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CLIMATE CHANGE: Lawmakers Push for a Deal

COPENHAGEN, Dec 17 2009 (IPS) - With only one day to go to the end of the climate change talks and no agreement in sight, it looks like it will ultimately be up to national legislators to effectively implement whatever agreement is forged here in the Danish capital.

Nancy Pelosi with colleagues Ed Markey (left) and Steny Hoyer.  Credit: Raúl Pierri/IPS

Nancy Pelosi with colleagues Ed Markey (left) and Steny Hoyer. Credit: Raúl Pierri/IPS

That is the view taken at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by representatives of GLOBE (Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment) International.

“It is clear that a successful agreement at COP15 is just the first step. The second, and more important, step is delivery. A post 2012 climate agreement will only be effective if it is ratified, underpinned by domestic legislation and if leaders are held to account for the commitments made,” said British lawmaker Stephen Byers, president of GLOBE.

“Legislators and parliaments are responsible for all three,” he added.

For her part, South African legislator Makhots “Maggie” Sotyu said: “Legislators all over the world must scrutinize their governments to ensure they deliver on the promises they make in Copenhagen, especially those relating to financial and technical assistance for developing countries to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change which are affecting us now.”

Legislators with GLOBE International came to Copenhagen to present a report prepared by their International Commission on Climate and Energy Security. They also took the opportunity to award the organisation’s annual prize for international environmental leadership to Mexican President Felipe Calderón for his contributions to protecting the environment and fighting climate change.

The award was delivered by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, at a ceremony on Thursday, also attended by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

In his acceptance speech, Calderón called for efforts to reconcile the parties that are in conflict at COP15, which is drawing to a close with still no prospects of an agreement.

“The fight against climate change is a struggle that must involve all nations, whether developed or developing. A key factor is understanding that this is not an issue between developed and developing countries, but rather a problem that human beings must resolve with nature,” he said.

Calderón also highlighted the need to establish a world fund against climate change, like the Green Fund proposed by his government to help poor countries address the impacts of climate change.

In its report, the GLOBE committee backed the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendation that calls for industrial countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050 with respect to 1990 levels.

“Developed countries should ensure they are on a credible path to the 2050 target by setting ambitious medium-term targets for 2020, 2030 and 2040 that are as aggressive as possible,” the report indicates.

For GLOBE, the world’s temperature cannot rise above 2degrees C on average, and that must be the limit set “if we are to avoid the worst risks from climate change.”

“The current commitments and actions pledged by the international community will put us on a path to a rise of 3.8 degrees C by the end of this century; the gap between where we are and where we need to be is a chasm.”

Mexican Senator Yeidckol Polevnsky said it is important that parliaments closely monitor the actions taken by their governments to address climate change.

“Any agreement requires legislation, so legislators must work together with the government to solve that. We won’t achieve anything if the executive branch acts but parliament fails to legislate. And if parliament legislates and there’s no political will on the part of the executive branch, we won’t achieve anything either. They must act together,” she said to TerraViva.

An example of this is the United States, where the bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions presented by the Barack Obama administration has still not received full sanction in Congress, and that has also complicated negotiations at Copenhagen.

As a sign of support to the efforts towards reaching an agreement in the climate talks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Copenhagen on Thursday heading a delegation of 21 U.S. legislators.

At a press conference, the U.S. lawmakers expressed their will to work with the world, but also demanded the same commitment from the other large economies.

Polevnsky, meanwhile, stressed the need for COP15 to set as its leading goal the signing of an agreement.

“I think it’s not an easy negotiation, that there are very conflicting positions, and in order to reach an agreement, both sides must make concessions. Developed countries must make concessions, but developing nations also have to yield some ground in order to achieve a fair and equitable agreement, where everybody contributes according to their size,” she said.

GLOBE legislators condemned negotiators for failing to find common ground, and appealed to politicians to “take control of the process and show leadership to close the gap” that separates them. (*This story appears in the IPS TerraViva online daily published for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.)

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