Friday, December 18, 2009

Eliminating the "rich-poor divide"

Earlier this week at the Copenhagen Climate Summit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged that the United States will help raise $100 billion annually by 2020 to assist poor countries in coping with climate change as long as America's demands for a global warming pledge are met. While the industrialized nations now turn their attention to discussing/debating the terms and conditions of this proposal, the question as to whether this is enough to make a difference and save humanity remains.

Many developing nations apparently do not think so and are renewing calls for a "new world order". But even their demands fall short of the radical prescriptions for change advanced by Paul Monbiot in his important and provocative book "Manifesto for a New World Order". Monbiot makes the case for the ultimate trifecta: the redistribution of wealth, cancellation of debt, and equalization of trade. (GW)

Poor nations push for 'new world order' in Copenhagen


December 17, 2009

An attempt by developing and emerging countries to create "a new world order" in which Western industrialised nations are no longer dominant is threatening to scupper an agreement on climate change in Copenhagen, warned EU delegates. EurActiv reports from the Danish capital.


As the Copenhagen conference enters its final phase, rich and poor countries are still divided over a new global agreement to fight climate change.

Developing countries are calling on industrialised nations to raise their pledges on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25-40% from 1990 levels by 2020. Predictably, they are also asking for funding to help them adapt to the damaging effects of climate change and embark on a low-carbon development path.

Rich nations such as the United States, on the other hand, are finding it difficult to agree on ambitious mid-term targets for 2020. In the EU's case, it is promising to up its offer only if other developed nations commit to measures similar to its existing commitment of cutting emissions by 20% by 2020.

On aid to developing countries, progress has been modest. Despite the EU having pledged 7.2 billion euros in immediate funding for poor countries, environment ministers meeting over the weekend were unable to break the deadlock (EurActiv 11/12/09).

As more than 130 world leaders arrive in Copenhagen for the final two days of the UN climate conference - US President Barack Obama is due to arrive tomorrow (18 December) - negotiators have warned that the risk of failure has never been higher.

"The final negotiations will be tense and strenuous," said Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who is chairing the conference after Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard resigned from the role to move the negotiations up a notch.

'New world order'

Jo Leinen, who leads the European Parliament's delegation in Copenhagen, told EurActiv that the conference has been rigged with mistrust between rich and poor nations over emissions reduction targets and aid to the developing world (EurActiv 16/12/09).

Leinen's interpretation of the current state of play is that developing countries were trying to use the conference as a way to force a new world order in which industrialised countries are no longer the dominant power.

"I think we are at the beginning of a new world order," the MEP said. But he warned that it would be "a pity to sacrifice the climate conference for unsolved global governance problems".

His alarm was echoed by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said on Wednesday (16 December) that negotiators were set for an "uphill struggle" to bridge the gap in the negotiations. "If you don't get an agreement this week, people will doubt whether you can get an agreement at all," Brown told the BBC.

Rich-poor divide

Tensions have tended to concentrate on emissions reduction targets for industrialised countries.

On Monday, the G77-China bloc, encompassing 130 developing and emerging nations, suspended the talks for a few hours in protest against the Danish host government, which they said was favouring the interests of developed countries.

The EU expects other developed nations to make firm commitments on emissions reductions targets in order to raise its own target of reducing greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020 to 30%.

But Jo Leinen, the European Parliament's negotiator, cautioned that this would be a last-minute decision which now seemed unlikely due to insufficient commitments from other parties.

Killing Kyoto?

The Group of 77 and China yesterday warned against attempts to dismantle the Kyoto Protocol, which binds nearly 40 rich nations to limit carbon emissions.

The United States in particular has never ratified Kyoto due to concerns over the economy.

But developing countries want rich nations to be held to their Kyoto obligations, and sign up to a second round of tougher commitments from 2013.

"We have seen that developed country parties to the Kyoto Protocol are seeking to dismantle the protocol itself," said NafieAli Nafie, head of the Sudanese delegation, who spoke on behalf of the G77 and China at the high-level segment of the conference.

Industrialised countries are in favour of a "single undertaking" which is much weaker than the protocol and would undermine and reinterpret the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, Nafie said.

He said developed countries intended to undermine the principles of "equity, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" by throwing away the Kyoto Protocol.

Negotiations to extend the Kyoto pact have stalled, India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh warned on Wednesday. He said many developed countries were "vehemently opposing" the protocol and some of them wanted a single new accord obliging all nations to fight global warming. "The sense we get is that [the] Kyoto [Protocol] is in intensive care if not dead," Ramesh told reporters.

Two-track approach

But developing countries want to maintain Kyoto as an essential part of the negotiations. "The G77 wishes to stress the need to maintain the two-track outcome of which the Kyoto Protocol is an essential instrument," Nafie said.

The two-track negotiation mechanism was established in the Bali Action Plan, adopted two years ago. According to the action plan, developed countries should come up with emissions reduction targets for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol after the first period expires in 2012, and discuss how to help developing countries with their mitigation and adaptation efforts under the UNFCCC.

Jo Leinen MEP, head of the European Parliament's delegation in Copenhagen, told EurActiv that what he had seen so far "is not very encouraging". He said he was still hoping that the US, Russia, Canada and Australia would up their offers.

"Without a deal on reduction targets, then probably in this conference there will not be a deal on long-term financing," Leinen said. He warned that the question of financing now seemed to be pushed back until after Copenhagen, which would signal a failure for the conference.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso was still confident that an ambitious deal with targets "is within our grasp". "If, as I hope, everybody is now ready to overcome the procedural obstacles, I believe we now have a basis for a real negotiation in the closing days towards a meaningful and ambitious deal, which we must transform into a binding legal agreement next year," he told the high-level segment in Copenhagen yesterday.

Back from Copenhagen, MEP Lena Ek (Sweden, ALDE) stressed the need for action from all sides. "To reach a deal we need three things above all: China must start reporting; America must start financing; and the EU must be committing to a 30% cut in emissions by 2020. No muss, no fuss - just real action now," she said.

Green MEP Rebecca Harms (Germany) urged European leaders to realise that there is no longer any time to waste. "Reports that EU is preparing to abandon its 30% reduction target by 2020 are extremely worrying at such a crucial stage in the negotiations. The EU has waved this promise under the noses of all other negotiating parties for two years: to revoke it now could jeopardise the talks irreparably. The EU presidency must drop any draft 'back-up' plan that would abandon former promises," she said.

WWF, the global conservation organisation, warned that there was little substance in the texts that are to be presented to heads of states upon their arrival. "In many ways the final sessions have produced more disagreement rather than less on key issues as national negotiators dig in," said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF's global deal. "As the really hard decisions go forward to higher levels, it becomes more likely we will end up with high words on principal and less likely we will get detailed words that will work in tackling climate change."

Oxfam, the development NGO, called on developed countries to deliver financing, reminding them that poor countries are ready to act on their side. "Like court magicians rich country negotiators are conjuring up a deal for their political masters which provides the illusion of action but delivers next to nothing of substance. Poor countries will not be fooled by spin – as they have already made clear they will not sign a suicide pact in Copenhagen," said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International.


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