Negotiator Fatigue? (First week of COP18)
As the first week of COP18 comes to close the pessimism with which it opened seem to have become entrenched. There is still an expectation of a new Kyoto Protocol commitment period, but with commitments that are the least common denominator.
The negotiators from the the Western European and Others Group of countries (WEOG) seem to be intent on ignoring the best available science and their existing international legal obligations as they push for a selfish and shortsighted result.
They continue to refuse to take the lead on mitigation in accordance with their capacities and historical responsibilities. Instead they claim that all States should have comparatively equal responsibilities for mitigation. They seek to ignore the equity of considering their significant overexploitation of the planet's atmosphere during the past two hundred years during which we have begun to do the most damage. Instead they say large developing countries, like China and India, have similar obligations to mitigate. They ignore the fact that these countries are significantly poorer and less developed and that thus mitigation would cost them much more in terms of their peoples' development. They also ignore the fact that twenty yeas ago when they all signed the UNFCCC they agreed to take the lead in mitigation as a legal obligation that they are now seeking to violate.
The WEOG countries also refuse to take the lead in providing new and additional financing. Instead they are telling developing countries to invest money they don't have to prove they need more money or to make their mitigation and adaptation activities profitable. This is in effect saying to people who have been exploited for decades that they should submit to continue to be exploited so that rich WEOG countries can continue to develop beyond their fair share of the planet's resources.
At the other end of the spectrum are countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and their few friends, who have the courage to stand up for what the best available science and the existing international law requires. At past COPs these brave States have shown the only courage and integrity that can save the planet. At COP18 they have stepped back to a safer place joining the consensus of the Like-Minded-Group-of-Developing-Countries (LMG). This has required compromises of their principles. They have made these compromises in the hope of still achieving action that places science and law over selfishness and shortsightedness. There is, however, no certainty that they will be successful even with in the larger LMG that includes the likes of China, India and Russia.
Perhaps most unfortunate of the step back by the bravest States is the fact that many NGOs have followed this pattern. These NGOs have forsaken what they know is right for what they think they can achieve in the current political environment that is dominated by selfish and shortsighted States. These NGOs are joined by a host of business NGOs (coined BINGOs) whose only real interests are profit. The increasingly influential BINGOs wrap their intentions in themes of participation and economic incentives. The BINGOs point out that they are relevant actors, but are silent about the fact that this is so primarily because of their contributions to the pollution causing climate change. They claim they create jobs, but don't mention that this as only the case as long as they can extract profits off the backs follow paid workers and exploitation of States' natural resources. Nevertheless, because they have the resources to offer their views over a cup of cool fruit juice in a air conditioned text or over a luxurious dinner often with other incentives to negotiators, they carry more wait than NGOs who are merely trying to save the world from the adverse consequences that we know with about 95% will occur if we don't take adequate action.
The lack of faith has also translated into unambitious proposals on mitigation, adaptation financing, loss and damage, technology transfer, and just about everything on the table at COP18. The result is that even if agreements are reached they might not really even matter anymore.
States and individuals who now seem destined to suffer significantly from the international inaction on climate change are likely to increasingly ignore the world's only truly global forum and an turn to the last resort of methods they have available to protect their people. These methods include using the existing international law to hold States who have failed to act or who block action responsible for the damages their actions or inactions have caused. Such cases will not be decided, if the rule of law prevails, based on the political views of States, but based merely on their legal obligations. These include the legal obligations of UNFCCC Annex I countries—all the WEOG countries—to lead in mitigation, to provide new and additional financing to non-Annex I countries (developing countries) and to provide for technology transfer. These are all legal obligations that WEOG countries are failing to abide by by failing to act. Developing countries don't have such obligations, and right so as they are poorer and less developed.
If the UNFCCC processes make themselves irrelevant then future generation will blame the current generation of negotiators for having failed so miserably. They will have the list of participants from the COP18 to see who these people are and to seek to hold them responsible for their failures.
Does anybody really care?
The refusal of developed states to face up to the global climate crisis, if not confronted, will kill 100 million Africans within 100 years, writes Curtis Doebbler
Imagine a society in which murderers decided that murder was legal. It wasn’t that they actually changed the law; they just ignored them and argued that the laws should be changed. Imagine a community in which the rich governed the poor as slaves, denying them the most basic necessities of life. Imagine a world in which the horrors of genocide on a scale involving the lives of hundreds of millions of innocent people, dwarfing the atrocities humankind has committed in the past, were passively accepted. Or a world where human rights are violated on such a massive scale as to make them irrelevant.
Such a world might sound horrifying, and indeed it must be to any rational person, yet even as you are reading this article such a world is unfolding in our midst. Moreover, there seems to be very little concern about it from our leaders in the global North. Meanwhile, our leaders in the global South seem incapable of doing anything to stop it. This is the feeling one gets attending the global talks known as COP18 that kicked off this week in Doha, Qatar, and that will run until 7 December.
The threat that states will be discussing at COP18 is not the work of a deadly new plague or some new global despot. It does not even come from the threat of nuclear annihilation that would bring sudden death. It comes from the creeping threat of something we have studied for decades; something we understand with about 95 per cent certainly; something for which we know the cause and the remedy; and something that is created by human beings. It is the threat posed by the changes in our global climate. The Doha talks, COP18 or the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is about climate change.
Climate change is such a serious threat that in 1992 more nations than signed up to the Charter of the United Nations signed up to the UNFCCC. They did so “acknowledging that change in the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind.” And in this legally binding treaty the entire global community unambiguously agreed that their “ultimate objective” was to protect us from dangerously destroying the very air that we breath and on which we depend to grow food and nurture our children. They further agreed that action should be taken before it is too late.
When the UNFCCC was adopted, the scientists were pretty sure that time was running out fast, but they were not exactly sure of how fast. To try to clarify how much time we have left, we created the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), thousands of the world’s leading scientists who came together to evaluate virtually everything that is being written about the threats posed by climate change. Those scientists told us in 2007 that we need to act now.
The IPCC in its Fourth Assessment Report said that to really protect our atmosphere, emissions must peak by 2015. This means that mainly developed states must stop polluting by 2015. Instead, they have increased their pollution according to a recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report. Moreover, the UNEP says that the gap between what is being done and what needs to be done is growing. Emissions will then need to be cut by 50 per cent to 100 per cent by 2050 in order to continue to protect our planet’s atmosphere.
In addition, the World Bank reported this week that it is likely that temperature will rise twice as high as the 2°C level that is already considered dangerous. And the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) noted that we have already surpassed the level of dangerous carbon dioxide that can be tolerated by our atmosphere.
As WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud put it in a statement issued with the report, the “billions of tons of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth. Future emissions will only compound the situation.”
In other words, according to the main international scientific body actually studying climate change in the field around the world, the main reason we need to cut our emissions so much and so quickly is that for the past 200 years we have polluted the air too much. As a consequence, it is not enough that we merely slow down; we actually have to reverse the damage that we have done and are still doing.
Moreover, past pollution has not been by accident or by everyone. Rich developed states have used the atmosphere beyond a sustainable pace to be able to achieve their own development. In the process they have left developing states underdeveloped. Worse yet, by refusing to cut their emissions today based on their historical contributions to global pollution they are denying developing states the chance to ever catch up to them and in some cases literally denying people in developing states the right to life.
This situation is about as close to mass murder as one can get, and then-G77 coordinator and Sudanese Ambassador Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping stated this clearly at the COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, when he said that if we do not act urgently we will be sending hundreds of millions of Africans to the furnaces to be killed by global warming.
The concept of historical responsibility is major part of the disagreement at the annual round of global climate talks in Doha. Rich developed states that have been identified in Annex I of the UNFCCC don’t want to take their historical responsibility into account. They don’t want to do this because they have contributed the most to polluting our planet over the past 200 years and thus have the greatest responsibility to remedy the situation. They don’t dispute the facts; they just don’t want to give up the privileges they accumulated through over-exploitation of the planet.
Developed states also appear to have little concern for the fact that they have already agreed to shoulder a greater responsibility for climate change in the legally binding UNFCCC. This treaty contains legal obligations requiring developed states to take a greater responsibility than other states.
This responsibility is expressed in the legal principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. According to this principle, developed states that are listed in Annex I of the UNFCCC have special obligations — legal obligations. These obligations include taking the lead in cutting back their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and providing developing states, or non-Annex I states, new and additional financing so they are able to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change that can no longer be avoided.
The obligation to cut emissions is the subject of the Kyoto Protocol, which is one of two tracks that have been negotiated since states agreed to the Bali Action Plan at COP13 in 2007. States party to the Kyoto Protocol agreed to cut there emissions by pre-determined amounts that are relative to the contributions to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that cause climate change. Because of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the Kyoto Protocol obligations to cut emissions only apply to those states known as Annex I states, which are the developed states that have benefited from over-exploitation of the atmosphere.
It was very quickly realised that the Kyoto Protocol commitments were insignificant and would not protect the planet and its inhabitants from the worst effects of climate change. For this reason the Kyoto Protocol itself foresees states making new commitments by the end of 2012.
Almost every state in the world is party to the Kyoto Protocol although the United States and more recently Canada are important exceptions. These naysayers to the otherwise global consensus on GHG emissions reductions have recently been joined by Japan, New Zealand, Russia, and maybe Australia, who although parties to the Kyoto Protocol refuse to participate in a new commitment period. This refusal comes despite the fact that the Kyoto Protocol itself obliges state parties to agree to a new commitment period. These recalcitrant states just don’t seem to care what the law says.
Another track of negotiation agreed in Bali in 2007 was that of a plan or Long-term Comprehensive Action (LCA). This work is supposed to conclude with a blueprint for enhanced future action based on the UNFCCC. In particular, it is supposed to come up with equivalent commitments for states that are not parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
The LCA has made consistent progress. Nevertheless, developed states, especially those not party to the Kyoto Protocol or those that refuse to participate in the new commitment period, have blocked adequate action. For example, the United States with a few allies refuses to agree to meaningful commitments to cut their GHG emissions. Instead of commitments they want only “pledges” without any legally binding force and based on whatever they think is appropriate.
The US, the world’s second largest overall producer of GHGs, has made a unilateral non-binding pledge to cut its emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. This cut is woefully short of what is needed. Moreover, a report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency that was released at the Doha talks this week found that the United States is even unlikely to meet this pledge.
The largest group of developed States, which is itself a party to the UNFCCC, the European Union, has pledged to cut emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. Like the United States, the EU is unlikely to achieve its pledge if carbon trading is not included and it should not be. Carbon trading allows rich states to buy the right to pollute from poorer, less developed states that would otherwise not pollute as much. It is zero sum game that runs expressly contrary to the UNFCCC’s goal of limiting dangerous levels of emissions. It also provides leverage by developed states over developing states to allow them to keep developing while suggesting that developed states should not develop. That developed states receive short-term resources from selling carbon credits is ironic as they are at the same time prevented from developing in the only way that is possible for them, which is by increasing their GHG emissions.
To date, what developed states have suggested as appropriate for their pledges to cut emissions have left the bulk of the burden on developing states. Instead of respecting the legal principles that they agreed to in the UNFCCC, developed states are both violating them and trying to change them to put the burden on states that have already suffered centuries of underdevelopment.
Other outstanding LCA issues that developed states refuse to even discuss include the impact of unilateral actions they are taking to protect themselves against the adverse impacts of climate change while failing to assist developing states to be able to do the same. Again, this is a legal obligation in the UNFCCC.
Similarly, developed states are blocking progress on the sharing of intellectual property that developing states require for cutting their emissions and for saving their people from the already unavoidable consequences of climate change. Once again, taking steps to facilitate technology transfer is a legal obligation in the UNFCCC.
The funding shortfall
One area that has experienced resistance from developed states, but which developing states and many NGOs have been pushing hard to have discussed, is loss and damage, which refers to compensation for the harms caused by climate change that can no longer be avoided. Although it is likely to be discussed in Doha, after several regional meetings have taken place to discuss it, there is unlikely to be much progress made. The reason for this is that compensation for loss and damage require recognition of duties to act. Although such duties exist, as indicated above, there is little will to act among developed states that would have to provide the compensation.
One way that developed states could address both the loss and damage that developing states will suffer, and technology transfer, is by providing adequate funds to developing states. To facilitate this, states established just this year the Green Climate Fund to be based in Seoul, South Korea.
Like the Global Environmental Facility established in the UNFCCC and to be replaced by the Green Climate Fund (because it was not effective enough), the new fund has woefully insufficient money available to it. Developed states have not even made good on their promises of $30 billion in fast track new and additional funding, or re-committed to provide the $100 billion they committed to providing three years ago.
A recent Oxfam report entitled “The looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’” claims that two-thirds of the money pledged by developed states is really repackaged aid already given and not the “new and additional” funds the UNFCCC requires. Moreover, the report points out that the Green Climate Fund has been left largely an empty shell without adequate funds.
The combination of developed states’ failure to act to limit emissions and their failure to provide new and additional financing to developing states shows extraordinary disdain for existing international law, even while they are busy violating it.
For this reason, perhaps, developed states have favoured an approach agreed in general at COP17 in Durban, South Africa. According to developed states, this approach calls for closing the Kyoto Protocol and LCA tracks and focusing on an entirely new plan that does not abide by the already agreed UNFCCC legal obligations.
This new plan would treat rich and poor equally. Developing states would have burdens equivalent to those of developed states. It would lead to a world in which the people of developing states would not only bear unfair burdens, given the far lower levels of development their states have achieved or been permitted to achieve, but where “equivalent burdens” would mask developing states’ citizens paying for the development of developed states. It would lead to 100 million Africans being killed by our inaction on climate change by the end of this century.
Unless developing states can prevail and convince the minority of the world (its developed states) that they have benefited long enough and that now is the time for them to share, the world described in the first paragraph of this article might be the reality that we leave for future generations, some of whom are already born and others who are not yet born. These future generations might be faced with the impacts of discrimination against the most vulnerable that could make past genocides pale in comparison. The thought is as horrifying as is the reality of our inaction on climate change. But does anyone really care?
published in Al-Ahram on 29 November 2012
COP18: Main Challenges
What are the main challenges for COP18 in Doha, Qatar:
1. To agree on ambitious new Kyoto Protocol mitigation targets. This means targets taking into account the UNFCCC principles, including historical responsibility.
2. To agree on ambitious new mitigation targets for countries not part of the Kyoto regime. This means targets taking into account the UNFCCC principles, including historical responsibility.
3. To agree on new and additional financing by Annex I countries and ensure (through MRV) that it is really put on the table.
4. To ensure the removal of obstacles to adaptation and mitigation by non-Annex I countries, including my technology transfer and especially removing intellectual property barriers.
5. To agree to basic principles for an ambitious future plan to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees.
During COP18 we will comment on how States make efforts to achieve these these goals are achieved.
Other goals that won't be so clearly on the agenda include:
6. Ensuring that States take action that is consistent with their international human rights obligations. This requires States to take action that protects people from the adverse consequences of climate change. It is motivation for State action and States that fail to take action or block international action may incur State responsibility for human rights abuses.
7. Recognition of the right of Mother Earth. This indigenous concept of recognizing the rights of our planet as an organic entity is the basis of the sustainable development and living well in harmony with our planet. It is currently mentioned the AWG-LCA text and the Durban Platform, but neither elaborated or well-understood. **ISMUN, International-Lawyers.Org, and Brahma Kumaris will host a side-event on Tuesday, 27 November in Side-event Room 2 at COP18 from 20:15 to 21:00 on this issue. All are invited.**
8. An similar to the last concern, there needs to be more recognition of the contribution of indigenous peoples to preserving our planet and to the concepts of inter-generational equity and sustainable development. Indigenous peoples have contributed the least to the degradation of our planet; and hold the key to life on our planet that respects the concepts of inter-generational equity and sustainable development.
Feel free to contribute to this blog or to visit our stand at COP18.
The Shame We All Share For Failing to Take Action on Climate Change
For twenty years the nations of the world have been trying to conquer climate change that otherwise is likely to make our planet uninhabitable. The past week two weeks, from 28 November to 12 December, more than 15,000 delegates from almost two hundred countries had gathered in Durban, South Africa for their annual meeting to try to progress on these negotiations.
The meeting known as the Conference of the Parties (or COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (or UNFCCC) held in Durban, South Africa marked the first time in recent years that States had come together in Africa to discuss this important issue. This was significant because as Ambassador Lumumba Diaping had lamented in the failed COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark back in 2009, we know from irrefutable science that if the world does not act soon more than 100 million Africans will likely die due to the adverse consequences of climate change during this century. Most of these preventable death will come from Sub-Saharan Africa.
As the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Mr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri explained to the COP17 delegates, fortunately we know the action that needs to be taken to be able to protect our atmosphere. Pachauri was speaking about action to ensure that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is kept under 350 parts per million or in terms more user friendly for laypersons keeping the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 or a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The action that is required means changes in lifestyles, especially of people living in rich industrialized countries. It will require a sharing of technology, know-how, and financial resources by the rich with the poor. And it will require the will of the international community to act. Unfortunately, unlike P..'s arguments which are based on the best available science. the action that is needed by the international community requires political will and a sense of community.
The last is perhaps the most important. As former multi-time South African Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel told said in the first days of COP17 in Durban, "it is the will that is the most crucial and it is what is lacking the most."
Coming into COP17 there was an expectation that maybe that would change now that the representatives of almost every planet on earth, rich and poor, large and small were meeting in the mist of the African people, the people who were worst effected by the adverse effects of climate change. May thought how could the international community fail to act responsibly? How could the South African hosts with the leverage of their fifty-three African neighbors not force the hand of their guests? How could their guests not succumb to the friendly African hospitality and the smiling faces of the South Africans of Durban?
During the first week there was cautious optimism. "Argentina, African governments, and the (136 nation) G77 are working for a substantive outcome that allows us to leave town with our heads high," said Egyptian negotiator and Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister Ahmed Ihab Gamaleldin, taking a break from the almost around the clock negotiations that were taking place.
For the African hosts, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Ms Bomo Edna Molewa said, "the goals are clear we want a second commitment period, operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, and real pledges by Annex I countries to cut their emissions." She was referring to three goals that had featured center stage in the negotiations since the failure at COP15 in Copenhagen.
Where the African goals achieved at this African COP?
A New Commitment Period
Perhaps the most widely publicized decision was the COP decision to agree to a new commitment period. In fact what was agreed was that States would agree to consider a new commitment period. Even this future consideration is conditioned on starting negotiations towards a treaty that, according to the description of its provisions given by developed countries, will violate the fundamental principles of the UNFCCC. This is because the European Union and the United States are attempting to require developing countries to give up the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities that is central to the UNFCCC by calling for a new treaty, apparently to replace the UNFCCC.
Developing States were threatened that if they did not accept to negotiate a new treaty with commitments for all States, the EU and its allies would not agree to a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. The threat worked.
The motivation behind the European action is questionable. Although always off the record, European negotiators made it clear that what they most wanted preserved in the Kyoto Protocol were the Clean Development Mechanisms and other carbon trading provisions. This is not surprising given the investment that European has put into carbon trading and the fact that it hosts the largest carbon market in the world. Nevertheless, to only call for the carbon trading provisions to be maintained would appear obtusely selfish and insensitive to the global problem of curbing emissions.
It is troubling that the EU’s threats were made with a legally binding treaty regime in place. Every major country in world has joined the Kyoto regime, except the United States, the world's second largest polluter behind China. The Kyoto Protocol, based on principles greed to in the UNFCCC, sets down legal obligations for States to cut their emissions.
The Kyoto obligations only apply to developed countries or the almost forty most developed counties in Annex I of the UNFCCC. These greater obligations for developed countries are based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. These principles in turn are based on the realization that for centuries the most developed countries have benefited greatly from their over exploitation of the planet's atmosphere. To compensate the developing countries who did not have these advantages, at the UN's Rio Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, developing States agreed to cut their emission to greater extent than developing countries to help promote more equal development in the world while protecting our atmosphere.
Most importantly, an agreement to a second commitment period is not a discretionary act, it is a legal obligation that is found in article 3, paragraph 9 of the Kyoto Protocol. All European States are party to the Kyoto Protocol and are bound to implement this obligation. The EU was therefore merely offering what it as already legally bound to achieve.
They get away with this because in recent In recent years several developed countries have tried to renege on this legally binding agreement. Canada, for example, publicly announced during the opening days of COP17 that it would not agree to a new commitment period. After 2012, unless a new commitment period is adopted there will be no legal binding obligations requiring States to meaningfully cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
Failure to agree to a new commitment period is very likely to create a planetary disaster because States have not shown the voluntarily will to cut emissions. In fact voluntary pledges made by some States in Copenhagen point towards a world with an average temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius, a murderous prospect for Sub-Saharan Africans.
“A second commitment period,” said Mr. Pa Ousman Jarju a Gambian negotiator and the chief negotiator of the group of 47 least developed countries, “is fundamental.” But despite its importance a second commitment period was not agreed in Durban.
Speaking after the final decisions of the COP where adopted, Mr. Pablo Solon, the former chief negotiator for Bolivia said, that "[i]t is false to say that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has been adopted in Durban." He described the Kyoto Protocol as being on "life support" after Durban. The COP decision contains no legally binding commitments for any country. Instead States agree to consider agreeing to a new commitment period sometime in the future without specifying the level of ambition that would be contained in any subsequent agreement.
Financing Action to Address Climate Change
The African hosts appear to have come closer to achieving their second objective, the Green Climate Fund (or GCF). The Green Climate Fund was operationalized in a COP17 decision that seemed to enjoy broad consensus.
South African Foreign Minister and COP17 President Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane described the creation of the GCF as "the key outcome of the Conference."
The GCF is expected to be the main source of financing for global mitigation and adaptation action by developing countries. Again, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities the fund is part of a series of UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol provisions that require developed countries to provide financing to developing countries to empower them to meet the challenges poised by climate change.
After days of negotiations Ms Bernarditas de Castro Müller, a negotiator from the Philippines delegation who played an instrumental role in arriving at the compromise that led to the establishment of the GCF said, "we did it," but then quickly cautioned that "now I have to explain it to my delegation," the G77.
The outcome arrived at, however, looks very much as if States may have built a bank, before having much money to put in it. Commitments made by Denmark and Germany and a handful of other countries provide only a small percentage of the 100 billion US dollars that fund is suppose to start dispensing in just over eight years' time.
Director of Environmental Finance and Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme Mr. Yannick Glemarec estimated that the amount of money needed for mitigation and adaption by developing countries is likely to be “more than two trillion a year by 2020.” Oddly , however, the COP decisions adopted in Durban removed almost any reference to long-term financing. The issue has apparently been deferred to a future COP.
So where will the money come from?
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg led a host of of developed countries in arguing that the need money can be raised from the private sector.
The developing countries have a different view. Mr. Pa Ousman Jarju a Gambian negotiator and the chief negotiator of the group of 47 least developed countries said, "such faith in the private sector is wrong, it is contrary to what we see in practice ... markets are in crisis now."
A policy brief by the Stockholm Environment Institute indicates private sector finance is not equally distributed nor “new and additional” as the UNFCCC requires. It is also likely that the private sector can only provide a small proportion of the 100 billion USD amount that was arbitrarily agreed upon in Copenhagen two years ago.
In Copenhagen developed countries led by the EU and the US also promised to provide 30 billion USD for fast track financing by 2012. A report by African Climate Policy Centre that was released during COP17 showed that with one month to go less than 2 billion USD of the promised 30 billion USD had actually materialized and that even unpaid pledges amounted to less than a quarter of the total promised.
Creative suggestions based on levies on air travel, shipping, and financial transactions appear to all but disappeared from the texts of the COP decisions. Based on the track record of developed countries and the private sector on financing mitigation and adaptation, a fund with woefully inadequate funds may turn out be a pyrrhic victory for Africa and other developing countries.
Most disappointing to the ambitions of Africans, however, must undoubtedly be the lack of progress towards their third goal, ambitious emissions limits. The failure of COP17 to agree to any emissions limitations is perhaps the greatest blow to hosts South Africans pride.
At stake was the challenge, in the words of the UNFCCC, of acting to keep the gases produced by human beings at a level that is not dangerous to our planet's atmosphere while ensuring equitable and sustainable development. This required meeting the two-prong challenge of ensuing that emissions would be cut to appropriate levels after reaching their peaks no later than 2015 while at the same time ensuring that the burden for making these cuts did not fall on developing countries in such a manner that it would handicap their development.
The decision adopted concerning a second commitment to the Kyoto protocol does not include any figures defining the ambition of States to cut emissions. A column in the table that lists the Annex I countries has yet to be filled in and it is not clear how or when it will be completed. As a result the level of ambitions for emission cuts coming out of Durban can be described as very low and inadequate for achieving a level that prevents dangerous interference with the planet’s atmosphere.
Nevertheless, the European Union made a significant effort to describe their agreement to discuss a second commitment period as an agreement to cut emissions. It is, however, extremely difficult to see the logic of this reasoning. While it is true that European Union States are obliged to cut their emissions by 20% as required by EU legislation, other major emitters among developed States have either agreed to no or much lower emission cuts. As a result, and although they have no legally binding obligations to cut emissions, developing countries have been placed in the position of being expected to provide most of the global emission cuts.
To justify there position developed countries often pointed to the fact that China, a non-Annex I country is the largest aggregate polluter and that other developing countries are also becoming major emitters. Such finger pointing, however, appears to have a discriminatory undertone.
Calculated per capita China's emissions are insignificant. In fact the emissions of all the developing world are a fraction of those of the developed world when they are calculated per capita. The gap between material resources is even greater. While the per capita GDP on the United States is about $46,860 USD per year and the average GDP per capita in Europe is $30,388, China's per capita GDP is only $7,544 USD per year and for India only $3,408 USD per year according to the World Bank. Why should Chinese citizens be entitled to less emissions or less resources than an European or an American?
The Decision-Making Procedure at COP17
Perhaps most disturbing about the decisions taken by COP17 was the way the decision making process worked in Durban. While several States praised the South African government for being more inclusive than the Danish and Mexicans in the past two COPs, few meetings took place in public where NGOs and the press could keep watchful eyes on the negotiators.
This was troubling to both NGOs and States who often complained of not knowing what was really going on and what appeared to be going on did not look good. Small Island states were being showered with gifts, including pro bono advisers that would tell them how to act and sometimes even what to say and when. African States were being threatened with no money if they did not bow to the demands of the EU. And strong-minded ALBA States were threatened with isolation if they blocked agreements that were not as ambitious as they and most of civil soeicty had called for.
Despite the careful effort to negotiate behind closed doors evidence of inappropriate interference sometimes made it into the public domain.
During the AWG-LCA plenary in the late evening of 10 December the Venezuelan Special Representative of the President on Climate Change Ms Claudia Salerno Caldera exposed threats that had been directed against her stating that "in the corridor I have received two threats. One, that if Venezuela do not adopt the text they will not give us the second commitment period … [s]econdly, and the most pathetic and the most lowest threat that if we don’t give them their comfort zone with no rules, flexible, in which they are going to do what they want when they want to head us to four degrees we are not going to have the Green Climate Fund.”
While several States spoke boldly during the AWG-LCA debate calling the agreement “a very watered down text,” “unbalanced,” “biased against developing countries,” “expressed great concerns,” and “not adequately capturing the essential elements” discussed in Durban, it appeared that the threats from developed countries had their intended effect when it came time to adopt the text. No State objected to the text. The only concessions that they had managed to extract seemed to be that an earlier more elaborated text would also be forwarded to COP18 and that the outcome documents were so inconclusive that perhaps negotiations would start over in Doha next year.
One young activist observing the proceedings wondered why the Venezuelan allegation of what was in effect corruption of the UNFCCC process did not lead to an immediate investigation and at least the temporary suspension of the process. Instead, the process continued as if nothing had been said.
Similarly when questioned about the lack of transparency in COP17 processes such as the mainly closed door meetings both Costa Rican Executive Director Cristiana Figueres and the South African hosts defended the secrecy. South African Minister Ms Edna Molewa could only explain this as "it has to be that way." It is also unlikely that the UNFCCC Secretariat will take any action as it supported the closed door processes.
The best control on State action, the more than 10,000 civil society participants who had converged on the COP17 were often kept in the dark about negotiations and prevented from exercising their watchdog function.
On the last Tuesday night, NGOs were excluded en masse from the International Conference Centre. UN Security guards came through the massive Center telling NGO representatives that they had to leave while meetings were still going on. UN Security claimed that had to sweep the area for bombs using dogs, in the UN Security Chief's words, that "were vicious and would bite people." The UN’s rationale that required believing that the dogs were trained to only bite NGO representatives or that UN Security merely did not care whether State representatives were bitten, was not convincing. Instead the exercise looked like just another effort to keep civil society at a distance from the talks.
Some NGOs observers who did stay until the very end were surprised at the failure of the developed countries, including the hosts, to fight for a stronger agreement. Instead of fighting for Africa's interests as the Danish Prime Minister had for European interests when his country hosted COP15 by taking over the Presidency of the COP himself in the closing days, South African President Jacob Zuma declined to apply his respected negotiating skills to the climate talks and instead travelled abroad during the closing days. ALBA, African and G77 countries that were approach by civil society representatives urging them to stand for a strong agreement during the closing COP plenary seemed more concerned with not upsetting the developed countries then with fighting for the interests of Africa.
While the Western media either through ignorance or intentional malice might deliver to the EU, the US and their allies a rhetorical victory, little was done in Durban to combat climate change and that is something of which we should all be ashamed.
Leaving the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre early Sunday morning and walking through the early morning crowds that were starting to gather with their sleepy but always smiling faces, it was difficult for any of the delegates to raise their heads to look these hard working and friendly Africans in the eye and it surely wasn't just because of sleep deprivation.
States should take all necessary measures to combate climate change
Nord-Sud XXI and International-Lawyers.Org - 11 December 2011
States should take all necessary measures
to combat climate change
Durban, South Africa – Two days after the Global Climate Talks were supposed to have ended and after most delegates had already left, the talks finally came to a sputtering close with the adoption of a series of inconclusive texts. In light of this failure to take effective international action, International-Lawyers.Org and Nord-Sud XXI calls upon all States to use all necessary means within the UN system to take appropriate action to combat climate change.
Of the several weak texts adopted by consensus by tired delegates, one contained a long-term plan of action that oddly appears to place the greatest part of the burden of dealing with climate change on developing countries that are the least equipped. Another text on emissions limitations contains no legal or quantified greenhouse gas emissions limitations. And a text creating the Green Climate Fund to combat the adverse impacts of climate change does not specify how the funds, which are estimated to be 100 billion USD a year by 2020, will be raised. None of the legally binding obligations for which the many developing States and environmental NGOs were calling, were realized.
International-Lawyers.Org and Nord-Sud XXI climate change expert Ms Margreet Wewerinke, however, pointed out that “It is beyond question that States have legal obligations to address climate change under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.” She added that “[i]n Durban, we have once again seen a failure to fulfil these obligations. All States should therefore ensure that climate change becomes a priority in other United Nations forums, such as the Human Rights Council, and that the legal consequences of inadequate action are considered by the International Court of Justice.”
The UN Human Rights Council has already adopted three resolutions on human rights and climate change and could hold a Special Session on this issue in order to encourage States to take effective action. Special Sessions are a means by which the Human Rights Council can deal with urgent human rights issues.
In addition, the government of the Republic of Palau and the government of the Marshall Islands have both, at the highest levels in their respective governments, expressed their intention to request the UN General Assembly seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice. If such a request is made all States will have the opportunity to provide written and legal opinions to the Court.
For more information please contact: Office@International-Lawyers.Org or +41-79-304-4654 or +27-82-85856683