COP26: Dr Vandana Shiva savages net zero commitments

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Net zero commitments by countries attending the COP26 climate talks have been rejected by physicist turned ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva.

Controversially, the Indian scholar had even praised her nation’s hesitancy in agreeing to a target.

Her criticism of net zero commitments centres around concern that many nations are justifying continued use of fossil fuels and simply offsetting their damage with carbon capture and trading.

Dr Shiva has been critical of net zero commitments ahead of COP26. Source: Getty
Dr Shiva has been critical of net zero commitments ahead of COP26. Source: Getty

Instead Dr Shiva wants the priority to be on reducing greenhouse gases with nature based solutions, rather than what she calls “doing jugglery with the financial system”.

“It's not about finding new ways to keep polluting,” she said.

“With the Kyoto Protocol we lost a whole decade… because basically it was about emissions trading rather than emissions stopping, and the trading led to higher emissions and more profits for the polluters.”

Documentary highlights work of environmental activist

Dr Shiva originally studied to become a nuclear scientist, but pivoted towards theoretical physics and ultimately environmentalism.

She argues the characterisation of "wild" as negative is a colonial construct which has led to our minds becoming mechanised and ultimately at "war" with the Earth.

Dr Shiva speaks with Prince Charles, who is himself an organic farmer. Source: Reuters
Dr Shiva speaks with Prince Charles, who is himself an organic farmer. Source: Reuters

A longtime advocate for natural solutions to the world’s problems, the 69-year-old is a vocal critic of the genetic modification of foods, focusing much of her attention on the Monsanto corporation which has patented many of its seeds.

An author of more than 30 books, she advocates for organic farming as well as a return to localised agriculture, with each city having its own "food shed" to sustain its population. 

Her work is highlighted in a new documentary The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, produced by an international team, including Sydney-based filmmakers Paige Livingston and Camilla Becket.

The film details Dr Shiva's fight against industrial farming, which she characterises as the “single biggest destructive force on the planet today”, and her work to save unmodified seeds to empower farmers. 

'People who didn't pollute are paying the price'

Dr Shiva views many of the world’s problems, including climate change, as emanating from mankind’s fight against nature. 

Living in India, she is witnessing the escalating impact of extreme weather on many of the world’s poorest communities.

During an interview with Yahoo News last month, Dr Shiva revealed she was mourning the deaths of over 70 people in her home state of Uttarakhand, killed in landslides caused by flooding.

News of the disaster follows the melting of a glacier in February which resulted in 200 fatalities when rivers burst their banks.

“People who didn't pollute are paying the price,” Dr Shiva said.

“We do need climate justice.”

Carbon capture 'crude' move to tackle climate change

“Clumsy” and “crude” are how Dr Shiva describes carbon capture, which have been lauded by the Australian government in their emissions reduction planning.

The technology has so far been ineffective in containing emissions created by fossil fuel operations, although energy giant Santos controversially displayed its carbon capture plans for an upcoming project in the outback town of Moomba within Australia’s pavilion at COP26.

While industries including mining, agriculture and forestry continue in an unsustainable manner, Dr Shiva argues extreme weather like bushfires, storms and floods will continue to impact.

If there was one thing she could hope COP26 negotiators realise, it’s that they’re on a “living Earth” and solutions to global warming should come from restoration of ecosystems, rather than pinning hopes on new man-made technologies.

“The Earth has the power to regulate her temperature,” Dr Shiva said.

“She created life… and brought her temperature down from 290 degrees to 13 degrees, brought carbon dioxide down from 4000 parts per million to 270 parts per million.

“That power is what they should be aligning at. Every solution has to be a regenerative solution.”

The Seeds of Vandana Shiva is currently showing at the Sydney Film Festival, with international screening dates to follow. 

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