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/CORRECTION/*CLIMATE CHANGE: “The G77 Is More United Than Ever”

COPENHAGEN, Dec 10 2009 (IPS) - “If there’s ever been a time in which the G77 has been more united than ever, that time is right now,” was the categorical statement made by Venezuelan negotiator Claudia Salerno to TerraViva, after a tiny island nation in the south Pacific stirred things up at the COP15 climate meetings.

Tuvalu wins Ray of the Day prize.  Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

Tuvalu wins Ray of the Day prize. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

The voice of the small island states of the Pacific was heard loudly in the Danish capital when the delegation of Tuvalu, a nation of 11,810 people and just 26 sq. km., firmly demanded the approval of a treaty setting a ceiling of a one to 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures, rather than the two degree limit being discussed in the negotiations.

Tuvalu’s outspoken stance won it the first-ever “Ray of the Day” prize, awarded to a country making an outstanding contribution to advancing negotiations towards an internationally legally binding agreement.

“Developed country Parties which have not taken commitments prescribed in Article 3 of the Kyoto Protocol, and other Parties who voluntarily elect to do so, shall individually or jointly undertake verifiable, nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions in the form of quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments,” says paragraph 1, article 3 of Tuvalu’s proposal.

The United States is the main industrial country that is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.

Furthermore, “Parties undertaking (such) commitments or actions”…”shall not use these commitments to fulfill obligations established under the Kyoto Protocol,” opening up the possibility for a two-pronged scheme.

Article 3 of the proposal includes a detailed three-tier initiative for developing countries to also adopt emissions cuts, although it does not say they should be legally binding.

“Developing country Parties, notwithstanding paragraph 1 above, shall undertake nationally appropriate mitigation actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” it adds.

The Kyoto Protocol does not include binding targets for nations of the South, and the so-called emerging economies are resisting a new agreement that will commit them to reduce their emissions, arguing that the climate debt must be paid by the nations that have achieved growth through centuries of industrialisation at the expense of polluting the environment, and that emerging nations are entitled to their own development now that they can finally grow.

The problem is that today these emerging nations account for more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Nobody expected the discordant note in the G77 (the Group of 77, which represents 130 developing countries) to come from the small island nations, although there were reasons to believe it would, since they are without a doubt the most affected by climate change.

The United Nations has said that global warming has already caused several islands to disappear, and warned that in the next 40 years it will displace one billion people. Tuvalu could be wiped right off the map.

Salerno, head of international cooperation and management in Venezuela’s Environment Ministry, said that the responsibility lies with the industrialised North, and not with emerging nations.

“The problem we’re facing today is not the result of recent industrialisation processes. The right to development is not at issue here. What are at issue are the countries that for 200 years have been destroying our planet,” she said to TerraViva.

“They are the ones that have to stop. Scientifically the issue is critical, because no amount of effort from developing countries is going to be enough to repair the damage. There are 20 countries with the power to make a difference for the whole world,” she added.

Salerno, who participated in a joint conference of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, bloc in Copenhagen, contended that despite appearances, the G77 is firmly united, especially in its common rejection of certain moves by some countries of the North at the COP15.

“I think that, contrary to what certain media have said, all the actions by developed countries that have been aimed at undermining the process have only served to bring us closer together,” she said, in reference to a leaked draft agreement prepared by Denmark.

“We think it’s best that this document came out now and not on the 18th, because we would’ve been working without a clue of what was going on in back-room negotiations. The countries that are committed to the process are paying no attention to that paper. It means absolutely nothing to us, not to the G77 countries and not to the ALBA countries,” she said.

ALBA is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.

For his part, Cuban delegate Pedro Luis Pedroso told TerraViva that, pursuant to the Convention, Tuvalu has the right to present its own proposals in line with its national concerns.

The assistant director of Multilateral Matters of Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the G77 had not yet examined the island nation’s initiative as a group.

The ALBA members have so far shown a demanding and ambitious front at Copenhagen. This Thursday, in addition to requesting the approval of a legally binding treaty that will put all the responsibility on the industrialised North, ALBA countries called on the international community to “change consumption patterns” in order to “address the causes of climate change, and not just the consequences.”

However, its positions have not been fully backed by the rest of the Latin American community. Several other countries in the region, including Brazil, have announced their willingness to make voluntary cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

“Each country has its own national perspective, but I think that in essence we all basically share the same concerns and positions. How these concerns and positions are incorporated varies depending on the approach, but I think in essence we have a common stance,” Pedroso told TerraViva.

The heads of state of the ALBA members that will attend the COP15 summit are Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

* This story corrects several paragraphs in earlier article.

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

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