Sunday, December 20, 2009

Climate Shame: Copenhagen agreement fails UN processes and the planet

Climate Shame - protest outside Bella Centre, Copenhagen (Oxfam) Climate negotiations in Copenhagen ended with a whimper and some chaos in the final plenary. About 115 national leaders attended the Copenhagen climate talks but the final 'agreement' announced by the US, India, China and South Africa, was drafted far outside the consensus process of the United Nations and amounted to only aspirational targets and promises, falling far short of an ambitous, fair and binding treaty demanded by civil society.

"The conference of the parties takes note of the Copenhagen Accord," said a final decision announced by Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen. But Tuvalu declared the COP15 process completely undemocratic, conducted in closed door sessions, and slamed the target of 2 degrees for failing to be sufficient to ensure their survival. "We are being offered 30 pieces of silver to betray our children. Our future is not for sale." Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Costa Rica also raised their voices that the proposal cannot be considered as the work of COP according to Copenhagen End Game of the It's Getting Hot in Here Blog of the Youth Climate Movement.

Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese leader of G77, compared the proposed Copenhagen Accord to entering a suicide pact in a discussion with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now "In all four regions of Africa, and in all seasons, the median temperature [increase] lies between 3 degrees C and 4 degrees C, roughly 1.5 times the global mean response. One hundred and fifty times, so a two degrees is not three; it's actually 3.5 and above. So, for me, it means simply I will accept the total destruction of my continent, her people, in Copenhagen. That, I would not do. That should not be asked of Africa, because it is effectively saying Africa is not the part of the human family."

Similarly The Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Apisai Ielemia, says he will not sign a climate change agreement that does not meet his demands on limiting global temperature rises. Tuvalu has had a proposal on the table for 6 months for global temperature rises to be kept below 1.5 degrees to ensure the survival of island nations. Despite bullying from Australia on Pacific Island nations, Tuvalu is standing its ground: "We have nowhere to run to because our islands are tiny, we just have to prepare ourselves individually, family wise so that they know what to do when a cyclone comes in or a hurricane blows because there is nothing else we can do. There is no mountain we can climb up, there is no other inland where we can run to like in your big countries." according to Radio New Zealand.

The negotiator for the Marshall Islands told the final plenary "Today the issue is not just about sovereignty, it is our fundamental right - that our nation is but a collection of tiny specks of corals in a vast ocean. This tiny collection of islands may be seen as navigational hazards for most people, but it is for me the land of my ancestors. Allow these islands to sink under the waves, and you will have destroyed an entire race. I leave your country, with a profound sense of loss. My country, only 2 m above sea level, is one of the biggest losers. I will have nothing to show my grandchildren for my absence the past two weeks, and I have failed to secure the future for my grandchildren and their future."

Papua New Guinea played a key role in breaking the deadlock at the Bali negotiations in 2007, when it told the USA to either commit or to stand aside. Their negotiator said in the final Copenhagen plenary "In the final analysis, we left our leaders without anything of substance to carry forward. For this reason, we support this document despite its flaws. We must identify that many of the flaws are due to us as G77; many annex 1 nations were willing to make strong commitments and yet several G77 nations were the ones who struck their flaws. Many G77 countries sent only public servants who struck much of the substance out of this document. We must move forward. The world must move forward."

To be accepted as an official UN agreement all 193 nations at the talks need to endorse the deal.


Civil Society Response
Bill McKibben, American environmentalist and founder of 350.org, said that President Obama had wrecked the UN and the planet: "This is a declaration that small and poor countries don't matter, that international civil society doesn't matter, and that serious limits on carbon don't matter. The president has wrecked the UN and he's wrecked the possibility of a tough plan to control global warming. It may get Obama a reputation as a tough American leader, but it's at the expense of everything progressives have held dear. 189 countries have been left powerless, and the foxes now guard the carbon henhouse without any oversight."

A couple of hundred people flash rallied at 1am outside the Bella Centre with banners saying "Climate Shame" and chanting "climate Justice Now", "World wants Climate Justice, U.S. Climate Shame". Watch a Youtube video including an interview with Bill McKibben where he accuses Barack Obama and China and India selling out the planet's climate and the United Nations.



Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International described the deal as a triumph of spin over substance : "This agreement barely papers over the huge differences between countries which have plagued these talks for two years. It recognizes the need to keep warming below 2 degrees but does not commit to do so. It kicks back the big decisions on emissions cuts and fudges the issue of climate cash."

"Millions of people around the world do not want to see their hopes for a fair, binding and ambitious deal die in Copenhagen. Leaders need to get back round the table in early 2010 and take the hard decisions they copped out of in Copenhagen." he said.

Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon angrily denounced the released text of the agreement, "This is completely unacceptable. How can it be that 25 to 30 nations cook up an agreement that excludes the majority of more than 190 nations. We have been negotiating for months on one of the gravest crises of our age, and yet our voice counts for nothing? If this is how world agreements will now be agreed, then it makes a nonsense of the UN and multilateralism."

At about 2:15am, while discussions continued inside the Bella Centre in Copenhagen, Pablo Solon, went out to address the demonstrators holding a vigil at the main entrance. "From the substantive part, we know, we don't have the final text, but they have approved that it will be two degrees (Celsius) - the goal. And we don't accept that. Why we don't accept because that means that several islands are going to disappear. Our glaciers in the mountains are going to disappear. Africa is going to be cooked. We are approaching a situation where we cannot guarantee that we are going to be able to save whole humanity. Maybe some millions are going to die because of the decision that tonight is being taken and this is not discussed." he said.

To cheers he told the crowd that "For us, the most important thing here is that Copenhagen was a success. Not here. Outside (cheers). Because there has been a lot of awareness, a lot of conscience, and now we have to build a very big movement. Things are not going to change in the negotiation if we don't have a strong social movement, a strong civil society mobilise in the street." (Andy Bodycombe, Bolivian Statement Outside Bella Centre)

Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity, also identified Copenhagen as a turning point with the birth the birth of a diverse global movement for climate justice: "The people of the United States voted for President Obama based on his promise of change and hope. But the only change today's agreement brings is a greater risk of dangerous climate change. And the only hope that flows from Copenhagen stems not from the president's hollow pronouncements but from the birth of a diverse global movement demanding real solutions and climate justice -- demands made with a collective voice growing loud enough that in short order politicians will no longer be able to ignore it." she said.

Friends of the Earth were one of the NGOs excluded from observing the conference in its final days, with all their credentials suspended by the UN with no satisfactory reason given.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S said "The blame for the failure to achieve a real deal lies squarely on the rich countries whose pollution has caused the climate crisis -- especially the United States. Rich countries refused to budge from the grossly inadequate emissions reduction proposals they brought to Copenhagen, and they failed to put sufficient money on the table so that poor countries that did not cause this crisis have the capacity to cope with it."

The failure of Copenhagen is a wake up call for those who care about the future Erich Pica said: "It is a call to action. Corporate polluters and other special interests have such overwhelming influence that rich country governments are willing to agree only to fig leaf solutions. This is unacceptable, and it must change. Fortunately, while the cost of solving the climate crisis rises each day we fail to act, the crisis remains one that can largely be averted. It is up to the citizens of the world -- especially citizens of the United States, which has so impeded progress -- to mobilize and ensure that true solutions carry the day. I firmly believe that together, we can still achieve a politics in which climate justice prevails."

Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director called Copenhagen but a first step with much more work needed for a fair, binding, and ambitious climate deal. He identified the US Senate and its obstruction as one reason preventing President Obama from taking the necessary leadership on this issue: "President Obama and the rest of the world paid a steep price here in Copenhagen because of obstructionism in the United States Senate. That a deal was reached at all is testament to President Obama's leadership--all the more remarkable because of the very weak hand he was dealt because of the Senate's failure to pass domestic clean energy and climate legislation. Now that the rest of the world--including countries like China and India--has made clear that it is willing to take action, the Senate must pass domestic legislation as soon as possible. America and the world can no longer be held hostage to petty politics and obstructionism."

The climate deniers were also in Copenhagen, and while their lobbyists still have tremendous financial resources and access to politicians, the science of climate change is now overwhelmingly accepted by most nations and most politicians. Members of the Youth Climate Movement succeeded in crashing a climate denier live webcast.

"What was clear over the past two weeks is that there is no argument over the science of global warming or the urgency with which we must act. A parade of developed and developing counties alike made crystal clear that they would implement their national plans to tackle global warming and build the clean energy economy not because they were required to do so, but because it was simply in their own national interest to do so." said Carl Pope.


Scientists Respond


Scientists also responded to the failure to set ambitious emission targets that matched with the the science. "Continued failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions commits the World to metres of sea-level rise, with severe consequences for many millions of people and the natural environment." said Dr John Church, Principle Research Scientist in Australia's CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research and Leader of the Sea Level Rise Program at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre.

"A brave face on total failure. This is a triumph for the fossil fuel lobby." said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Centre for Marine Studies at the University of Queensland and attended the climate negotiations and gave presentations on climate impact on marine biodiversity.

Professor Tim Flannery, Chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council and Macquarie University's Division of Environmental and Life Sciences was more postive than others saying the agreement is good but not perfect: "We've made a huge advance at this meeting on a number of fronts, one being those pledged emissions, another being the funding we've now got for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. The third is the REDD negotiations, the world's efforts to protect the tropical rainforests and that seems to be going very well indeed."

Dr Jim Salinger, climate scientist and honorary researcher University of Auckland writing from the Cook Islands said: "I welcome the news that the big players: USA, China, India, Brazil and South Africa have committed to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees C. It is essential that all countries sign on to effective emissions reductions targets of greenhouse gases by 40% at 2020 and 80% by 2080 to prevent disruptive climate change and sea level rise later this century that so threaten peoples such as those in the tropical Pacific."

Dr Andy Reisinger, Senior Research Fellow - New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington, called the agreement a crucial breakthrough as it provides verifiable emissions reductions targets by most of the world's largest emitters. He qualified this support saying "The devil is in the details though. It is worrying that even those countries that brokered the deal have admitted that the specific emissions targets will not be stringent enough to reach their stated long-term goal, which is to limit global average temperature increases to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. We will have to wait until the final numbers are on table to see how far the actual emissions targets fall short of that ultimate goal, and what amount of warming we might expect more realistically once the dust and celebratory rhetoric has settled."

Professor Suzi Kerr, Visiting Professor, Stanford University, Department of Economics, Senior Fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research said "The agreement on a transparent monitoring mechanism is a relief and a major step forward with respect to some key developing countries."


Global Movement
The Copenhagen climate negotiations have sparked a global justice movement on climate. Over Thirteen million signatures were collected on a global petition for an ambitious fair and binding treaty. Hundreds of thousands attended vigils, marched in the streets of Copenhagen, Melbourne or took direct action on the Streets of the United States.

The Science of climate change is clear on the impacts we face. The current emission reduction national proposals as of Dec 19, will result in a 3.9 degrees Centigrade of temperature rise above pre-industrial levels according to the Climate Interactive Scoreboard.

The Climate Crisis will deepen as more scientific studies are published. A new study on Sea Level was published in the Dec. 17 issue of Nature. Professor Michael Oppenheimer, from Princeton University said about the study that "According to the analysis, an additional 2 degrees of global warming could commit the planet to 6 to 9 meters (20 to 30 feet) of long-term sea level rise. This rise would inundate low-lying coastal areas where hundreds of millions of people now reside. It would permanently submerge New Orleans and other parts of southern Louisiana, much of southern Florida and other parts of the U.S. East Coast, much of Bangladesh, and most of the Netherlands, unless unprecedented and expensive coastal protection were undertaken."

While National leaders have not shown the necessary leadership on emssion reduction targets many local and regional Governments are taking their own actions independent of national Governments.

The Climate Justice Movement has achieved much in a short time and needs to continue to pressure national Governments to take decisive action on carbon emissions and for policies that avoid Climate Colonialism


Watch George Monbiot on "Why we Fight", filmed by Australian Youth Climate Campaign.


Sources


Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.