The dilemma in drafting a declaration

The dilemma in drafting a declaration

Does one draft a simple declaration to which all can sign, because significant issues are left out or; or does one draft a complex declaration that may contain one or more demands that signatories are reluctant to endorse because of fear of “loss of credibility”, “loss of funding”, fear of being perceived as ‘radical’, or loss of cohort support.

Prior to COP 15, we drafted a declaration: ‘’. We did not seek signatures; however, we did send it several times to the state negotiators. For that declaration we reviewed demands by NGOs, scientists, institutes and developing states. We included the strongest affirmation of these demands that we could find. In the declaration we advocated the need to stay below a 1 degree rise above pre-industrial levels, and to return to below 300 ppm, with strong emissions reductions; 30% below 1990 levels by 2015, 50% below by 2020, 75% by 2030, 85% by 2040 and 100% below by 2050. The main purpose of the declaration was to support the developing states, and vulnerable peoples of the world.

At COP 15, we became increasingly aware that NGOs, particularly the campaign who dominated the conference with their mantra demand of “comprehensive, ambitious and legally binding agreement”. This demand could be endorsed by everyone because it did not contain specifics on issues which others could initially be opposed. What occurred as a result of the embracing of the mantra was as follows: The NGOs were seen to support targets, such as the demand for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, by developed states, of 40% by 2020 – without indicating a baseline, for a return to 350ppm, or in the case of CAN for a reliance on 2 degrees rise as being a legitimate limit. These targets all undermined the stronger demands necessary to avert climate catastrophe, which the developing nations demanded to ensure their very survival. The unconscionable proposals presented and endorsed by the campaign partners and by the dominating developed states in the Copenhagen Accord protected the current economic system -rather than confronting the system (well established as the root cause of climate change) they make a mockery of the term climate justice.

At COP 15, we found that almost all developing states called for the maintaining of the temperature below 1.5 degrees, and for returning to below 350ppm, and that Bolivia, and the ALBA group, called for the temperature to be below 1 degree, and to return to 300 ppm. We also noted that the emerging science was going way beyond the 2007 IPCC report which was based on data from 2004 and 2005; the emerging data was clearly supporting the bold call from Bolivia. When we found out that Bolivia was going to be organizing a conference in April, we decided that we would draft a short declaration that would reinforce the bold position that Bolivia was taking – a declaration that, we hoped, many NGOs would endorse because they would now realize that their demands at COP 15, were inadequate. Before drafting what was intended to be a short POST- COP 15 TIME TO BE BOLD declaration, we consistently reviewed the original statement, reviewing other strong activists’ statements and adding new updated data to the declaration.

The more necessary requirements to ensure climate justice that we added to the POST COP declaration, the more concern people started to have about the declaration. The following are the different concerns that came to light:

  • Some felt the targets were too strong because they were unattainable.
  • Some felt that the call to phase out fossil fuel was too strong and that there should just be a call to prohibit further production in the worst type of oil production such as the Canadian Tar Sands.
  • Some felt that militarism and reallocation of the military budget should not be included [even though, in 1992, every state made a commitment to
    reallocate military expenses and that through the years a strong
    commitment has been made, by governments, to transfer the peace
    dividend to the developing states].
  • Some were concerned about blanket condemnation of nuclear energy because of the belief that it was either the only solution or part of the solution.
  • Some felt that there should be some market mechanism such as carbon tax, CAP AND DIVIDEND or warm and fuzzy carbon offsets, CAP AND DIVIDEND or as some have described as indulgences.
  • Some felt that blanket opposition to genetically engineering was not justified [even though every state has made a commitment to adhere to the
    precautionary principle which if applied would justify the banning of
    genetically engineered food and crops and forests].
  • Some felt that it was dangerous to criticize the REDD program, because it was the only good thing to come out of Copenhagen [Even though it appears
    that only the signatories of the impugned Copenhagen Accord are invited to
    participate, and that many states were coerced into being associated with
    the Accord].
  • Some felt that biodiversity was not linked to forests [in 1994, there was a
    IUCN resolution to draft a forest protocol to the Convention on Biological
  • Some
    felt that it was too naive and unrealistic to call for the Rights of
    Mother Earth [even though, in 1982, in the World Charter of Nature every
    state except the US agree to respect the inherent worth of nature
    beyond human purpose.
  • Some
    felt that an extensive listing of human rights, such as labour
    rights was irrelevant, and the institution of a fair and just
    transition principle would never be supported; and such as women’s
    issues, should not be profiled [even though it has been demonstrated by
    WEDO (Women environment and Development Organization, that women have been
    excluded from a new UN panel to determine financial mechanisms].
  • Some felt that there were too many references to international law and that the call for developing states to take the major emitters to the International Court of Justice to be futile because the US does not respect the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
  • Some felt that there was really no such thing as carbon debt or carbon emissions debt to the developing states, and if there were such a thing how could it be measured, etc. [even though the principle of
    differentiated responsibility has been well grounded in obligations in the
    UNFCCC, and in the Rio Declaration].

Opting for the need to address the complexity and interdependence of issues; such as guaranteeing human rights, preventing war and conflict, ensuring social justice, and protecting the environment, we took a higher moral ground, thereby making the ethical decision to keep intact all the issues in and launched the Post COP 15 Time to be Bold Declaration. We did this with the hope that given the urgency of the climate change, that activist groups could embrace the fact that what may have been previously considered ‘radical’ must know recognized as merely the necessary changes we must demand if we are to avert disaster and save humanity, thereby lending their support and endorsement of a meaningful declaration.

Is the urgency addressed better when NGOs seek wide acceptance through the lowest common denominator or when they endorse a complex declaration which may not receive as wide support but which can be used to better move governments to comply with their obligations?


~ by Cory Morningstar on April 7, 2010.

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