Rich nations resist binding commitments

2009-12-08 12:54

BETRAYAL and backsliding by rich nations marks the beginning of the

final negotiations for a global climate treaty, according to many developing

world participants at the UN-sponsored talks here.

“Developed countries express deep concern and commitment to action

in their public statements, but it is completely different in the negotiating

rooms,” said Algerian negotiator Kamel Djemouai, chairperson of the Africa

group, which represents more than 50 African states.

“What you hear in public is not what is being done,” Djemouai told

delegates at the 15th Conference of the Parties climate meetings here.

At the last round of climate talks in Barcelona (Spain), African

states boycotted the meetings, saying that industrialised nations had set

carbon-cutting targets too low to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas


Climate change is already having significant impact on Africa and

those impacts are a form of discrimination, Djemouai said. “Science tells us

that when the global average temperature is one degree celsius higher, it will

be two degrees celsius hotter in Africa.”

The current global average temperature is 0.78 degrees celsius

higher than it was 100 years ago.

The US and the European Union are trying to “kill the Kyoto

agreement” when, in fact, the world must strengthen that agreement and follow

the Bali Action Plan, Djemouai said.

The 1997 Kyoto (in Japan) Protocol is the first international

treaty to set down legally-binding targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions

by at least 5% between 2008 and 2012, compared to the 1990 emissions. Developing

countries have no targets.

The protocol’s complex rulebook was completed in 2001 and it took

effect on February 16 2005. It has been ratified by 183 nations and the European

community, but not by the US.

Instead, the US and others want a new agreement here which may not

be internationally binding, and only requires each country to make pledges and

be subjected to peer review.

Under the Bali plan developed two years ago, all parties –

including the US – agreed to set specific mitigation targets, and work out

technology transfer and financing arrangements to help developing countries

reduce their emissions and adapt to climate impacts here in Copenhagen, the

capital of Denmark.

Now developed countries are trying to change the agreement by

adding in many other conditions before providing any real and effective targets,

Djemouai said.

“We are just asking the developed countries to comply with the IPCC

(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recommendation of 25% to 40%

emissions cuts by 2020,” he said.

Proposals to end Kyoto come as a shock to developing countries,

said Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre, an intergovernmental

organisation of developing countries based in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Will the Bali action plan continue? If not, there will be a state

of anarchy here,” Khor told delegates.

He acknowledges that the US, coming out of its “dark ages” of

recession, is not ready to make a full Kyoto-like binding agreement yet.


there is flexibility under the current rules for a significant US commitment

that is less legally binding without throwing out Kyoto, he said.

Instead, rich nations are trying to restart negotiations and have

made emissions reduction commitments far below the 30% to 40% by 2020 that is

needed to have any chance of keeping some small island states from being

overwhelmed by rising sea levels, Khor said.

Khor added that: “Rich countries are

climbing down from their commitments at a time when they should be stepping up,

and shifting the responsibilities to developing countries.”

There are serious implementation gaps at this point from developed

countries, agreed Bernarditas de Castro-Muller, a negotiator from the


Many that signed the Kyoto agreement have increased rather than

reduced their emissions, and very little funding has been provided to help

developing countries adapt, she said.

“We in the Philippines are scrounging around to find rice to feed

our people after a series of devastating cyclones this year.”

Historically, about 80% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

came from the rich nations, which represent 20% of the world’s population.

“That inequity can’t be ignored,” Castro-Muller said.

Although current emissions are split 50-50 between developing and

developed countries, a fifth of the global population is responsible for half of

the emissions.

“Is this equitable?” she asked.

Developing nations are prepared to take action to reduce emissions,

but that is dependent on developed countries making science-based reductions and

delivering on their promises to help poorer countries, Castro-Muller added.


are fighting for our existence here. We are fighting for justice.”


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