GUARDIANS OF THE EARTH
UDHR, ARTICLE 25: RIGHT TO AN ADEQUATE STANDARD OF LIVING
The documentary Guardians of the Earth looks behind the scenes of the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris. It captures the world communities’ last attempt to prevent the disastrous and irreversible effects of climate change. In preparation of the screening of the documentary at the ACF Washington/Embassy of Austria on June 21, 2018, we asked the Austrian/Polish filmmaker questions:
How did you come up with the idea of making a film about the world climate conference?
We were looking for a thematic framework that would capture the conflict between profit-oriented, capitalistic lifestyle on one hand and the existential needs of society on the other. The topic of climate change is highly dramatic and significant. Therefore we soon chose it as the central element of a cinematic idea. The film shows the confrontation between the national and purely economic self-interests and the massive environmental disaster that is threatening to destroy all life on earth.
There are already numerous films about climate change and its effects. We, however, wanted to capture that moment, when the world community attempted to solve this life-endangering problem at the yearly climate negotiations of the UN. We knew we had to take the viewer to Paris to the COP21 conference. The time window for action against climate change is closing and that meeting was the last possibility for an agreement and the last (though tiny) chance to prevent catastrophic and irreversible damage to nature and mankind.
How did you get the individual contributors to participate in the film?
We were at the preparatory conferences in Bonn/Germany and were talking to potential contributors there. It was quite clear that we wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the poorest and most affected countries. We looked within these groups and managed to build up trust. Of course, it's difficult to ask if you can film at negotiations when they are secret and each party in the end wants to keep it strategy for itself. In the end, we had to fight for every minute of film material as our interview partners vanished behind closed doors again quickly. The Austrian negotiation team could at least help us to such an extent that we were able to accredit two people as delegates. That way we could attend some negotiations and had better access to the negotiators.
In June last year Donald Trump announced that the USA will withdraw from the Paris agreement. What is your assessment, if the US effectively pulls out from the agreement, the earliest possible withdrawal date is November 4, 2020 – would this mean the end of the agreement?
It is certainly not the end for the agreement, as it is designed to withstand such a scenario. If the US really pulls out as a country being among those nations mostly responsible for worldwide emissions and if the US continues to burn fossil fuels as it does, every other nation is at high threat as we won’t be able to reach the agreement’s targets in order to save the environment from destruction. I would say, the agreement will sustain but other nations might have to contribute towards the national climate goals even more than planned.
Climate change also has a considerable impact on human rights in general in our present time. The Paris Agreement for the first time mentions human rights in a climate change treaty. According to your view, what role did human rights advocacy by civil society play in the negotiations?
Human rights are most certainly a concern as we all have the right to live on a planet that is intact. We all have the right to life without the risks of extreme weather events that are the result of other nations producing the most emissions. For some nations it was difficult to accept the mentioning of human rights in the agreement, so I would call it a success to have them in the agreement at all. However, despite the mentioning of human rights, the agreement is not a really legally binding document so the enforcement possibilities are very limited. Also, I don’t believe that civil society had much influence on the agreement as they were mostly excluded from the negotiations. The final agreement is a result of high level talks of heads of state playing the game of geo-strategic and economic power of “the world order" in the 21st century.
What do you want to achieve with this film? What was your goal?
Of course, we want to provoke as much exchange and discussion about the film and the topic among people as possible. We want them to discuss the circumstances under which the well-being of humanity and earth is decided upon and to take actions in their own environment. Because there is an acute need for action here. If we face the truth, taking into account recent developments, it will no longer be possible to keep the increase in global temperature below two degrees until 2100. Therefore individuals and organizations that really fight for this issue are so important. We need new political forces that set the fight against climate change on top of their agenda. And we need the people to react and rise up, we cannot leave this to the politicians, they have proven to be unable and unwilling to act. Now it's our turn.
Find more information about the upcoming screening and Salongespräch/talk here.