Friday, December 18, 2009

Climate Colonialism: Clinton's $100 billion in funding comes with colonial strings

Journalists watch Clinton (McDermott)The final theft of the commons is under way - the dividing up of the atmosphere and the "right" to continue to pollute. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on December 17, U.S. support for $100 billion in funding per year by 2020 to help the developing world adapt to impacts of global warming. But the devil is in the detail.

The current U.S. target of reducing global warming pollution -- 4% below 1990 levels by 2020 -- is a complete non-starter in the negotiations. The science of achieving no more than 2 degrees warming expects reductions at least ten times larger: 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 by countries like the US, Japan, European Union, Canada, and Australia.

At 2 degrees of warming Island Nations will be innundated by rising seas. A 2 degrees of warming means 3.5 degrees across Africa which is catastrophic, causing major environmental and social impacts such as droughts, famines, flash floods and millions of climate refugees. Archbishop Desmond Tutu described it thus "We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale ... A global goal of about 2C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development." And the Copenhagen conference commitments on the table presently will push the temperature to 3.9 degrees C of global warming.

While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announcement was seen as a positive announcement generally by NGOs, the devil is in the detail with the money to come from public and private sources and provided that an agreement can be reached on a "substantive political accord" that would include transparency in tracking emissions cuts by major developing countries. In reality locking in an agreement for rich countries to continue to pollute while constraining developing countries and throwing some blood money to the third world leaders for their acquiesance.

While $100 billion is being dangled with conditions to developing countries to sign on to "the deal", its business as usual in the western world with the global carbon market etimated to be worth $1.2 trillion a year, according to leading British economist Nicholas Stern.

WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts said "Secretary Clinton's 100 billion dollar surprise breathes new life into the sputtering negotiations. It bridges the needs of the developed and developing worlds and changes the game in these global talks. All that remains is an agreement between the US and China about how they will define transparency, and a commitment by President Obama to make climate legislation his top priority for the new year."

Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute of the Center for Biological Diversity responded: "The U.S. may finally have pledged to help pay for more lifeboats, but without committing to meaningful emissions reductions, President Obama is still steering the Titanic directly toward the iceberg."

David Waskow, spokesperson for Oxfam International said: "We are heartened by Secretary Clinton's commitment to significant financial resources of $100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to help developing countries weather the negative impacts of climate change.

"It is absolutely crucial that this funding come from public sources in developed countries and be additional to current development assistance commitments. Private financing is no substitute for public investment in the resilience of the poorest and most vulnerable communities."

"If such public financing is put on the table, it could truly move us closer to a global deal on climate change."

Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke made the following Statement; "The Secretary has proposed real money to help some of the world's most vulnerable people and protect forests. It has reenergized the talks here. What's needed now is a meaningful agreement that delivers effective action on climate change. That means commitments to cut carbon emissions in a clear and transparent way."

Africa group of countries were demanding $400bn a year in financing, so this still falls far short of developing countries financing for adaption demands. A 2C increase in average global temperatures translates into a 3-3.5C increase in Africa. This means, "an additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger", and "water stress could affect between 350 and 600 million more people", according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.

According to Naomi Klein in Better to have no deal at Copenhagen than one that spells catastrophe (Guardian Dec 17, 2009) Copenhagen is about dividing up the last vestiges of the commons: use of the sky. She quotes Matthew Stilwell of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development who "says that rich countries are trying to exchange 'beads and blankets for Manhattan'. He adds: "This is a colonial moment. That's why no stone has been left unturned in getting heads of state here to sign off on this kind of deal ... Then there's no going back. You've carved up the last remaining unowned resource and allocated it to the wealthy."

Stilwell reckons ""I'd rather wait six months or a year and get it right because the science is growing, the political will is growing, the understanding of civil society and affected communities is growing, and they'll be ready to hold their leaders to account to the right kind of a deal."

Climate Change and sustainability campaigner and former CEO of Greenpeace Paul Gilding argues Copenhagen will fail and it doesn't really matter; "we're not ready to fix climate change, not yet. We have not accepted the scale of the problem. Nor have we established the political conditions necessary to fix the problem when we do. However Copenhagen does signify the shift between two eras and if you watch carefully you can see the new world emerging."

He has written a perceptive paper with Jorgen Randers (Professor of Climate Strategy
Norwegian School of Management) : the One Degree War in which he argues we will soon wake up to what is needed and get to work.

And so the Climate Emergency starts.


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.