COP15 | Consumptive lifestyle trumped survival and the right to live

COP15 | Consumptive lifestyle trumped survival and the right to live


There is always the fear at UN conferences, particularly if there is a reliance on consensus, that the emerging document will reflect the lowest common denominator. On December 7, on the opening of the COP plenary, to avoid the possibility of compromising a strong political will to address the urgency through a legally binding document, Papua, New Guinea proposed that the Conference strive for consensus but have a fallback of 75%. This request was summarily dismissed by the Chair, Connie Hedegaard, the then President of Denmark. On December 11, the Chair released a document which contained in brackets the various projections of change in temperature which would be tolerable, and of times and percentage reduction from 1990 levels. Yet what emerged on December 18, was a watered down non-legally-binding document, an operational accord” [Clinton] that descended even below the lowest common denominator, with reference only to the 2 degree threshold and rather than overall commitment to reductions below 1990, was a list of various commitments by different states.


The 2007 IPCC report was the basis of the negotiation process, but while the negotiators from the developed states were relying on the 2007 IPCC report with data from 2004 and 2005, the developing states were paying attention to the evolving scientific data. At Cop 15 there were scientific reports that revealed the emerging science. The evolving data from the IPCC revealed that at an increase of temperature just below 2 degrees above pre-industrial level, the poor, the vulnerable and the disenfranchised would not survive, and below 1.5 degrees there would be a chance of survival. The World Meteorological Organization issued a report that indicated that the globe was warming more rapidly, drought increasing more substantially, and climate-related incidents more often and more severe, and a report was issued by an organization monitoring glaciers that the glaciers were melting faster. UNHCR reported that more refugees from climate change reasons were resulting. While the December 11 report declared that the negotiations were following the science, there was no consideration or willingness to account for the increased urgency that was revealed by the emerging science. There was even a leaked report that the current meager commitments by the developed states would cause the rise in temperature to be as much as 3 degrees over pre-industrial levels.

The developing states, in one presentation after another, recognized the urgency of the evolving science and of their experience on the ground, and called upon the global community to agree to a legally binding document that would keep the rise in temperature below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Bolivia and the AOSIS were even calling for an agreement to keep to no more that 1 degree rise and to just over 300 ppm. Over and over again, they affirmed the urgency: for example, a member of the African Caucus stated that while the developed states were playing with numbers, Africa is dying. A member from Bangladesh, decried that for the developed states, climate change would involve lifestyle changes, while for Bangladesh the issue is survival and a right to live. The developing states also pointed out the ease with which developed states dispensed funds to bail out their friends and to fund invasions and occupations, but are reluctant to spend money on addressing the key issue of our times.


Hope was placed in Obama. Chief Negotiator, Lumumba Di-Aping, of the G77 even mused that Obama, with one foot in the developing world and the other in the developed world, would grasp the urgency and understand the plight of the developing states. All eyes were on Obama. When President Obama finally addressed the Plenary, on December 18, he suggested that a deal was being crafted, and gave a ‘my way or the highway’ speech. Obama essentially said we can accept an agreement [i.e. what I will be presenting or we can choose delay and follow the same divisions and delay month after month, year after year, decade after decade, until climate change is irreversible. He then proceeded to negotiate behind closed doors with China, South Africa and Brazil. From the US Embassy he posed for photo op beneath the USA FLAG. He announced that there had been a deal without mentioning that most of the developing states had not even seen the document. The deal ­- a one-and-a-half page agreement with the same old
inadequate commitments was released. The EU responded with little enthusiasm, and when it was presented to the Plenary, there was justifiable outrage expressed by many of the low lying states and developing states. At one point, In
the plenary after Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Sudan, Tuvalu [actually used a biblical reference related to Judas and stated that it would not sell the citizens of Tuvalu for 30 pieces of silver], Bangladesh, and others expressed outraged about the substance of the text and the process, [both of which ignored input and pleas from developing states], the new Danish President, Lars Rasmussen, who was chairing the plenary, made the ninformed comment that I guess we have consensus. He was subsequently removed from the Chair. The states opposed to the behind-closed-door agreement were asked to take note.


Surprisingly there was also inflexibility within the NGO movement. While the developing states’ demands were evolving with the science, some major NGO campaigns still talked about 2 degrees being the limit, and about 350 ppm being the limits. When challenged about their campaign lagging behind the many of the developing states, they stated it is our campaign. Most NGOs, however, were calling for the developed states to redress the climate and emission debt owed to the developing states, for System Change not Climate Change, and the most poignant image foreshadowing the sad outcome of COP 15 was at the 100, 000-person rally. A group of elegant fashion-plate ladies donning white satin and lace, covering their flowing locks with white hats and veils, wearing white stockings and green spikes, and sipping from champagne glasses. They epitomized the inflexible divide between the major greenhouse gas emitters by the developed states for the developing states. Like Marie Antoinette, they called on Bangladesh to wear rubber boots.


The G77 and China represents 130 states, the EU represents 27 states, equally together 157 states. The signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are 192, which means that about 80% of the signatories could have agreed to a legally binding agreement, with strong provisions, legally binding reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, and targets; there could have been a legally binding Copenhagen Protocol. The other states could be asked to take note of the decision. And with this legally binding protocol, citizens could demand that the intransigent gas emitters, comply and pay their climate/emissions debt.

Joan Russow – Global Compliance Research Project.


~ by Cory Morningstar on December 26, 2009.

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