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CLIMATE CHANGE: The World Is Bogged Down in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN, Dec 11 2009 (IPS) - Poor countries will suffer horrendous impacts if an agreement isn’t reached by the end of the climate change summit in Copenhagen. That was the warning launched by the developing South Friday during the talks that remained as bogged down at the end of the first week as at the start.

Delegates of the chief negotiating groups in tense press conference. Credit: Raúl Pierri/IPS

Delegates of the chief negotiating groups in tense press conference. Credit: Raúl Pierri/IPS

A draft agreement circulated Friday at the COP15 graphically illustrates the numerous points of disagreement, especially in terms of target numbers and timeframes, because they are set off by square brackets.

For example, there are two different figures on the limit for the rise in average global temperature from the preindustrial level: 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.

And for overall reduction of global carbon emissions by 2020, from 1990 levels, the draft mentions three possible targets: 50, 80 or 95 percent.

The text, drawn up by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), reflects the differences between the negotiating blocs of the industrialised North and the developing South.

Still pending are details on adaptation actions, which are essential for poor countries to confront the effects of global warming, as well as different aspects of financing. And the draft does not specify the year that emissions should peak.

Developed countries, as a group, should reduce emissions by “75-85 percent,” “at least 80-95 percent,” and “more than 95 percent” by 2050 from 1990 levels, says the text.

And by 2020, carbon emissions should be cut by 25 to 45 percent, it says.

The draft also says developing nations should cut their emissions by between 15 and 30 percent by 2020.

In a news briefing Friday, U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern found fault with the draft, saying it did not put enough pressure on major developing countries, and that “we don’t think that particular section of the text is an acceptable starting point” for negotiations.

Also presented was a draft produced by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). The text proposes that Annex I (industrialised) countries reduce carbon emissions by 30 to 40 percent between either 2013-2018 or 2013-2020.

As shown by the brackets and diversity of numbers, it is discrepancies that prevail at the climate change summit.

Delegates of the chief negotiating groups agreed to sit down at the same table for a press conference Friday. (U.S. chief negotiator Jonathan Pershing was invited but did not take part.)

However, not only did they confirm the gaps between their positions, but they even got involved in arguments with each other during the conversation with reporters.

There was clear agreement on the urgent need for an accord, but not on how to reach one. India insisted that boosting the level of development in the South is the best plan for adaptation to global warming.

“The impact of climate change will be most evident in the poorest countries…(which) have insufficient capacity to adapt to climate change because of financial and technological concerns,” said India’s chief negotiator Chandrashekhar Dasgupta.

“The only answer is to achieve a certain social and economic development and eradicate poverty as quickly as possible.

“If we fail to achieve and maintain the highest possible level of development, we will be condemning future generations in our countries to the horrendous impact of climate change,” said Dasgupta.

But EU negotiator Karl Falkenberg stressed the importance of the South also contributing to mitigation efforts, and said developing countries have the advantage of being able to develop by means of clean energy.

“We need to make sure that cleaner energy sources are used in developing countries. That technology is known today, not 20, 25 or 30 years ago. It would be an enormous waste if we were to leave Copenhagen not understanding that economic growth in developing countries – that is crucial, a fundamental right, recognized by everyone -needs to be achieved in different forms in which economic growth has been achieved in the past and that this is possible.

“We need to collectively reduce by 40 percent our emissions globally by 2020. We are very clear that we need contributions from everyone, and we need these contributions in a reliable binding manner from everyone,” said Falkenberg.

Alluding to developing countries’ insistence that the industrialised world is historically responsible for the pollution, he said “whatever is the origin of the problem,” we need “an international agreement, binding, verifiable for everyone.”

In the meeting with the press, organised by Climate Change Media, China’s chief negotiator Yu Qingtai joined his voice to that of Dasgupta.

“We as developing countries will not accept anything that would sacrifice our right to develop and put on hold our condition of poverty and lack of development,” he said.

For his part, the Indian negotiator said “The question is not whether it is desirable to reduce the rate of growth of emissions in developing countries. Of course it is. The question is, who pays for it?”

Things got tense when Falkenberg accused his fellow negotiators of claiming a “right to pollute.”

“There is no such thing as the right to pollute,” either for industrialised or developing countries, said Falkenberg, while Dasgupta responded to him off-mic.

Yu said the demand by the developing countries represented by the G77 plus China was based on everyone’s right to “emission space.”

“For the developed countries, when it comes to emission space, their fundamental attitude is that what is mine is mine. What I’ve taken away from you, I’ve got to keep. For us, the developing countries, our position is, our emission space is under occupation, and we want it back,” said the Chinese delegate.

Speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the ambassador of Dominica, Crispin Gregoire said “We are on the front lines of the climate change crisis. Some of our islands will disappear. We accept that. But we want an agreement that will address our survival. That is why we’re here.

“The Marshall Islands have started relations with the U.S., there might be some agreement of migration. The U.S. might be open to allowing a bigger quota of inmigrants,” he said

The United Nations predicts that 150 million people could be displaced by global warming and become climate refugees by 2050. The Bahamas, Maldives and Tonga are among the most threatened by the rising seas.

And in the Caribbean, said Gregoire, “We have the additional problem…that our fish are moving to cooler waters, and with a 2 degree warming our corals will disappear.”

* This story appears in the IPS TerraViva online daily published for the COP 15 at Copenhagen.

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