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

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