Global Trends by Martin Khor
18 February 2008
Last week, the United
Nations General Assembly held its first debate on climate change after
Last week I took part as
a panelist in a “thematic debate” at the United Nations General Assembly
It was the first major UN
meeting on climate change since the eventful
From promises to serious commitment and from that to real action are many steps, which may or may not be taken. More complex is who should do what, and how much should each do?
The developed countries, led by the Europeans, are very keen that every country act as soon as possible, with rich countries doing more to cut Greenhouse Gas emissions but developing countries also pitching in.
On the other hand, the developing countries are of the view that they have the right to develop, that they will do something too, but they need lots of help with finance and technology from the rich countries, in order to tackle climate change, without affecting their economy.
The truth is that the rich countries have to overhaul their production and energy systems and lifestyles if we are to stand a chance of success. And developing countries can grow but must change their development pattern to be ecological and downgrade luxuries in favour of fulfilling people’s basic needs. That calls for a lot of change, inside each country, and in international relations.
At the UN meeting, on 11-13
February, the President of General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim of
The UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, stressed that if 2007 was the year climate change rose to top of the global agenda, 2008 is the time for concerted action.
“Developed countries need to clearly lead. The more ambitious cuts by developed countries, the more we can expect from developing countries. The more developing countries are engaged, the more developed countries are willing to act,” he stressed.
The Mayor of New York City,
Michael Bloomberg, said there were two pre-conditions for successful
climate talks in future. First, the
The second pre-condition
is “for developing countries to commit too”, for example
In the panel on partnerships,
that I took part in, Dr Youba Sokono, executive secretary of the
Representing the Third World Network, I agreed that partnerships should be based on solidarity and collaboration based on good faith. The Kyoto Protocol must be supported, and the first task is to correct the misconception that it expires in 2012 and must be replaced.
What is expiring is the first commitment period (for emission cuts) of the developed countries, and this is to be followed by a second commitment period for which negotiations are already taking place.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol should be defended as they contain good principles such as that developed countered must take the lead and developing countries will act to the extent that the developed countries meet their finance and technology commitments.
The post-Bali process should firstly focus on implementation of existing commitments, as the performance is poor. The developed countries have to meet their emission targets and their technology and finance obligations (which have not been fulfilled), if developing countries are to have confidence that they will be assisted.
On technology, the intellectual property issue had to be addressed if developing countries are to have access to affordable technology. The new sustainable development pathways have also to be worked out in detail.
Fiona Harvey of the Financial Times said that some businesses were engaged in “greenwash”, claiming to do more than they are. And in a lunch talk, Sir Richard Branson, Chair of the Virgin Group, called on the UN to establish a “war room” to fight climate change.
The following two days saw Ministers and senior officials of over a hundred countries presenting their views.
Technology transfer is closely tied to the private sector’s role and intellectual property rights. “Unless some relaxation of IPRs is allowed, such transfer may prove to be impossible because of the high costs involved. The UN system should explore the use of partnerships to make such transfers possible,” said Fatimah.
As new capital assets will
triple between 2000 and 2030, the UN should make efforts to direct investment
and financial flows towards technology that is more environmentally
friendly to ensure countries do not get locked into unclean technology
in the decades to come,
On 31 March to 4 April, the
first meeting of the UNFCCC’s talks on “long-term cooperative action”
to address climate change, will take place in