Jean-Jacques Cornish

When it comes to saving the planet, world powers need wriggle room

In mid October, I sat down and explained why I would not be at the Climate Change summit in Glasgow.

Bottom line: I did not want to lie to my readers.

And puffing up their expectations for COP 26 would be doing exactly that.

A few paragraphs in, I was overwhelmed by deja vu making me look back on my files.

I’d already written the piece. five years ago, ahead of the Paris summit.

My skepticism was based on my covering COP 17 in Durban, back in 2011,

That meeting overran by more than 24 hours before delegations from nearly 200 countries arrived at a deal that would put the world on the the path to climate salvation.

It could not be said to actually save the world for the generations to come.

But it set a pattern that could be picked up in Paris.

Sound familiar?

My earlobes glow red with embarrassment when I recall that I actually told my readers and listeners this.

Within a day, Canada has reneged on the deal struck in Durban.

Just as the United States under President Donald Trump pulled out of the climate convention agreed in Paris four years later.

No punitive measures have been taken against either of these world powers.

Neither will there be anything more than  tsk tsk against India watering down the anti-coal mood of the Glasgow Agreement.

As a United Nations Correspondent in the 1970s, I recall all three of these nations taking an uncompromisingly  tough line against the apartheid regime.

They would not have brooked any backsliding on the arms embargo slapped on Pretoria in 1977. Rightly so.

Yet when it  comes to saving the planet, they give themselves some wriggle room.

I am an inveterate multilateralist. I never fail to support the United Nations against critics who dismiss it as a talk shop.

I am also a journalist committed to telling the unvarnished truth.

This means I cannot allow myself to be led by the nose to report on breakthroughs in fighting climate change that are nothing more than meaningless compromise.

Where is the commitment we expected from developed countries to pay developing countries to assuage the damage done by climate change?

So today, as they try to pick up the pieces and paint the bravest picture they can of what occurred in Glasgow, let me ask those journalists: Are you ready to do it all again at Sharm El Sheikh? 

Enquire about availability for radio, podcasts, reporting or opinion pieces.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.