Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Would These Children Ever Get Their Wish?

Severn Suzuki speaking at UN Earth Summit 1992. Her call is as relevant then as it is now

The transcript:

Hello, I'm Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. - The Environmental Children's Organisation.

We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds from Canada trying to make a difference: Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me. We raised all the money ourselves to come six thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. Coming here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come.

I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard.

I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go. We cannot afford to be not heard.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don't know what chemicals are in it.

I used to go fishing in Vancouver with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers. And now we hear about animals and plants going extinct every day -- vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

Did you have to worry about these little things when you were my age?

All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I'm only a child and I don't have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!

* You don't know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
* You don't know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream.
* You don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct.
* And you can't bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert.

If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

Here, you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organizers, reporters or politicians - but really you are mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles - and all of you are somebody's child.
I'm only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil -- borders and governments will never change that.

I'm only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.

In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid to tell the world how I feel.

In my country, we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, and yet northern countries will not share with the needy. Even when we have more than enough, we are afraid to lose some of our wealth, afraid to share.

In Canada, we live the privileged life, with plenty of food, water and shelter -- we have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent some time with some children living on the streets. And this is what one child told us: "I wish I was rich and if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicine, shelter and love and affection."

If a child on the street who has nothing, is willing to share, why are we who have everything still so greedy?

I can't stop thinking that these children are my age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born, that I could be one of those children living in the Favellas of Rio; I could be a child starving in Somalia; a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.

I'm only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this earth would be!

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us:

* not to fight with others,
* to work things out,
* to respect others,
* to clean up our mess,
* not to hurt other creatures
* to share - not be greedy.

Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Do not forget why you're attending these conferences, who you're doing this for -- we are your own children. You are deciding what kind of world we will grow up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying "everyting's going to be alright" , "we're doing the best we can" and "it's not the end of the world".

But I don't think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities? My father always says "You are what you do, not what you say."

Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grown ups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Copenhagen climate change conference: 'Fourteen days to seal history's judgment on this generation'

This editorial calling for action from world leaders on climate change was published December 7, 2009 by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."

At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than "old Europe", must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

This editorial has been published Monday, 07 December by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like the Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page.

• How the Copenhagen global leader came about
• Write your own editorial
• The papers that carried the Copenhagen editorial
In pictures: How newspapers around the world ran the editorial

Monday, November 9, 2009

Deep Ecology - An Old Idea That Could Save Us All

Before the rise of civilization the world was populated with tens of thousands of different cultures. Each one of these cultures had a common thread. They all believed that man belonged to the world. Not a single one of them thought that the world belonged to man. Although they would never have used this term all of these cultures had a deep ecological view of the world.

They saw value in nature for its own sake. The world was not cut up, divided and measured into how useful it was for man. The forests were good in their own right regardless of the fact that they provided us with firewood and building materials.

Civilization changed this. One culture out of the tens of thousands decided that the world belonged to man. It was ours by right. Suddenly in their eyes the world became one big farm for human food. A new way of life was born. The people of civilization sought to turn as much of the land as possible into producing human food. The more food they produced the more people they could support. As their population grew they expanded geographically. From one tiny starting point in the Fertile Crescent civilization spread across the entire globe. All in a mere 10,000 years.

Tribal cultures were sustainable because their vision meant they did not devour the world. They did not see the world as theirs so they did not turn the world all into human food. Their vision of man belonging to the world meant they were happy just to take what they needed and let the rest of creation do its own thing. They did not seek to control nature and obtain mastery over the planet.

Our civilization at its very core is unsustainable. Our destructive nature is caused by this vision that the world is ours by right. Whenever we cut down a forest to turn it into farmland we are displacing other life forms. But we do not think about that. Of course we can cut down the forest. Who cares about the birds and insects; they do not own the forest, we do. For 10,000 years we have been adding more human mass to the planet and at an equal rate non-human life has been disappearing.

Now as the human population grows faster than ever other species are dying out at an alarming rate. 200 species a day are becoming extinct. Our place at the top of the food chain is preserved only by maintaining the integrity of the earth's ecosystem as a whole. The more we destroy the other life forms that support us the more likely it is that the structure of the ecosystem will crumble. The straw that breaks the camels back is not that far away.

What To Do?

Most of the environmental messages you hear today are messages of shallow ecology. Recycle, ride your bike, do not use plastic bags, do not waste paper etc etc. Shallow ecology realizes that we are destroying the planet. So it encourages us to refrain from that - but only so we can continue to own it and exercise our control over it.

Deep ecology advocates a change at the fundamental level of our culture. Recycling will not save us. Changing the vision, seeing ourselves as a part of the community of life is what needs to change.

Change the vision and the actions will naturally follow. But try and mitigate a destructive vision with minor actions like Eco-friendly light bulbs and you will fail.


Thomas Maurer is a writer who explores the links between our culture, individual suffering and the present environmental crisis. He is an advocate of Deep Ecology which argues that man is a part of nature; not divorced from nature and needing to control it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sustainable Farming: An Imperative

We hear it all the time: farming is 'in crisis'. In Europe, and across the 'developed' world, there is not a day that passes without more reports of farmers going to the brink, even committing suicide out of despair at the state of their industry. It is not unusual to hear farmers cry that this is the worst crisis on the land since the depression of the 1930s. Unfortunately, it isn't getting any better.

Governments are of no help. The solutions they advanced are a combination of short-termism and defeatism. Give more money to the farmers, in the form of ever-larger subsidies, whilst accepting that, in the long term, traditional farming is doomed, and the only way to go is to engage in an ever-more intensification, combined with 'diversification' for those who don't have the machines, money or land area to rough it out in the new global agricultural market.

At the other end of the equation, mostly in the 'Third World', are peasant subsistence farmers who are finding it difficult to survive whilst their centuries-old farming systems are being undermined by global politics and economics, and who would consider themselves lucky if they produce enough food for their families, let alone generate a surplus for sale.

There is a clear connection between the problems of farmers in the developed and undeveloped worlds. Both are brought by a global trade in agriculture which subsidizes and promotes vast, intensive, capital-rich farmers and destroys everyone else. This approach benefits big 'agribusinesses' and supermarkets, but not the countryside, smaller farmers and the communities that they support. It does not take into consideration the ecological, social and cultural factors necessary to real agriculture. On the contrary, it undermines centuries-old traditional farming practices and drives farmers already in a desperate situation into a vicious circle of technological dependence that further weakens their vital cultural links with the land.

The system that is killing farmers and farming all over the world is a system that regards agriculture as just another industry - a global food factory, subject to the same rules of 'free' trade as car factories or mining. This is a fallacy, but within the current system, it is one which remains virtually unchallenged. For within the current paradigm of global-tradecomes-before-all-else there is, as Margaret Thatcher once famously put it, 'no alternative'.

But there is. And it works.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Towards A New Relationship With The land

Profiteering from land transactions degrades both the nature-human relationship and the social fabric of humanity.

Access to land is important in the economic sphere (as well as the residential sphere, of course). But when access is perpetuated, once the productive purpose has stopped, it becomes inappropriate and destructive.

This article is not promoting socialism, per se. It is not recommending that means of production be transferred to common ownership. As Steiner indicates: “Instead of common ownership of the means of production, a circulation of the means of production will come about within the social organization, so that these continually become available to the people whose individual capacities can render them of greatest possible use to the whole community.”

In this model, land-property ceases to be what it has been up until now. And it does not revert to an old, outdated form, such as common ownership represents, but is led forward to become something wholly new. Land-property is made more fluid, entering the flow of social relationships and processes. The individual can no longer manage land in his own interest to the detriment of the general interest; but nor can the general community manage it bureaucratically to the individual’s detriment. Instead, suitable individuals will gain access to it, and use it to serve the community.

Of course, this social renewal also includes the cultivation of spiritual and creative faculties, faculties that are largely over-whelmed at this time by our materialistic focus. For example, economic theorists often cite profit motivation as a necessary driving force in the economic realm of society. However, once an individual discovers the greater profit that is born out of his/her individual spiritual and creative process, and that moves into the world as a beneficial resource for the well-being of the community, or overall social organism, material profit as a motivation becomes redundant.

Finally, a quote from Vision and Action for Another World – Powerful Ideas and Inspiring Practical Approaches, ed. Ulrich Roesch:

“Land belongs to everyone, though it is utilized by individuals. In this sense, individual ‘ownership’ of land can only refer to the right of utilization. As long as such individual utilization continues unchanged, there is no need for societal action. Society only has to ensure that a new user can step into the rights of the previous user, when the previous user quits. In such a system, the right of land utilization would change hands only by assignment, not by sale. In this way, land ‘ownership’ would be brought back into circulation within the social system.. Society would not manage the land; it would only ensure that it is available to (suitable) individuals for utilization, and also that such utilization is not made impossible because of prohibitive pricing.

Instead of a purchase price paid to the previous owner, society could impose a social compensation payment for any ongoing utilization of land. This is justified because the use of land by one individual excludes everyone else from using the same plot. Communal income accruing from the compensation payments would be used to benefit all people in the respective region of that part of the world. Such compensation payments do not constitute interest on capital, since no sale, and thus no capital transfer, has taken place. Their quantification would not be determined by supply and demand but by social considerations. For instance, society can adjust the amount of payment so as to further ecological agriculture, or some other societal goal.”

Further resources:

The reader is invited to visit the full version from which this article has been excerpted - The End of Real Estate - and what can take its place.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Important Differences Between "Climate Change" and "Global Warming"

Many people in the media (and elsewhere) use the terms "climate change" and "global warming" interchangeably, as if they were the same thing. But there are differences between the meanings of the two terms. 

Getting a better handle on the definitions of and differences between "global warming" and "climate change" will help us understand why the threat caused by continued warming of the planet is so serious.

Planet Earth's current warming trend is based largely on natural warming and cooling cycles that have been happening for eons; as well as human-caused additions to greenhouse gases, which are boosting the atmosphere's ability to trap heat in the biosphere. Minor factors like an overall increase in the sun's solar intensity play a smaller role.

While greenhouse gases are an essential component of a livable planet - they're what keep Earth from being a lifeless ball of ice - humans are causing greenhouse gas levels to increase so quickly that it's causing the average global temperature to rise much faster than it would naturally. This warming is predicted to lead to a variety of negative effects, including:

1) Melting (and possible disappearance) of glaciers and mountain snow caps that feed the world's rivers and supply a large portion of the fresh water used for drinking and irrigation.

2) A rise in sea levels due to the melting of the land-based ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, with many islands and coastal areas ending up more exposed to storm damage or even underwater.

3) Increasingly costly "bad weather" events such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and severe storms.

4) Lowered agricultural productivity due to less favorable weather conditions, less available irrigation water, increased heat stress to plants, and an increase in pest activity due to warmer temperatures.

5) Increases in vector-borne infectious diseases like malaria and Lyme Disease.

6) Large numbers of extinctions of higher-level species due to their inability to adapt to rapidly changing climate and habitat conditions.

The first two of these effects are mostly related to increasing average temperatures. Items 3-6 are related to heat too, but also playing a role are non-temperature factors - i.e. "climate-change factors."

Climate change is about much more than how warm or cool our temperatures are. Whereas "global warming" refers to increasing global temperatures, "climate change" refers to regional conditions. Climate is defined by a number of factors, including:

1) Average regional temperature as well as day/night temperature patterns and seasonal temperature patterns.

2) Humidity.

3) Precipitation (average amounts and seasonal patterns).

4) Average amount of sunshine and level of cloudiness.

5) Air pressure and winds.

6) Storm events (type, average number per year, and seasonal patterns).

To a great extent, this is what we think of as "weather." Indeed, weather patterns are predicted to change in response to global warming:

1) Some areas will become drier, some will become wetter.

2) Many areas will experience an increase in severe weather events like killer heat waves, hurricanes, flood-level rains, and hail storms.

It's tempting to think that all of these changes to the world's climate regions will average out over time and geography and things will be fine. In fact, colder climates like Canada may even see improved agricultural yields as their seasonal temperatures rise. But overall, humanity has made a huge investment in "things as they are now, where they are now."

Gone are the days of millennia ago when an unfavorable change in climate might cause a village to pack up their relatively few belongings and move to a better area. We have massive societal and industrial infrastructure in place, and it cannot be easily moved. Climate-change effects will generally not be geographically escapable in the timeframe over which they happen, at least not for the majority of humans and species.

 James Nash 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Climate Change And Transitional Economies – Are They Incompatible?

Today, we are facing two crises: climate change and the global economy.

World’s development in many respects is substantially altered by climate changes. The delay in reducing the global emissions will also reduce our ability to achieve lower stabilization greenhouse gas emissions, which will in turn lead to increasing the possibility of more severe climate change risk.

Taking into account necessity for speeding up the negotiation process within the UNFCCC it is necessary to streamline the issue of climate change into all relevant international activities and processes. Climate change has to be placed at the top on national agendas.

Future climate change regime should put the world on pathways towards low-carbon and climate resilient society, and so contribute to achievement of sustainable development. At the same time activities related to adaptation should be base for the new climate change regime.

Effective international cooperation accompanied by appropriate national measures, could lead to achievement of this goal, based on the findings of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The lead role of all developed countries, in implementing present and new climate change regime has been recognized. Non – Annex I parties with GDP per capita similar to those of developed countries, could consider making similar commitments as developed countries, in line with their responsibilities, capabilities and national circumstances. Developing countries should limit the growth of their emissions, as well, trough nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMA), in accordance with their respective capabilities and capacities. Developing countries, in particular the most advanced amongst them, are expected to propose ambitious mitigation actions, to demonstrate enhanced contributions to the global effort.

Developing countries could indicate their contribution to the global mitigation effort through the concept of low-carbon development strategies (LCDS) which would be an opportunity for each developing country to indicate how it intends to reconcile emission mitigation actions with its broader sustainable development strategies and its priorities, including poverty eradication.

Developing countries, in limiting the growth of their emissions, will need to be supported by technology transfer, financing and capacity building. In order to incentivize the implementation of NAMAs by developing countries new climate regime should also contain specific carbon market based mechanisms.

Is economic growth, needed by developing and countries with economies in transition, and ambitious climate goals, expected to be agreed in Copenhagen, compatible? 

As many of you know, the 25 th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF) was held in February 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya, involving delegates from 147 countries, including 110 ministers and deputy ministers and 192 representatives of major groups and other stakeholders. It has been a great honor for me personally, and my country, Serbia, to be elected to perform a responsible role of President of the UNEP Governing Council in the following two-years period.

UNEP GC 25 th Session provided historical opportunity to reach the agreements on the outstanding global environmental issues of moving our societies towards the green economy, improved international environmental governance, launching of negotiation on legally binding instrument on mercury, IPBES, as well as on the other significant issues.

Ministers shared their experiences and points of view related to the past 12 months during which time the world witnessed the emergence of multiple global crises - besides evident financial crises which led to the worst global economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, we have also been faced with imminent threats posed by food and energy insecurity, growing freshwater scarcity, rapidly rising and falling energy and food prices, deteriorating ecosystems and their services, and above all, worsening global poverty. Adding to the complexity of the situation is the issue of climate change, specifically including the significant impact of a world economic recovery that relies on fossil fuel consumption and accelerates global climate change.

In response to the eminent world treaths of climate change and economic crisis, UNEP has launched an initiative to promote the „greening“ of the global economy through increased investments in such areas as clean sources, sound chemical and waste management, biodiversity-based products, and environmental infrastructure. As an immediate first step, UNEP is calling for a Global Green New Deal to steer economic stimulus investments in an environmentally and finantially sustainable direction.

During the 25 GC/GMEF session, ministers and heads of delegations agreed that revitalization of the economy on a more sustained basis requests the same initiative and enthusiams as it has been reflected in the President Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1930s – this includes reducing carbon dependency, protecting ecosystems and water resources and alleviating poverty. Main idea of the New Global Green Deal is to make right and environmentally sound investments that will get people back to work and provide assistance for bringing state economies back to life, while, at the same time, contributing to the eliviation of the global climate change problems. Idea is that the environmental standards should promote trade and market access, especially in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. This includes the fact that the green economy measures must not create trade distortions, but provide incentives for investment and guarantee the trade right. Nonetheless, pricing policies must contribute to promotion of sustainable consumer behavior while taking into account interests of vulnerable groups of the society.

In order to make the Green Deal a reality and use it as a policy tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation, it is essential to build capacity, both human and institutional of transition and developing nations and to take advantage of existing technological solutions and financial support. Awareness raising, education and communication should be targeted to the public for the purpose of driving relevant political change.
Moreover, the green economy needs to be integrated into existing sustainable development processes. In order to achieve this, there is a clear requirement for establishment of a responsible and integrated environmental policy and decision making process, at national, regional and international levels. Huge step forward in this attempt would be to make a comprehensive reform of the environmental governance at the international scale.

Let me express my strong belief that the on-going deliberations on a Global Green New Deal and its relations to the climate change policy will be successful in their endeavors to combine the answers to both, the global threat to climate system and human-kind, and partial short-term concerns on improving our daily lives.

Oliver Dulic is Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning of Republic of Serbia, and President of UNEP GC

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Only One - Climate Justice

It is nearly time for the COP 15 conference on climate change. Achieving global consensus at the COP15 conference is more than necessary. The agreements that are made at COP 15 will influence the future of the economy and environment on a global scale.

The COP 15 is especially important as it is widely known that reduction targets outlined by the Kyoto Protocol are not enough to curtail climate change. However, many people worry that competing interests, from various countries, will result in failed negotiations at COP15. It is hoped that the Danish government and the UNFCCC can each play a role to ensure that we reach a fair compromise that addresses the concerns of the public.

First of all, we have to recognize that Climate Justice is not only the right tool for climate stabilization but the underlying principle for global equity. Many countries are experiencing the social consequences of rapid climate change. Social changes are often dramatic and for the worse. In general, the lower class becomes marginalized and neglected. And further, climate change related damage impacts people disproportionally. Generally, the third world is more severely affected than developed countries. The problems that ensue will exacerbate wherever poor people lack the resources to combat the effects of climate change. To make matters worse, the support that is offered from developed countries is too limited to enable the third world to mitigate these problems in a practical way. ENGO activists are most concerned with overcoming the climate injustice that now prevails throughout the world. Climate Justice must be a central part of the COP 15 negotiation process.

Secondly, the USA and the developed countries of the EU have to accept more responsibility for the climate change effects that occur within their borders. The EU's endeavor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will require more obligatory goals in order to reach the targets that developed countries anticipate for themselves. We support the UNDP's aim to achieve an 80% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels, for developed countries. At the very least, we should regard the IPCC’s target to achieve a 50% reduction between 2000 and 2050 (25~40% reduction by 2020) as a minimal outcome of the COP15 negotiation process. It is the solemn promise made by the Bali roadmap.

Korean NGOs agree that nations must address climate change by complying with a statute to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a sustainable level. Despite consensus among NGOs on this issue, many governments are in opposition to such a view striving instead to adhere to the status quo with regard to emission levels. We worry that this will be a serious obstacle to Post Kyoto negotiations. In order to be successful in bringing about effective change, countries should be carefully categorized according to their contribution to global climate change. Highly industrialized countries, such as e.g. Korea, should be included in the category of developed countries. This would help to emphasize these countries’ disproportionally high impact and their pressing obligation to attain reduction targets.

Thirdly, The Least Developing Countries Fund / Adaptation Fund should be strengthened to establish an easily accessible support system for the third world. This is a critical step to take if we hope to achieve climate justice. The third world, to which we owe a debt, is too indigent to accomplish this goal on its own. Only by assisting and cooperating with developed countries is it possible for third world countries to guarantee greenhouse development rights for themselves. Furthermore, we object to agriculture related measures such as constructing large scale bio-plant and market-stock farming in third world as reduction methods considering that these can be used to exploit the resources and labor of the host country. It is paramount that developed countries implement reduction strategies without exporting the problem abroad.

Finally, the Emission Trading and Clean Development Mechanism can pose an obstacle to economic growth in the third world. Clear complementary measures along with adaptation assistance, technology transfer and financial assistance are deemed necessary. A “flexible mechanism” is a favored policy consideration in terms of a cost-benefit analysis. It also encourages participation from the business community. Such market dependant measure to drive greenhouse gas reduction is generally favored by developed countries. However, relying too heavily on the market can cultivate economic discrimination and inhibit the endeavor to reduce emission in a safe and balanced way. The “flexible mechanism” has to be abolished or be coupled with an appropriate measure. Drawing from the EU ETS failure case, impartial assessments and complementary measures are necessary to ensure that the system be successful.

A great majority of people recognize climate change as a threat to the human species and the natural environment. Nevertheless, our post-Kyoto regime is inclined to drive economic growth at the expense of the environment and without moral considerations. Though it is inconvenient to change the established way of doing things we have no option but to move toward sustainability. We have a duty to ensure that we have a livable future.

The CEP, along with labor unions and Korean NGOs shall participate at the COP15 and work to establish a reasonable Post Kyoto regime, climate justice and the obligation to follow the statute.
We regard the global ENGO, UNFCCC, and Danish government as sharing a common direction and purpose with respect to a post Kyoto regime. Further, we trust that the Danish government possesses the will and capacity to combat climate change. We are pleased that it is playing the leading role in the international coalition against climate change. We anticipate that Danish government & UNFCCC’s work will represent a milestone in the pursuit of global climate justice.

Jin-woo LEE is Policy Analyst, Energy & Climate Policy Institute for Just Transition (ECPI), an annex institute of the Center for Energy Politics

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Climate Change Enhances Global Poverty And Inequity

Global climate change has emerged as the greatest treat facing humankind today. Climate change affects almost all ecosystems, society and economy. But the effects are different depending on their location, economic status, history of development and governance patterns.

Climate change will not only increase global poverty and human insecurities, but also enhance regional disparity as well intra and intergenerational inequity if urgent actions are not taken now by the global communities. The following stories give important glimpse about - how climate change will increase inequity and poverty.
Story 1: The Traveling Mother
A woman in El-Salvador in Latin America was traveling to join her husband who had been posted on an international NGO job in Dakar, Senegal in Africa. She was in her advanced stage of pregnancy. A few hours into the flight, the plane faces turbulence and had to land in an airport in Florida, USA. Because of the turbulence and nervousness she gave birth to a premature baby in the USl. This baby could have been born a few hours earlier in El-Salvador or the next day in Dakar, Senegal. This is purely a chance of circumstances. We can model the future consumption history of this child depending on where she was born. The fact that the child was born in the US she would consume ten times more petroleum, would travel many times more by cars and airlines, would consume meat many times more and also use and waste water by a huge margin. In the process of evolution in the mother’s womb, each child, irrespective of place of origin, has similar nutritional allocation. But it is the society where she is born that very often decides the consumption patterns. In the final analysis it is the consumption pattern and utilization of resources that created the GHGs resulting in Climate Change. 
Story 2: The Migrating People
On 21 February, 2007 Henry Chu, Staff Writer of the Los Angeles Times reports “Climate Change laps at Bangladesh’s shores rising oceans are already a reality there, and thousands of people could be displaced. Global warming has a taste in this village. It is the taste of salt. Only a few years ago, water from the local pond was fresh and sweet on Samit Biswas’s tongue...for one meter sea level rise, there will be 35 million people displaced by middle to end of 21st century. One Mr. Borhan, the leader of a small coastal community in Bangladesh said that “Anybody in my island hardly uses any petrol, gas or coal. We never get on a car or plane. Why should I or my children drown because somebody else wants to have a good life? Where is the justice in this?”
The enormous, forceful and devastating cyclone Sidr that hit the coast of Bangladesh in November 2007, had not only killed over 10,000 people but also devastated the lives and livelihoods of over 30 million people. The next devastating cyclone Nargis generated in the Bay of Bengal had spared Bangladesh but had severely hit Myanmar coast on 4 May 2008 killing more than one hundred thousands of people and injured millions. Most recently, cyclone Aila hit the coasts of Bangladesh and India on 25 April 2009 killing over 300 people. Many people of coastal districts were made homeless for weeks and were suffering from serious food and water insecurity. Thousands of them would be thrown into poverty. The poor in the developing countries are the worst affected by those climate extremes, they are in the forefront of climatic disasters and have least capacity to cope with the risks. 
Poverty situation may further deteriorate in Asia and Africa due to climate change impacts. The number of poor has increased in Bangladesh sharply in the last 2-3 years from 38% to 48% due to climatic disasters as well as economic and social crisis. Currently, over 860 million people are suffering from severe food insecurity and chronic malnourishment in the world. About 95% of them are in developing countries. Inequitable access to food is the major factor behind this, but global warming and climatic events are also contributing to food insecurity.

Key challenges and urgent actions

Climate change is a result of unequal development and consumption and it is enhancing inequity across the world. The impacts are also unequally distributed, where poor in developing countries are becoming the worst victims. Mitigating climate change, eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth as well as political stability all demand the same solutions. We must reduce GHG emission urgently and immediately to save the planet and human civilization. The key challenges for all of us are:
  • to stop climate change through urgent mitigation measures now and create effective framework for post 2012 commitment with greater participation of both developed and developing countries to halt dangerous climate change;
  • to explore how to live in a warmer climate which is now unavoidable; and
  • to promote low carbon sustainable economic development and modify the life style of the rich who do the most harm through luxuries and over consumption.
A deeper cut of carbon emission is urgently needed. The vulnerable communities also require resources, institutional capacity and appropriate technologies for advancing adaptation to climate change. Fighting climate change and poverty requires multiple, but combined and accelerated efforts by the governments, business and private sector, development agencies, relevant actors and vulnerable communities. A fairer and more equitable world will be a more secured world too. All efforts of climate change must take the dimension of equity, fairness and justice into consideration in decision making. Though there are discussions in equity and fairness in Mitigation, i.e. GHG emission, there is hardly any discussion yet in equity and justice in adaptation. The future discourse must take this adaptation into consideration. Any adaptation related funds should be considered as a compensation rather that an endowment. Similarly, a displaced population should have the right to choose where they want to find their new homes as a matter of right and not a favor by the GHG emitters who has caused the problem in the first place.

Dr. Atiq Rahman is Executive Director of BCAS, Dhaka and the Winner of the UN Environmental Award- the Champion of the Earth 2008