Tell the UN climate conference: Defend the right to life of a billion children

Richard Parncutt



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Global warming is life-threatening for a billion children. If every human life has the same value and Black Lives Matter, cutting global carbon emissions could be the most important issue, ever.

In ethics, everyone agrees that human lives are more important than money. In law, it is a serious crime to  recklessly cause human deaths. But 27 climate COPs have indirectly promoted billion-dollar profits at the expense of millions or billions of human lives.

We humans tend to have more empathy for a suffering individual than for suffering millions -- let alone billions (psychic numbing; collapse of compassion). Our survival now depends on our ability to be both rational and emotional, focusing on the biggest problems first.

The failure of COP

The annual UN climate conference (Conference of the Parties COP to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC) aims to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.” But global emissions have risen steadily since the series began in 1995, and they are still rising for coal, oil, and gas.

Irreversible global social collapse is a possible outcome. At the start of COP27 (Egypt 2022), UN Secretary General António Guterres warned “We’re on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” He was ignored: the final document included the 1.5°C goal but no plan to achieve it. The implementation COP failed to implement. The new climate compensation (loss and damage) fund cannot undo the death and destruction that we will experience at 1.5°C (now expected about 2027) and beyond — even without considering irreversible tipping points.

The world is currently headed for 3°C of warming. Unprecedented fires, floods, famines, droughts, heatwaves, storms, and landslides, combined with rising seas, migration and resultant conflict — all ultimately caused by human carbon emissions — will decimate human populations. Parts of Asia and Africa (China, India, Middle East…) will become uninhabitable, creating billions of refugees. The staggering ethical and legal implications are not being addressed.

Our demands for COP28 (UAE 2023):

The time for greenwashing and naive optimism is over. To achieve climate justice for a billion children, we need realism and that means clarifying honestly and repeatedly what must be urgently done:

Protect life. Children’s rights are paramount, because children have the most to lose. We must recognize and defend the right to life of two billion children — especially those in the more vulnerable Global South. At the same time and in the same way, we must protect biodiversity: a million species are currently threatened with extinction.

Phase out all fossil fuels. The primary goal is mitigation: preventing additional warming by leaving fossil fuels in the ground. After that comes adaptation, including compensation for loss and damage. If the bathtub is overflowing, first turn off the tap, then mop the floor. In a first step, all new fossil-fuel projects and all expansion of existing projects must be stopped. Currently, 96% of the oil and gas industry is still expanding.

Reform agriculture. Some 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions are from agriculture (mainly meat & dairy). Given the additional consequences for biodiversity, COP should be promoting counterstrategies  (e.g., alternative foods, rewilding, meat taxes).

Regulate plastic. Plastic is another contributor to both global warming and biodiversity loss. Plastic production must be limited by international agreement.

Regulate other greenhouse gases: methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases.

Decarbonize capitalism. Our governments are still spending hundreds of billions of dollars yearly on fossil fuel subsidies. They should be doing the opposite: taxing carbon (both domestically and internationally, with carbon border adjustment mechanisms) and taxing windfall profits. All fossil carbon must be taxed including aviation kerosene. Regulatory changes can make climate action profitable and promote sustainable circular economies despite global economic stagnation.

Address inequality. Climate change is primarily caused by rich countries, corporations, and individuals. The increasing number of billionaires is undermining democracy. Climate justice means globally harmonizing wealth taxes (or at least a global minimum corporate tax). Together with carbon taxes, wealth taxes can finance renewable energy, climate compensation, and poverty alleviation, to reduce the high future costs of climate adaptation and prevent working and middle classes from paying for damage caused by the rich.

Promote debt cancelation. Global South countries are forced to export fossil fuels to service their debts. Yet the global North owes a massive ecological debt to the South, having caused the climate crisis. Richer countries must now pay poorer countries to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Reparations are due for centuries of colonization, exploitation, and slavery.

Promote legal reform. Discuss the investigation and punishment of ecocide, which is currently recognized as a crime by only ten countries. The biggest fossil fuel producers must be forced to reduce their turnover by any reasonable means including trial for crimes against humanity. To protect the innocent, the guilty must be punished. The guilty include two-faced COP presidents who preach global emissions reduction while supporting local plans to expand fossil fuel industries.

Promote democracy. To enable globally binding climate agreements, promote the development of global democratic structures such as the UN Parliamentary Assembly. At the same time promote climate citizen’s assemblies in participating countries, inviting them to present and compare results at COP. Every COP should be preceded and guided by a newly constituted global citizen’s assembly.

To achieve these goals, the conference must:

Show leadership. UAE cannot lead COP28 while at the same time massively increasing its own oil and gas production. Investing $50 bn in sustainable energy means little if at the same time $150 bn is invested in fossil fuels; globally, investment in sustainables is overtaking investment in fossil fuels. UAE must roughly halve both consumption and export of fossil fuels by 2030 and encourage other countries to do likewise.

Exclude lobbyists. Anyone whose financial interests contradict the goals of COP must be excluded. Hundreds of fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to COP27, encouraging greenwashing, lying and cheating. The conference president must be independent and unbiased. The current president, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, has a conflict of interest and must be replaced.

Fly public. Many private jets flew to COP27, burning much more fuel per passenger than a commercial flight. COP participants can and should fly public. In general, private jets should be heavily taxed or banned.

Innovate. The conference must creatively explore new legal, political, and economic pathways to massive and immediate global reductions in fossil fuel extraction.

Clarify procedures. Establish clear criteria for consensus at COP28, to enable and facilitate far-reaching decisions.

Cooperate. Respond constructively to these and similar demands. Tell the whole truth and avoid misleading arguments.


Please sign AND SHARE this petition to defend the right to life of a billion children. Think of this: saving a billion lives with a probability of only 0.1% is comparable with actually saving a million lives.

The opinions expressed on this page are the author's personal opinions. Readers who know and care about this topic are asked to contact the author with suggestions for improving or extending the content: parncutt at gmx dot at. Back to Richard Parncutt's homepage