The Copenhagen climate talks: Deal or no deal?

In the run up to Copenhagen Climate Summit it was billed as the most important attempt at an international climate protocol since Kyoto and Rio de Janeiro before that. Hope was that, an internationally reached and binding agreement to both cap the production of greenhouse gases and mitigate the damaging effects of climate change by and on developed and developing countries respectively could be hammered out.

In the run up to Copenhagen Climate Summit it was billed as the most important attempt at an international climate protocol since Kyoto and Rio de Janeiro before that.

Hope was that, an internationally reached and binding agreement to both cap the production of greenhouse gases and mitigate the damaging effects of climate change by and on developed and developing countries respectively could be hammered out.

The conference opened to much drama both inside and outside the huge conference hall as participants and protesters created a do or die atmosphere at the summit.

And finally, with a whimper it ended. A whimper, because after failing to reach an agreement among the 192 odd nations and territories attending,  a face saving, non-binding deal between all of 5 nations, that was described by it’s architect, Barack Obama as “meaningful” was finally reached and ‘noted’ by the other 187 nations in the final resolution including Rwanda, by default.

The question now is what does that final 5 nation deal that was finally noted by the conference offer Rwanda and the rest of the developing world?

In general terms it puts down on paper what everyone already knew and didn’t need a congregation of 192 countries’ delegations to point out to the world.

In reality it is more of an offer from countries that are major polluters both old and new to the rest of the world.

The essence of Copenhagen was to negotiate and that failed. Another case of the big boys putting their interests first.

The main points of that offer are:
That deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science;

That Developed countries shall provide necessary resources to the least developed countries especially small island developing states and countries in Africa, by setting a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion a year from all available sources by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries starting with pledges of about 25 billion for 2010-2012(a modest about 8 billion a year);

That non binding emission reduction targets be set by developed countries and major developing countries;
That verification be thrown out the window and rather, major and emerging economies must monitor their own efforts;

That the importance of forest protection be recognized and funded with financial resources from the developed world;

And finally, that the use of carbon markets to enhance the cost-effectiveness of mitigations actions, must be undertaken.

What is clear therefore is that in terms of actual actions it is business as usual for the great polluters of this world at least until next year when it is thought a binding agreement can eventually be reached.

Not surprisingly all polluters have welcomed this 5 nation offer to the rest of the world. In the meantime the most vulnerable countries including Rwanda will continue to pay the price.

In order to make this continued pollution acceptable to the rest of the world, some funds as stated above shall be made available to the poorest and the most vulnerable countries. Remember the adage “beggars can’t be choosers”.

Well, the amounts shall be determined and availed by non other than the polluters themselves. As stated in the resolutions, “The funds will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral”.

What this means is that even funds already being disbursed shall be included in the calculations hence significantly reducing the amount of new funding that will be made available hence making the agreement unremarkable.

Next, the fact that emission cuts and verification of this will be self policed is the biggest farce of this “agreement”.

It establishes a comfort zone for the biggest polluters behind which there will be endless scientific arguments as they laugh their way to the bank for the foreseeable future at the expense of humanity. Also, it is interesting the way forests are brought into play.

They are found mainly in Africa and South America and are made all the more important by emissions from industrialized and rapidly industrializing countries.

So they ought to be protected and expanded in the poorer parts of the world to enable continued industrialization by the Americas and Chinas of this world. So in short order, the Rwandas and Congos can contribute by becoming the lungs of the world.

As the world moves away from Copenhagen and the footnote that it has already become in the history of climate change politics, and as everyone settles down to the fact that the hard work is still years ahead, there is a need for continued solidarity from the less industrialized nations that bear the brunt of the actions of shameless world powers.

The unity, energy and vision that saw them through this failed conference should be maintained and be ammunition for the battles that lie ahead.    

Bernard Urayeneza is a social commentator

beruray@yahoo.com

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