Let them wear rubber boots and drink bottled water

Let them wear rubber boots and drink bottled water

Joan Russow, Global Compliance Research Project;


At the December 10 rally in Copenhagen, a group of elegant fashion-plate ladies donning white satin and lace, wearing green spikes, and sipping from Champagne glasses epitomized the serious disregard by the developed states for the developing states. Like Marie Antoinette, they called on Bangladesh to wear rubber boots.

On Monday, December 14, G77-China chief negotiator Lumumba Di-Aping explained why the bloc had taken the decision to withdraw its co-operation.

"It has become clear that the Danish presidency – in the most undemocratic fashion – is advancing the interests of the developed countries at the expense of the balance of obligations between developed and developing countries," he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One programme.

Developed states ignore the science

The science has evolved since the 2007 IPCC report which was based on 2005 data. The IPCC reported last week, that at 2 degrees rise in temperature from pre-industrial levels, the poor, and vulnerable would not survive. Yet, the developed states are still supporting the old data. Similarly, a report from the World Meteorlogical Organization revealed that their current studies indicated that temperature was rising considerably more than anticipated, and that there has been a dramatic increase in serious climatic-caused incidents. Yesterday, another report was released by an organization studying the melting of glaciers; this report indicated that in Greenland the glaciers were melting much more rapidly than previously anticipated.

Many developed states claim they are basing their decisions on science; but are they aware of the evolving science. One of the scientist with the study on glaciers reported that he had made several presentations to senators in the US and to a committee advising President Obama. When asked were they listening, he responded that some were, but that many were influenced by the fossil fuel industry.

Day after Day, there are pleas from the developing states: a representative from the African Group stated thatwhile they play with numbers, Africa is dying. Bangladesh and other low-lying, and island states are crying out that this is a matter of survival.

There must be a legally binding document, such as the following, which does more than provide rubber boots and bottled water,

The UNFCCC is ratified by 192 countries representing near universal membership it commands near universal support and its legitimacy is unquestioned. The UNFCCC stated: stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere must be at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. This level equates to a target of below 1°C, which is the point at which global systems on land, water and air will be so affected as to create vicious feedback cycles and destabilize many ecosystems and human societies.

Because of the global urgency, there must be the political will to strive to contain the rise in temperature to less than 1°C above pre-industrial levels. And strict time frames must be imposed, so that overall global emissions will begin to be reversed as of 2010. There must be a global target of 30% below 1990 levels by 2015, 50% below by 2020, 75% by 2030, 85% by 2040 and 100% below by 2050, while adhering to the precautionary principle, and differentiated responsibility principle [the emission debt owed by Developed
countries to developing countries has to be seriously addressed]. Under the Framework Convention, every state signatory incurred the obligation to conserve carbon sinks; thus the destruction of sinks, including deforestation and elimination of bogs must end.

The emissions debt

The differentiated responsibility

Developed nations have a duty to abide by the differentiated responsibility principle. At the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) every member state adopted Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration. This principle states that:

States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earths ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit to sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command. (Principle 7, Rio Declaration)

This principle was also reaffirmed in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Acknowledging that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions,

Given that principle 7 of the Rio Declaration was adopted by all states, and that the similar principle in the preamble of the UNFCCC was affirmed by 192 State, the principle can be deemed a peremptory norm and thus legally binding on all states.

Thus when percentages are referred to in this Climate Change Statement, the assumption is that the burden for the reduction targets must fall on developed states including from their overseas corporate resource extraction. The extraterritorialism excuse, by which developed states argue that they cannot impose strict control over their corporations that function in developing states can no longer hold.

Funding mechanisms to compensate developing states.

This fund could be named Fund for the Implementation of the UNFCCC, and it would fund socially equitable and environmentally safe and sound energy renewable energy, transportation, agriculture and forestry. This fund would replace the GEF as the main source of funding for the UNFCCC.

The dominant greenhouse gas-producing and emitting states should be compelled to finance this international fund. Funds traditionally distributed not only through the GEF but also through the Bretton Woods institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and additional bilateral funds, such as those in the German Fund for International Climate Initiative, should be channelled through this global fund. This fund would be indispensable for preventing climate change, and for achieving the objectives of the UNFCCC.

Additional funds must be derived from reallocation of global military expenses, including budgets and arms production and sales. Part of this fund could be allocated to compensate states damaged in any way by the failure of industrialized states to discharge obligations under the UNFCCC and other legal obligations. All states made a commitment, to reallocate military expenses. (Chapter 33, Agenda 21, UNCED). [It should be noted that the IPCC has refused to calculate the
contribution, by militarism, to greenhouse gas emissions.]

Other budgetary sources for this Fund would be the redirecting of subsidies from socially inequitable and environmentally unsound non-sustainable energy to socially equitable and environmentally safe and sound renewable energy, transportation, agriculture, forestry etc.

In addition, measures to alleviate the impacts of climate change must include the cancellation of the outstanding debt of developing states, and the implementation of the minimal long-standing commitment of 0.7% of GDP being transferred to Overseas Development (ODA). The ODA must serve not the wants of the developed states but the needs of developing states. The emissions debt must be above and beyond the .7% required ODA. Any shortfall in funding should be bolstered by increased ODA by nations that inequitably gain an advantage from historical emissions or reduction scenarios that are not in line with the principle of equity.

All these funding measures could only just begin to compensate for the emissions debt owed, by the developed states to the developing states.

The impact, of climate change on the worlds poor, on indigenous peoples, vulnerable communities, and especially low-lying states will be the greatest, and they must be assisted by Industrial states, which have a legal and moral imperative, to provide funds for socially equitable and renewable energy, transportation, agriculture, forestry etc.

Criminal negligence

In addition, major greenhouse gas-producing states must be forced to implement the actions that would discharge the obligations incurred when they signed and ratified the UNFCCC (provisions of the UNFCCC have become international peremptory norms and as such are binding) and be forced to repay the emission debt. Historic emissions should be calculated and an assessment made of the degree of dereliction of duty in the implementation of the UNFCCC. From these assessments, provisions must be made to compensate the states that have been most damaged by the failure, of the major greenhouse gas emitting states, to discharge obligations under the Convention. In such cases, a fund should be set up to assist vulnerable states in taking delinquent states to the International Court of Justice

The Global Humanitarian Forum Climate Change Human Impact report that summarized data including that issued by WHO on the impacts states that in 2009, 325 million people were seriously affected by climate change (based on negative health outcomes), and there were 303,000 deaths as a result of climate change. It predicts that in 2030, 660 million people a year will be affected by climate change and that 471,500 people will die from climate change. 98 % of those affected and 99% of deaths come from the developing world. The start year for the data is 1980 in terms of impacts. That equates to nearly 13 million deaths by 2030, and billions affected. This period is merely the start of the climate change impact. Without action the deaths will increase exponentially after climate change takes grip in post 2030. This disregard for the lives of others is paramount to criminal negligence.

Canadian common law provides useful guidance. Environmental negligence suits focus on compensation for loss caused by unreasonableconduct that damages legally protected interests. Unreasonable conduct means doing something that a prudent or reasonable person would not do, or failing to do something that a reasonable person would do. The plaintiff must establish certain key elements of the tort cause in fact and proximate cause, damages, legal duty, and breach of the standard of care. Note that fault may be found even in the case of unintended harm if it stems from unreasonable conduct.

The Criminal Code (Section 219) is even clearer that lack of intent to harm is no defence if damage results from conscious acts performed in careless disregard for others: Everyone is criminally negligent who (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons (where duty means a duty imposed by law). Significantly, Section 222(5)(b) states that a person commits homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a human being, by being negligent (emphasis added).(Dr. Bill Rees, Is Canada Guilty of Criminal Negligence?)

Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly interventions later (Obama Acceptance speech in Oslo); this statement must be applied in Copenhagen.


~ by Cory Morningstar on December 15, 2009.

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