Unfortunately, so far we have seen mainly empty gestures, greenwashing, and vague commitments that are not supported by actual policies. The impacts of climate change are real and they continue to disproportionately impact the most marginalized and disenfranchised members of our communities.
As social workers we see the daily devastation that increased extreme weather events are having on the health and wellbeing of communities around the world. From floods, heatwaves, fires and droughts, the unprecedented frequency and intensity of these events are having a destructive effect on people and the planet. So many of the discussions centered around COP28 speak of future impacts and the negative effects for generations to come, but the changes are here and demand urgent and immediate action.
IFSW Asia Pacific United Nations Regional Commissioner Dr. Sebastian Cordoba said “We need accountable commitments to phase out fossil fuels and financially support countries to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change“.
The SDGs best represent the empty symbolism that dominates climate policy. Not only are we not on track to fully meet any of the Goals, but in key areas like Goal 13 Climate Action we are seeing a regression. Furthermore, it is often overlooked that the SDGs are a “Transformative Agenda” that requires systemic changes, and therefore we cannot continue to apply the same policies and expect different outcomes.
We are in dire need of a transformation of the political and economic systems from extractive and exploitative to inclusive and sustainable policies and practices at global and local levels that can halt environmental destruction and create well-being for all people. The climate crises must serve as a call for transformative action towards a new world with a new eco-social contract based on the recognition of the interconnectedness of all life in our ecosystem, which is integral in the guiding ethics of social workers.
As stated in the IFSW’s policy document The Role of Social Workers In Advancing A New Eco-social World, only through co-building a new eco-social world can we ensure a sustainable and fairer world for all that leaves no one behind. This policy paper builds on core social work ethical and practice principles calling government and stakeholders to action, recognizing that many people have already thought and acted in this holistic way and that for too long, these voices have been suppressed.
COP28, the UN and governments worldwide must focus on the contributions of civil society and people’s assembly movements in co-creating solutions. The People’s Charter for an Eco-Social World is a clear example of this, which came from the 2022 People’s Global Summit. The Charter proposes a new way forward with solutions to our joint challenges through co-developing reciprocity and joint ownership of positive change, co-building peace, co-living with nature, co-creating social justice and co-realising equality.
COP28 must not be another wasted opportunity, as every year the climate crisis is worsening and time is running out.
Dr Sebastian Cordoba
IFSW Asia Pacific United Nations Regional Commissioner