TWN Info Service
on Climate Change (Oct09/01)
Please find below and article by Martin Khor, the Executive Director of the South Centre, which was carried in a major Malaysian news daily The Star.
Monday October 5, 2009
By Martin Khor
week’s natural disasters in Asia should have galvanized action at the
UN climate talks in
week there were three natural disasters in the Asian region – massive
was a fitting backdrop to the United Nations climate negotiations that
started last Monday in
Inside the UN’s spacious convention halls, the talks were also stormy. The developed countries delivered one unpleasant surprise after another, leaving the developing countries’ delegations in shock as to the audacity and aggressiveness of the onslaught.
It became clear that most developed countries are unwilling or unable to do their fair share in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. And they are pushing the burden and potential blame on to the developing countries, against the rules of the Climate Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.
Worse, it is also now apparent that the rich countries are preparing to ditch the Kyoto Protocol itself, an agreement that took many years to build, and that is the cornerstone for committing countries to cut their emissions, collectively and individually.
If that happens, it would be a calamity, as there may be nothing to replace it, at least for some time. Meanwhile, emissions are continuing, the world’s temperature will continue to rise and the effects will multiply.
What an irony that this vanishing of commitment is coming so soon after climate change jumped to the top of the global agenda just one or two years ago, and when the latest scientific data daily inform us that the situation is worse than that reported just two years ago by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The pledges by developed countries so far are miserably low. The IPCC has estimated that they have to cut their emissions by 25% to 40% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels).
countries are calling for an aggregate cut of at least 40%. The combined
cut from national pledges made by these countries come up to only 16%
to 23% (UNFCCC secretariat estimate, excluding the
The Chair of the Kyoto Protocol group, John Ashe, on Oct 2, gave a caustic analysis of the situation. Referring to the gap between the developed countries’ pledges and the required cuts, he said, “we will be a laughing stock come Dec 18” (the last day of the Copenhagen Climate Conference) if the gap is not closed.
The small island states said that the low pledges were consistent with a 3-degree temperature rise or worse, which would have catastrophic consequences. It is widely accepted that temperature rise must be limited to 2 degrees above the pre-industrial level, and recent data indicate 1.5 degrees is more accurate, to avoid a disaster.
That principle recognises that developed countries are responsible for most of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere and they should take the lead in emissions reduction as well as assist developing countries through finance and technology to also take actions.
Last week, the developed countries took the following initiatives that took the developing countries by surprise:
They indicated doing away with the Kyoto Protocol (which obliges developed
countries to bind emission- reduction targets in a treaty) by advocating
a new agreement. The
> They seem to be refusing to have a second commitment period under the KP, after the first period expires in 2012. In the first period, the countries agreed to cut their combined emissions by 5% (from 1990 to 2012).
The developing countries want a second period in which the rich countries cut by at least 40% (in 2020 compared to 1990).
> They are stressing that developing countries have “common” responsibilities, a code for pulling in the developing countries into emissionreduction obligations, while downplaying the “differentiated” responsibilities that recognise that the developing countries have had little role in the historic emissions and need space for economic development.
> While the climate convention obliges developed countries to meet the additional costs of developing countries’ actions to combat climate change, the developed countries are now insisting that developing countries also contribute to global public funds.
> They are attempting to split the developing countries’ unity by creating new categories such as “advanced developing countries” (which are to be subjected to emission-reduction disciplines, and get little global public funds) and “especially vulnerable countries” (which are to be promised global funding). The definitions and criteria of who is advanced or who is vulnerable are arbitrary and have not been agreed to.
> Some key developed countries (the US and France) are preparing to use trade protectionism in the name of climate change to block exports from developing countries through financial charges or tariffs, on the ground that the countries are not doing enough to reduce their emissions.
developing countries are dismayed by these initiatives, so soon after
so many political leaders made stirring speeches and gave firm-sounding
pledges to cooperate to fight climate change at the UN Climate Summit
developing countries, individually and through the G77 and
is a huge battle that the countries are engaged in, and the differences
between them are large. There are only 10 negotiating days left before