Copenhagen: rich countries push dirty deal

October 16, 2009 at 4:44 am Leave a comment

Many have touted December’s United Nations’ sponsored climate talks in Copenhagen a “make or break” chance to halt dangerous climate change. But the richest nations are on a warpath to make sure this “last chance” becomes a “no chance” event.

Two-weeks of climate talks in Bangkok were meant to lay the groundwork for a strong deal to cut emissions at Copenhagen. As talks finished on October 9, the poor nations denounced the wealthy nations for sabotaging negotiations.

Rich countries such as the US, the Japan, Australia and the European Union (EU) said they intend to abandon the legally binding emissions cuts required of them under the Kyoto protocol.

Instead, wealthy nations want a non-binding agreement. They also want an international climate regime that would allow them to offset domestic emissions by buying carbon credits from overseas.

Executive director of the South Centre Martin Khor said the outcome of the Bangkok talks was “astonishing and unfortunate”. In the October 12 Malaysian Star, he said the fortnight ended “by taking steps backwards from progress towards this December’s Copenhagen conference”.

“This has sent shock waves around the world, and raised the prospect of utter failure in Copenhagen.”

In an October 9 statement, the International Institute for Environment and Development said Bangkok “largely failed to deliver any substantive progress on targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or the transfer of technology and finance from rich to poorer nations for adaptation and mitigation, leading to serious questions about the political commitment of the industrialised nations”.

In a series of joint statements, China and the G77 (a group of 132 underdeveloped nations) said the US and the EU were trying to shift the burden of emission cuts on to the world’s poor.

On October 5, G77 spokesperson Lumumba Di-Aping said: “The intention of the developed countries is clearly to kill the [Kyoto] protocol.

“Feelings are running high in the G77. It is clear now that the rich countries want a deal outside the Kyoto agreement.

“It would be based on a total rejection of their historical responsibilities.”

The Kyoto protocol is set to expire in 2012. The Copenhagen talks are supposed to set up a new international climate treaty to replace it.

Kyoto bound participating nations to cut emissions by 5% (on 1990 levels) by 2012. However, the US was never a signatory to the Kyoto protocol.

The G77 has called for minimum cuts of 40% (on 1990 levels) by 2020 based on the scientific data presented in the UN’s 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

At Bangkok, the rich countries signalled they want to ditch the Kyoto regime altogether and join the US in a new agreement that allows each country to pledge their own, non-binding targets.

The October 5 Guardian said a study by the Association of Small Island States suggested current national pledges from the rich countries amount to overall emissions cuts of just 11%-18% by 2020.

On October 7, the International Youth Delegation (IYD) to the Bangkok talks denounced “the dirty delaying tactics from self-interested countries”.

The delegation, which involved young people from more than 30 countries, declared they had “no confidence” in the upcoming Copenhagen conference.

“Make no mistake: Our future is being held hostage to interests that have consistently thumbed their noses at the international community and their obligations to the rest of the world”, the IYD said in a statement posted on the It’s Getting Hot in Here blog.

“This process has been polluted by self-interested corporations and nations looking to profit off of our crisis. They have been pushing false solutions that exacerbate rather than fix the problem.”

It attacked plans from rich nations to offset much of their pledged emission cuts, which could allow their emissions to actually rise.

“Not only are the targets set by rich countries weak, but they are deceptive. Rather than representing actual emissions reductions, they contain unacceptable proportions of offsets, which do not reduce emissions, and displace the burden back onto the developing countries of the world.”

The youth delegation also attacked the wealthy nations’ attempts to strip guarantees for indigenous rights out of the text for the Reduced Emissions from Deforestations and Forest Degradation (REDD) agreement.

They joined Indigenous-led protests against the REDD scheme outside the conference on October 7.

The final shape of REDD, a carbon-trading scheme that allows companies to purchase and trade carbon stored in forests to offset carbon emissions — is due to be decided at Copenhagen.

REDD-Monitor.org’s Chris Lang said the likely outcome “is not looking good for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, forests or for the climate”.

In particular, critics have attacked EU attempts to allow REDD credits to be claimed for logging rainforests and putting plantation timber in its place.

Rosalind Reeve of the environmental NGO Global Witness said on October 3: “The REDD process is doing precisely what it was created not to do.

“It’s turning into the biggest subsidy ever for the logging industry and putting us on the road to forest destruction.”

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Entry filed under: Copenhagen.

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