Be­tween Hope and De­spair

While find­ing so­lu­tions to the plethora of prob­lems cre­ated by cli­mate change is a key global is­sue, the stale­mate be­tween rich and poor na­tions con­tin­ues to pre­vent the world from catch­ing the bull by the horns.

Southasia - - Gender empowerment - By Sabina Rizwan Khan

From In­done­sia’s Tsunami to Haiti’s hur­ri­cane, from Pak­istan’s floods to Ja­pan’s earth­quake, the world has wit­nessed its share of record break­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in re­cent times. While re­cov­er­ing from the out­comes of these de­struc­tive events, it would be rather de­plorable to say that dis­as­ters of this na­ture will be more fre­quent in the near fu­ture. The ever in­creas­ing in­con­sis­tent weather be­hav­iors, diminu­tion in fresh­wa­ter sup­ply, al­ter­ations in agri­cul­tural pat­terns, droughts and loss of bio­di­ver­sity are ob­vi­ous ef­fects of global cli­mate change.

Con­sid­er­able ef­forts have been in progress to counter the im­pact of

global warm­ing. Par­tic­i­pa­tion of a large num­ber of states and in­volve­ment of the United Na­tions in the process re­flects the se­ri­ous­ness of the is­sue. How­ever, con­crete so­lu­tions are yet to be achieved. So far the most ef­fec­tive en­deavor has been the Ky­oto Pro­to­col that has held most de­vel­oped coun­tries to a set of legally bind­ing com­mit­ments for the re­duc­tion of green house emis­sions, which is due to ex­pire in late 2012. To keep the Ky­oto Pro­to­col in­tact, an agree­ment is needed at the UN an­nual sum­mit COP 17 which is due in Novem­ber this year in Dur­ban, South Africa. There­fore, how to reach con­sen­sus and lay foun­da­tions for fur­ther agree­ments in COP 17 were the core dis­cus­sions in the re­cently held UN Cli­mate Talks in Bangkok.

The first of three UN cli­mate change con­fer­ences this year, the Bangkok talks were held from April 3 to 8 and fo­cused on im­prov­ing the agree­ment of COP 16 held in Can­cun, Mex­ico last year, so that a suc­ces­sor can be en­sured to the Ky­oto Pro­to­col. A to­tal of 1,500 in­di­vid­u­als from 173 coun­tries par­tic­i­pated, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment del­e­gates, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from in­dus­try, en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists, or­ga­ni­za­tions and re­search in­sti­tu­tions, to for­mu­late an in­ter­na­tional treaty on cut­ting car­bon emis­sions.

Del­e­gates came with cau­tious op­ti­mism, seek­ing an im­ple­men­ta­tion on agree­ments that were reached at Can­cun and to pur­sue com­pre­hen­sive ne­go­ti­a­tions. UN ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary Chris­tiana Figueres in her in­au­gu­ral ad­dress said, ‘’The full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Can­cun agree­ments can only be­come an im­por­tant step for­ward for the cli­mate if there’s a re­spon­si­ble and clear way ahead on the Ky­oto Pro­to­col.”

The talks kicked off with a dis­pute over which coun­tries should be re­quired to cut green­house gas emis­sions as per the re­vised ver­sion of the Ky­oto Pro­to­col. Vi­tal to the ar­gu­ment was both the United States and China that are ex­cluded from the agree­ment, de­spite the fact that the two na­tions are the world’s big­gest pol­luters. There­fore, the Ky­oto Pro­to­col only has an ef­fect on 30 per­cent of the world’s to­tal emis­sions an­nu­ally.

Poor na­tions, on the other hand, de­manded the rich states to agree to a sec­ond round of legally bind­ing emis­sion re­duc­tion com­mit­ments un­der an up­dated Ky­oto Pro­to­col. Al­though coun­tries like Ja­pan and Aus­tralia have agreed on record to an­other se­ries of com­mit­ments only if all ma­jor pol­luters are also a part of the new agree­ment. And now with the re­cent nu­clear cri­sis in Ja­pan, its se­nior en­vi­ron­ment min­istry of­fi­cials have in­di­cated that the state may have to re­con­sider its own ob­jec­tives for cut­ting emis­sions to counter the cri­sis and post-quake re­con­struc­tion.

Pri­mar­ily, the core is­sue lies in the fact that de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, which in­clude China, did not have to com­mit to cut­ting emis­sions as part of the Ky­oto Pro­to­col and they de­mand to keep it as it is. The United States never en­dorsed the Ky­oto Pro­to­col as de­vel­op­ing coun­tries were ex­cluded from the process. It also holds its reser­va­tions re­gard­ing China which over­took the U.S. in emit­ting green­house emis­sions and is not sign­ing the pact. There­fore the U.S. has stated re­peat­edly and as­sertively that it will not be a part of any legally bind­ing cli­mate treaty un­til all ma­jor economies in­clud­ing China agree to be­come part­ners.

This dis­agree­ment stirred up frus­trated dis­cus­sions but with lit­tle sub­stance through­out the week at the Bangkok talks. De­vel­op­ing coun­tries, though not bound by the Ky­oto Pro- to­col, are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing im­mense im­pacts of cli­mate change. They re­main firm in their stance that in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions have been his­tor­i­cally re­spon­si­ble for the ma­jor green­house gas emis­sions. There­fore, these na­tions should be legally ob­li­gated to cut car­bon emis­sions and fa­cil­i­tate poor coun­tries in cut­ting theirs by pro­vid­ing fund­ing and tech­nol­ogy.

Tas­neem Es­sop, leader of the WWF del­e­ga­tion at the talks, said, “We are al­ready feel­ing the im­pact of cli­mate change - bio­di­ver­sity is plum­met­ing, sea lev­els are ris­ing and droughts are ru­in­ing crops. The con­tin­ued fail­ure to mobilize cli­mate fi­nanc­ing is in­creas­ingly putting the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple and ecosys­tems in harm’s way.” There­fore, de­vel­op­ing na­tions de­manded the ex­ten­sion of the Ky­oto Pro­to­col and in­sisted on in­clud­ing the United States, the only wealthy nation that did not sign on the Pro­to­col. To the con­trary, the U.S. and some other rich states mainly fo­cused on this year’s ne­go­ti­a­tions, push­ing mod­est agree­ments for­ward that were achieved last year.

Af­ter a much-heated de­bate,the Bangkok talks con­cluded with cli­mate change ne­go­tia­tors seem­ingly agree­ing on a com­mon agenda to de­crease

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