Paradoxically, if we fail to act decisively to combat climate change, the reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions could occur through the collapse of the world economy, warns Maurice Strong in this column.
The objective of the Rio+20 Conference (4-6 June 2012) is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress made to date and the gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits, and address new and emerging challenges.
As the Arctic has only recently moved toward centre stage, there is still much we must do to understand the true nature of the changes that are occurring there.
The good news about the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change (December 7-18) is that it produced universal agreement on the importance of early action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to manageable levels. It also made progress on some of the key elements to be included in such an agreement and on continuing the ongoing process of negotiation. The bad news is that it revealed deep and unresolved differences between the positions of the main parties, notably between the more developed and the less developed countries.
The current economic and climate change crises are both rooted in the unsustainable nature of the existing economic system. The rapid and unexpected economic meltdown, which began in the United States and quickly spread throughout the world demonstrated dramatically that the phenomenon of globalization and interdependence has a dramatic downside of shared risks and vulnerability.
A recent study by the Global Humanitarian Forum, headed by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, postulates that the economic and human costs of climate change could now amount to some 125 billion dollars per year and the loss of 300,000 lives. Many more are being increasingly affected, mainly the poor.
China has been making progress in building a vibrant, modern society, but inevitably it still has to cope with massive problems left by its turbulent past. Still, that progress is clearly remarkable by any standard. China has raised more people out of poverty than any nation has ever done, writes Maurice Strong, former Secretary General of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and the first Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) The constraints that the Chinese and foreigners living here continue to experience are minimal and for the most part understandable, given that no nation has suffered from societal breakdown, internal conflict and foreign intervention more than China has in the past century. It is a small wonder that the Chinese place such emphasis on the need for internal stability and security. Indeed, we must realize that even in our own societies the standards we exhort China to adopt are those we have only recently, and not yet fully, lived up to ourselves. The Chinese will be much more influenced by our example than by the uninformed and hypocritical content of so much of our criticism. Similarly, the attempt to shift the onus for increases in food, oil and commodity prices to China, as well as India and others now competing for these imports, will be counterproductive. The needs of the poor and the newly developing countries cannot be subordinated to the wasteful and indulgent appetites of the rich and their pre-emption of a disproportion of the world\'s resources.
The United Nations Conference on Climate Change was only a necessary first step along what will be a rough road to agreement on the cooperative measures required to bring the risks of climate change under control. The last minute compromise to establish a continuing negotiating process was only reached on a weakened and watered-down basis, writes Maurice Strong, Secretary-General, 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and the first Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In this analysis, Strong writes that we must treat the dangers of climate change as a security issue, the most important threat to global security we will ever face. The author calls for establishment of a Climate Security Fund of USD 1 trillion to be financed by those countries that have contributed most to cumulative emissions. The Fund would be utilised to assist developing countries to reduce the growth of their emissions and adapt to adverse conditions resulting from already irreversible changes. The kind of climate security regime that would result from these and other indispensable measures goes well beyond Bali and what is considered realistic by most under today\'s conditions, but are imperative if we are to secure the conditions that support life as we know it.