Saturday, October 10, 2009

Climatological’ Totalitarianism

Residents navigate by boat on a flooded street following the passage of Typhoon. (Photo courtesy: AFP PHOTO/HOANG DINH Nam) Ketsana in the tourist town of Hoi An in Viet Nam on September 30. (Photo courtesy: AFP PHOTO/HOANG DINH Nam)

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Two months before the Copenhagen climate change conference, there are no concrete actions yet on how developed countries will compensate developing countries for their greenhouse gas emissions.

It was a week of disasters. Two days after typhoon Ketsana submerged 80 per cent of the Philippine capital Manila—hitting Taiwan, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos along the way—a tsunami struck the Pacific island of Samoa and an earthquake flattened houses and buildings in West Sumatra, Indonesia.

Scores of people died and thousands lost their homes. The scene from the Philippines to Indonesia up to Samoa was of hopelessness. As many disasters in history have shown, governments and people were caught unaware of the extent of the damage and disaster preparedness was lacking if not missing.

While these recent disasters were unfolding, experts, lobbyists, environmentalists, activists and government negotiators had just started their two-week talks on climate change in Bangkok.

Amid pronouncements by scientists that the world should keep global warming well below 2?C and that this can only be achieved if we cut gas emissions that cause climate change by more than 45 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, by 95 per cent by 2050; and global emissions must peak by 2015, the Bangkok talks have so far not translated into concrete actions.

With two months to go before the talks resume in Copenhagen, the Bangkok talks ending October 9 provide an opportunity to enhance action on mitigation and adaptation, including on how to integrate disaster risk reduction in adaptation measures. Recent climatic events in the Philippines, Viet Nam and Cambodia serve as chilling reminders about the urgency of such action to eliminate or reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

These recent events just show that disaster risk reduction and enhanced adaptation cannot be pushed aside during climate change talks.

During a side event at the Bangkok talks, Zenaida Delica-Willison, disaster risk reduction advisor at the United Nations Development Programme, said there is a need to harmonise adaptation and disaster risk reduction. In order to promote resilient communities, adaptation alone is not enough.

Negotiators from Indonesia and Bangladesh were present during the side event. Coming from two disaster-prone countries, they have experienced climatic changes as evidenced by increased flooding in Jakarta and stronger typhoons that hit Bangladesh in recent months. They claimed that their respective governments have improved systems, disaster response and provided education to the public.

Developing countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia are adapting measures to combat the negative effects of climate change through domestic measures. Now, the matter of negotiation at the climate talks is for developed nations to also undertake drastic cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions through domestic measures and to give full reparations for the ecological debts they owe the developing nations.

Disaster risk reduction

A cooperation framework is supposed to have emerged when all the participating countries agreed to integrate disaster risk reduction in adaptation measures within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). All countries acknowledged historical responsibilities, committed to take deep cuts in emission levels (mitigation) and provide adequate structures for finance and technology (adaptation). But, according to Martin Khor of the South Centre, an inter-governmental organisation of developing countries, “we are far from operationalising this framework” because of the stonewalling by developed countries.

In a press conference convened by the South Centre at the Unescap building where the UNFCCC meetings were being held, Ambassador Lumumba Di Aping, head of delegation of Sudan and chairman of the G77 plus China, stressed that developed countries have very “low ambitions in meeting their emission targets” and gave “no positive response at the establishment of financing and technology structures within the Convention.” This only shows that the ground is being prepared (by developed countries) for commitments not to be honoured, he added.

The G-77 is the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing states in the United Nations, which provides the means for the of the South (developing countries) to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major economic issues within the UN system.

“G-77 is absolutely committed to a successful completion of talks in Copenhagen... for the survival of humanity. And for Copenhagen to succeed, we must all work for an equitable and just deal. We cannot duplicate the inequity and imbalances which have been the hallmark of 200 years of human development,” Lumumba said.

The negotiations challenge

The G77 countries and China had proposed the establishment of a financial mechanism under the UNFCCC ratified in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the 1992 Earth Summit that “shall enable, enhance and support mitigation and adaptation actions by developing countries”.

Under the UNFCCC, developed nations should provide financial resources to developing countries for climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, developing countries pointed out that the former is shifting the burden towards markets and to poorer countries by adopting protectionist attitudes like imposing tariffs.

However, developed countries have noted what they called alarming statements by developed nations, especially the European Union and the United States, suggesting the termination of the Kyoto Protocol.

Developed countries, known as Annex I Parties under the Protocol, are bound to agree to subsequent commitment periods for greenhouse gas emission reductions beginning in 2013. Annex 1 Parties have consistently stalled talks to agree on the figures.

Lumumba called this the “climatological” totalitarianism of rich countries which “impose their own interests to advance their economic superiority to support their lavish lifestyles at the expense of the rest of the world”.

“These commitments should be free from conditionalities and is the right thing to do. It is what global leaders must do. So the question that must be asked of developed countries is why (they have) such a disgraceful low level of commitment,” he told the press.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said in a paper that climate change is an additional burden to developing countries already striving to achieve poverty reduction and urgently needed development.

This was highlighted by the clash in the talks between G77 and the United States when the latter proposed to have a formal process to consider textual proposals on “mitigation elements common to all Parties”, which developing countries emphasised were not consistent with the UNFCCC and even went beyond the mandate of the Bali Action Plan. The Plan was a result of the 2007 Bali Climate Conference.

To say that the Bangkok climate change negotiations are crucial is an understatement.

Ambassador Lumumba aptly summed up the crucial nature of both the Bangkok intersessional meeting leading to Copenhagen when he said during the September 30 press conference, “there can’t be any successful conclusion of Copenhagen unless there is economic development to address climate change.”

He noted that if politicians around the world, especially those from the developed countries, were able to pump in US$1.1 trillion to address the global economic crisis should “it be considered more important than (financing) climate change?”

That question takes on added urgency as negotiations shift to higher gear in preparation for Copenhagen in December. (By Jofelle Tesorio and Red Batario in Bangkok/ Asia News Network)

(Red Batario, a freelance journalist based in Manila, was in Bangkok to observe the intersessional talks. He is the executive director of the Centre for Community Journalism and Development and Asia-Pacific coordinator of the International News Safety Institute.)

MySinchew 2009.10.10

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