Monday, January 4, 2010

A final commentary on COP15

Copenhagen Climate Summit Failed!
Where do we go from here? Mexico?
NO! It has to be Climate Sustainability
by Uchita de Zoysa

Copenhagen Failed! Do not let a political scam "Copenhagen Accord' fool you. It is just another self-saving swindle by the establishment and a self-serving act by the rich and powerful. The United Nations finally disclosed that they have no power in global democratic governance and allowed just five national leaders supported by a twenty other opportunists to decide on the world's future. Poor country leaders, their people, and civil society were shutout from one of the worst democracy killing acts ever on earth. Twenty thousand people from across the world, leaders from 119 nations, representatives from 193 countries did not come to Copenhagen to see just a handful of people making the decisions of our destiny. Now they with a world of people watching from home will never trust the United Nations processes to democratically make decisions for the world.

Copenhagen scam was engineered by a handful of people. Firstly the A NATO presidency holding Denmark had to save their shame and manipulated the process for this wicked deal to emerge. The urgency of Danish Prime Lars Lokke Rasmussen to resign the COP15 president Ms. Connie Hedegaard was the first sign of political frustration and panic. This is why South Africa's environment minister Buyelwa Sonjica and her two top climate change negotiators said recently that part of the blame rested with the way the host guided the conference. In their first media briefing since returning from talks in the Danish capital that ended Saturday, the trio described an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion that Denmark was plotting to force its own position on other nations. South African negotiator Joanne Yawitch said, the Danes unveiled a draft at the 11th hour that was "seriously problematic". Secondly, these manipulations lead USA President Barrack Obama towards joining a small group of schemers in delivering the killer punches on the international democratic deliberations mechanism at the United Nations. However, the main architects of this closed "Copenhagen Scam" would be four wise men of the BASIC group of nations invisibly lead by the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, along with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and South African President Jacob Zuma who were the main chefs who cooked-up the situation for this 'Copenhagen Accord' to evolve. By turning on the heat on the Western leaders, these emerging giants ensured that Mr. Obama responds and the rest jump into the soup to save themselves from a global shame.

USA President Barrack Obama should not have tried to save the Copenhagen Summit. As a leader who emerged with the promise to change the practices of establishment, he should have made his usually world assuring speech and left, therefore leaving the Climate Summit to fail. This could have helped the cause of the climate sustainability movement to evolve a true climate deal on earth. However, Mr. Obama had clearly demonstrated why he is the main man in global politics today. While the negotiators were playing "Age of the Stupid", Obama worked his usual charismatic charm and usual sharp mind to make common sense look genius. Walking into the newly power hungry BASIC – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – this one smart man saved the negotiating clowns of the COP15 circus an ultimate embarrassment. The Europeans were made to look really stupid in this game, as they had no option rather than to sit round the table and endorse the final verdict of the new power brokers! The Danish Presidency of COP15 simply avoided the greatest embarrassment of the history of his nation, and the United Nations only could hide behind its own shame.

An embarrassed, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, "Many will say that it lacks ambition, "Nonetheless, you have achieved much.". Yes, you … twenty-five powerful nations had achieved much. So much for transparency, inclusiveness, collective-will that are professed the United Nations. Out of 194 parties, 171 countries were dumped with a group of 25 parties devising this scam accord! Sadly, the G-77 and China (a Group of 130 developing countries) was dumped by the emerging economic giants from the same group demonstrating the evolving new world order. Ambassador Lumumba Di-Aping, the G-77 Chair and Sudan's ambassador to the UN was furious and was quoted saying "this is the worst development in the fight against climate change. The draft accord was in gross violation of the principles of transparency and participation by all countries that have governed all actions within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is against the poor and it lacks common sense". Mr. Dia-ping, who chairs this bloc of 130 poor nations, said the pact meant "incineration" for Africa and was comparable to the Holocaust because the process failed to have a binding agreement on commitments on reducing climate change below the 2°C dangerous levels. Asked if the G77 would oppose the draft at the UNFCCC conference plenary session due to start any moment? He said "Wait and see". Pressed further, Mr. Di-Aping had said "Sudan will oppose."

It was clear in Copenhagen that India and China now together with Brazil and South Africa had very conveniently abandoned the most important developing country block G77 in search of their own excellence. They now feel that they are in the big league. Why not? China has beaten USA in the emissions race and India is not too far following. What can the balance of the 130 poor nation's offer them that USA, Europeans and Australia cannot offer in a new world balance? Well, definitely Sudan has very little attraction in this regard. That is why the leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela walked out in protest of the undemocratic process at COP15. It is also amusing that South Africa now after the summit has condemned the Copenhagen accord that they were part of creating. South Africa just recently announced that Copenhagen's failure to produce a legally binding climate change agreement was unacceptable. Well, a little too late to play friends of the developing countries game? Or is their time to save G77 power within the climate talks? Well India may hold the key to this question, at least during the next few months and years to come. But, should the poorer countries allow them to make those critical decisions any more? Obviously G77 needs new leadership and power brokering capacity building soon.

Meanwhile, when the climate talks in Copenhagen ended in failure, Mr. Yvo de Boer, the man in charge of the UNFCCC, urged us not to worry: everything will be sorted out "in Mexico one year from now at COP16". This is the same man who an year ago had said "The worst-case scenario for me is that climate becomes a second WTO … Copenhagen, for me, is a very clear deadline that I think we need to meet, and I am afraid that if we don't, then the process will begin to slip, and like in the trade negotiations, one deadline after the other will not be met, and we sort of become the little orchestra on the Titanic." Meanwhile, this "next year we can" talk is not new. We heard the same in Bali in 2007, and for nearly eighteen years of climate change negotiations. This time it is worse. The 'Copenhagen Accord' drops the expected goal of setting a deadline to achieve an international treaty by the end of 2010; the details of such a treaty will most likely require months or years of further negotiation. That is why German Chancellor Angela Merkel comes into the rescue; she has offered to host the next climate summit in mid-2010. She viewed the result "with mixed emotions" but added that "the only alternative to the agreement would have been a failure." Now that is some political honesty. But, now suddenly there is competition to hold climate talks. French President Nicolas Sarkozy intends to invite the countries that signed the Copenhagen Accord to a meeting in spring 2010. The European initiatives will not stand alone. According to News sources, Bolivian President Evo Morales too will invite countries critical of the Copenhagen Accord to a summit on April 22 in 2010. So 2010 is going to be a year of climate vocal-warfare and more emissions by people flying into participate in these events. More money will be spent and more confusing will be created before any mindfulness can be achieved.

With the world's people and civil society being shut out of the process in Copenhagen, there is only one way ahead; that is to take our own destiny into our hands. It is time right is to tell the worlds leaders what we want in the future and how we want it. That is why the emerging call for a binding agreement on Climate Sustainability is becoming crucial. Climate and sustainability need to be addressed together, not decoupled. An Agreement on Climate Sustainability will be decisive in coming together as one world to reverse decades of irresponsible consumption, production, and trade patterns and to build an equitable, fair, and just world. Climate sustainability must be the shared vision of the UNFCCC because it is the aspiration of the people. Climate Sustainability addresses pressing issues of poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation through relevant strategies for mitigation, adaptation, finance, and technology sharing. Governments must demonstrate political will and vision by signing a binding 'Climate Sustainability Agreement' enforced through strong compliance mechanisms. Only this will empower people to live in harmony with all species in a healthy planet that ensures wellbeing and happiness to all.

Mr. Nitin Desai, the former Secretary General of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development believes that most of the problems on earth and climate change are related to unsustainable consumption and production patterns, and believes that the civil society should be pushing hard for an ‘International Agreement on Sustainable Consumption and Production’ by 2012 . This is the year when the Kyoto Protocol may come to an end, and when the UNCSD will be starting to implement a Ten Year Framework of Programmes on Earth. In fact this is the year that the world will be celebrating 20 years since the Earth Summit and when Rio+20 UN Summit is proposed. Mr. Desai said “In 2012 the interest would be on two themes, the Green Economy and Sustainable Consumption and Production. There is no way to talk about a green economy simply by talking about taxes and subsidies. You have to ask your self, what is the underlying consumption and production base? The time is right for this sustainable consumption and production to become central to the UN agenda. We have reached a point where nobody can say that our way of life is not for negotiation. Change comes from the global opinion and global consensus. Therefore, civil society groups would be the ones to drive this cause, and today my efforts in India too are with civil society action”.

Civil society was visibly angered by the conduct of the Copenhagen Summit. Ms. Amleset Haile, from Mekelle University Ethiopia, said with all this big talk on sustainability for the past many decades, the people still remain hungry. While we are talking here in Copenhagen, people in Ethiopia are dying from hunger. For us it is simply about survival. In Ethiopia, we have seen temperature actually rise, and diseases like malaria have increased. People are becoming homeless because of changing climate and weather patterns. It's only a matter of time that rest in the world too will be dragged into the same climate plight." Mr. Gopal Jain from the 'Centre for Environment Education' in India echoed a collective sentiment that the climate negotiations at the UNFCCC are not convincing enough to enable human wellbeing on earth and that basic sustainability issues such as poverty eradication is not adequately addressed. According to Mr. Jeffrey Barber from the 'Integrative Strategies Forum' in USA “negotiations within the United Nations system are too often based on linear or not integrative thinking. Approaches to many of the world's problems are compartmentalised and end up competing with each other, rather than working together holistically.”

I agree with them. Launching my book in "It has to be CLIMATE SUSTAINABILITY" in Copenhagen I said, "by design the UN system is unable to provide solutions for a complex world of diverse societies and their lifestyles, needs and behaviours. These negotiations at the UN are historically disintegrated because they believe in focusing on each issue separately. Therefore, climate change is another great challenge to be discussed separately and decoupled from trade, poverty, peace, environment, economy or any other issue. Climate change is a single issue for them and is dealt within those chambers only. Therefore, the inter-linkages between economic growth, development, poverty, environment, sustainability and peace do not have adequate space in one package solution".

Prof. Victoria Thoresen from PERL, a large European network of sustainable consumption research was more optimistic that different UN programmes could be made better. She said, “We cannot discard the programmes available, but make sure that they are better. However, it is important that we build a global movement based on the emerging common principle of sustainable consumption and production". But, summing up the frustration of global citizens, Mr. Victor Ricco, a human rights lawyer from Argentina says; "I gave-up my job as the deputy minister for climate change in my region to rejoin the peoples' movements, as just talk and talk cannot anymore save us from the climate challenges".

Well, international climate change negotiations are failing because they are not based on such foundations that offer equity, wellbeing and happiness of all. These negotiations at the United Nations are designed as a process of bargaining led by short sighted political leadership and their representatives. It is a bargaining place for the managers of the prevailing erroneous global governance and economic system. UN negotiations are not places where the countries congregate with mutual trust or confidence. Each of them tries to bargain for their own best share rather than for the betterment of the planet. Therefore, these negotiations can hardly provide hope of a radical change in the approach or attitude towards creating a different system for a better world. If the international climate negotiations continue to fail in reaching an implementable agreement very soon, we would be allowing our global leadership to design for us an ultimate destiny to perish.

Ms. Susy Wandera from the 'Kenya Climate Change Working Group' was angry of the lack of good faith within the climate change negotiations when she said, “There is no good faith in addressing the vulnerability of women, youth and communities who are being affected by the climate change impacts right now. How much worse does the damage have to be in the South for Annex-1 rich countries to make serious commitments in their emission reductions? They were able to raise one trillion dollars Euro to respond to the global financial crisis in a short time. Why don’t they see the same urgency in supporting the South? Like they said they would.” Ms. Gail Karlsson from the US Citizens’ Network agreed with Ms. Wandera. She said; “For over ten years I have been involved in advocacy and planning related to the energy needs of women in developing countries. At this point, about 1.5 billion people are living without electricity, and many more continue to rely on traditional biomass fuels for cooking. It is generally women and girls in rural areas who are responsible for collecting firewood or other biomass fuels, and whose time, health and activities are most constrained by lack of access to electricity, modern cooking fuels, and motorized power. Financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation can help to relieve women’s poverty by engaging them in developing and distributing new clean energy options if these new opportunities are formulated in ways that benefit women as well as men. Women could particularly benefit from investments that focus on enterprises expanding access to small-scale low-emission energy technologies such as: energy efficient stoves; wind, solar and small hydro for electricity; and motorized power for water pumps and grain mills.”

At the end of my presentation on "Right to Development in a Climate Change Agenda" at the Copenhagen University during the climate summit, a young student asked me what I really wanted, and I said "happiness for my daughter and hers". Prof. Stig Jensen, Director of the Centre for African Studies of the University of Copenhagen, then questioned us what happiness means to different communities. Dr. Simron Singh from the 'Institute for Social Ecology' in Austria replied by showing how people of Nicobar Islands have lost their traditional way of life after the Tsunami due to the rapid influx of development aid. He said "these people lived simple and content lifestyles of very low economic activities; the development aid regime has now brought them the status of debt and have to engage more and more hours to earn. The social structure has been changed for ever. But, a young economics student at the Copenhagen University was more worried about the accountability of the funding sent from her country to the South. She wanted the South to abide by the programmes funded by the Western development agencies. When the members from the South explained that the funds from her government to their governments do not result in wellbeing of the people, the young economist reacted to the notion of happiness and said “if I made happiness as an indicator in my thesis, my professors will fail me in the exam”. She also questioned our expectations of COP15. “What emission reductions would make you happy?” she demanded. A young Hungarian economist from the 'Budapest University of Technology and Economics' Ms. Flora Ijjas returned her question by asking “why do you worry about the emission reductions? Do you think it is the most important thing to get the world into balance again?” So I asked Ms. Ijjas, “What is the most important thing for us to get the world in a good balance”. She said “taking care of yourself and your people and your place is more important than worrying about emission reductions or setting quotas. As an economist I believe that the responsibilities begin with the consumer, and we need to change our behaviour. Women’s nature has the sensitivity and the empathy that today’s arrogant world needs”.

Mr. Souleymanne Bassoum from Agrecol in Senegal was forthright in his reply and said, "development aid has made us hungrier. The more the aid, the more our people are trapped in debt. The simple possessions that made us happy are no longer in our own control. The system has complicated our lives. Money cannot bring our lost values back, and economic aid hasn't brought us happiness. In Senegal, we were homogenous society, which has come under strain because of the strains of modernity. We want to develop in our ways and not the way the western development aide agencies want". Contributing to the dialogue Dr. Arthur Lyon DAHL, from the International Environment Forum says that the growth based economic development model will need to end and that it will happen by the year 2050. He says, "Economic growth has failed to eliminate poverty and bring wellbeing to the poor people, and has also created more obstacles in achieving sustainability".

The right to development in a climate change agenda debate also brought in many perspectives from the business and industry reformers. Dr. Faiz H. Shah from 'Responsible Business Initiative' in Pakistan said "Equity is a human aspiration that has been translated into principles of faith and fundamental human rights. Climate sustainability can be addressed through equity. Equity is shaken when powerful business interests take advantage of powerless consumers. There is hope for climate sustainability if we can somehow make trade equitable". A more optimistic sustainable entrepreneur from Taiwan, Mr. Daniel Ku has been running around the world to find innovations and solutions for a greener world. He says “like a tree I can only spring from only the roots. The solutions are under your feet and on earth". He means that the answers to the world problems are within our own communities and their environments.

But, we are warned by the scientists and the bureaucrats that our destiny is merely within the limits of a liveable world and below 2°C temperature rise. The Failure of Copenhagen Climate Summit places humanity back at crossroads wandering if we still can manage to live in a world climate of 2°C plus temperature? Or does this now mean that we have lost our chance of reducing the damage and climate change may result in higher temperature rises. The IPCC's Nobel Prize winning 4th Assessment Report clearly tells us that anything over a 2°C rise would be dangerous for human habitation and that we my finally perish on earth as a species. According to WWF’s estimates, the contents of the Copenhagen Accord translates into “3°C Celsius of warming or more” and “millions of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and a wealth of lost opportunities lie in the difference between rhetoric and reality on climate change action.”

Dr. Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, a Swedish scientist working in a Dutch University does not accept that humans will perish under the climate threat and says, "We as a species will live far beyond 2050. It is my conviction that we can rise above the climate challenges and emerge in better wellbeing as one species on earth".

The focus of our challenge on earth should not be diluted or diverted towards merely adapting to a liveable world. Even in a world with increased temperature, the future human generations should be able to find wellbeing and happiness. 'Adaptation' involves taking actions to minimise the effects of climate change; the need then is not to compromise on a liveable world but to take necessary action to create prosperity. The danger of the compromised approach suggests that we humans will suffer in a 2°C temperature rise. Humans have shown their resilience throughout history and should be able to make a warmer world into a happy planet." But, our first responsibility is not to start adapting to 2°C rise, but to work as hard and together to make is below 2°C as demanded by the Africans in the G77. For a human race sans the greed and disunity, this is a highly possible. But the truth on earth is that sustainability, peace, equity are just political words used for the benefit of maintaining the hypocritical system of global governance on earth. We are utterly lost in destiny and continue to allow the same people, processes, institutions and systems who guided us to this destitution to redesign our futures. If we allow this to happen, then we would be responsible for the sufferings of our children as well. Climate change has also provided the humans a historical opportunity to act as one species, and the act needs to be mindful this time.

Mr. Ali Rilwan, Director of BluePeace Maldives said; "less than a meter above sea level, our hope for climate sustainability is low. Even with effect of climate change felt, we still have the will survive. Our people, not governments bring us this hope. Information through the internet, facebook, twitter, and other new media is empowering us, and will help us rise above the tide. Climate change has no boundaries. If the world cannot save Maldives, then no one else will be saved as well."

With nearly eighteen years of climate negotiations, a Kyoto Protocol that spelt out some easy commitments for emission reductions, a Nobel prize winning IPCC Assessment Report, hundreds of thousands of people taking to the street to demonstrate against inaction, and even the USA President Barrack Obama wanting to move his country towards a more greener economy, the negotiators at the Copenhagen Climate Summit demonstrated the most primitive side of human animals. The circus was on public display and they will continue to elect their own head monkeys and chief clowns and entertain themselves, while mitigation obligations continue to become the scapegoat for lack of agreement to ensure humanity a chance on earth.

Discovering a way to survive in a liveable world cannot and should not be the aspiration and determination of humankind. That is a compromise that we, as a generation, are trying to make on the lives of all future generations. While enjoying the offerings on earth today, we are planning a world of lesser enjoyment for the future humans. If we are only negotiating for a liveable world for our children and their children, then we are demonstrating intrinsically our selfish nature as a generation and it is simply fighting to get the best share for ourselves. If we are not planning a better world for our children, then we are planning their unhappiness. Therefore, our responsibility should not be to compromise the lives of our children by consenting to a liveable world, but we should be demanding a better world for them. That is why it has to be climate sustainability!

About the Author: Uchita de Zoysa is the author of the hard hitting book ‘It has to be Climate Sustainability”. He has authored several international including the 'Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption', contributed to many books on the environment and sustainability, and has played a leading role in the formulation of global independent sector collective agreements such as the 'The NGO Alternative Treaties' and the “Oslo Declaration on Sustainable Consumption”. He is the Convener of the 'Climate Sustainability PLATFORM', Chairman of 'Global Sustainability Solutions', Executive Director of the 'Centre for Environment and Development', and is a member of the 'National Advisory Committee on Climate Change' in Sri Lanka.

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