Tuesday, November 30, 2010


A dismantled train cannot take us to
Climate Sustainability!
Uchita de Zoysa (Convenor – Climate Sustainability PLATFORM)

The whole United Nations effort on sustainability is like a disjointed train ride. While the engine is parked on one track, compartments seem to be running on different tracks and at different speeds with the railway staff trying to steer as many journeys as possible towards sustainability. This has left us passengers stranded not knowing which path leads to sustainability or which train takes us on that journey. The stations too have changed and different roadmaps drawn up since. We now have to figure out which map provides better direction; which one would direct us to the correct station to board the correct train towards sustainability.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was one of those compartments founded at the UNCED in 1992, and therefore became the mandated organization to save humanity from climate change. For the past fifteen years the UNFCCC have spent billions of dollars, burned thousands of tons of fossil fuel in the process of negotiations, and created nightmares in the minds of billions of people about the destitution facing humans on earth. Meanwhile the overall situation for us, the ordinary people, continues to deteriorate, and a new destination called ‘a liveable environment’ is being proposed. The UNFCCC is lost in a journey without a clear destination.

Now Environmental Governance is emerging high within the UN agenda. What they mean is to clean up the mess they have created by fragmenting the sustainable development functions to different agencies with different approaches. They now have realised that it is important to find a way to centrally coordinate all the multilateral environmental agreements (MEA). But by bringing together environmental concerns into one single coordination initiative would also isolate it from the social and economic concerns of sustainable development. Sustainability at the end of the day is what all these negotiations are trying to achieve.

This fragmented approach to governance of global sustainability is why half of the world remains in poverty while the climate is changing. Poverty is a result of the prevailing hypocritical global governance systems that lacks holistic approach and care for all. If people are trapped in poverty and cannot find adequate food and other needs to fulfil their basic livelihood requirements, then the success of facing the climate challenge will be beyond human ability. Also, this would increase the frequency of wars on earth and humanity may finally perish in a combination of climate and poverty related violence.

It appears that it is not hot enough for the establishment to get away from ‘business as usual’. A small group of rich and powerful countries, companies and people continue to drag the rest of us through great grief and a dangerous destiny that would have devastating long term consequences for all. But, the establishment is still convinced that growth, capital accumulation and development could provide answers for the survival of the people who really matter on earth. People who matter are a very few and they control the earth. They consume most of the resources, control the trade and capital, and decide what is best for all of us on earth. The rest of us, especially the half of the world that lives in poverty, is insignificant in the global decision making.

What we need is to get the train back on track towards sustainability. The Southern country compartments are firmly stationed, and demand that the negotiations should consider a route through equity and justice. But, the developed countries do not want to pay anything extra and have held back their due commitments wishing to extend their profits of the current world order. In this stalemate, the UN may well need to rethink their role and responsibilities before the climate negotiations can agree upon sustainability as the logical destination that was found many decades ago. With this destination in mind, getting the train back together to run on a single track may be more important than finding new engines, placing new tracks, setting up new stations and designing new roadmaps. Once the destination is clear, the train is assembled, and the tracks are laid on the mapped pathway, getting to climate sustainability will be better understood. Bon Voyage!

(send your comments to uchita@sltnet.lk for more information on Cancun COP16 see OUTREACH Magazine @ http://www.stakeholderforum.org/sf/outreach/ for more information in Climate Sustainability visit http://www.climatesustainabilityplatform.blogspot.com/ and http://climatesustainability.blogspot.com/)

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