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