Six months have passed since the Copenhagen climate change talks. They were billed as our best hope for a better, fairer and safer world. But this ‘decision-time’ failed to result in any ambitious or binding decisions.
Instead there is stalling on the world stage (but no stalling of our CO2 emissions or their deadly impact on the world’s poorest families).
So what now?
It’s certainly not time to give up. If the families living in the high hills of Nepal, the river embankments of Bangladesh or the desert plains of Kenya are to survive and adapt, we can’t give up.
Here in the UK, the new Parliament means it’s time to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again“.
232 new MPs – that’s 232 decision-makers who we need to convince that the impacts of climate change are unjust but not inevitable.
At Practical Action, we’ll be drawing attention to the impact of climate change on poor communities and calling for action, now. And you have a crucial role to play too – millions of women and men will be counting on you.
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The Copenhagen climate conference has failed the most vulnerable people.
We hoped that justice would prevail; that in 2009, those responsible for climate change would face up to the crisis looming and act – stop contributing to the problem and start compensating those already suffering. This was has not happened. Fairness and ambition were apparently too much to ask of leaders from the major emitters.
Perversely, when it came to it, the futures of the people vulnerable to climate change were left for an exclusive club of nations to bodge in a backroom. Now we know that they left the science of global warming locked out as well.
The are calling it the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ which the most powerful nations agreed. Discussions are still ongoing, yet the key players have now left the building. The main points are:
- No emission reductions targets for industrialised countries
- No mechansim for adaptation support for developing countries
- No timeframe for resolving these issues
Copenhagen has failed on all aspects of necessity. Two years ago in Bali, the UNFCCC managed to get nations to agree that 2009 would be the final moment for deciding a successor treaty for the Kyoto Protocol. As absurd as it sounds, we are now in a worse position.
Back in Bali, a deal was reached when developing countries pleaded the rich countries to either lead or get out of the way. Last night the richest countries said we’re not ready to lead, and then promptly buggered off leaving this message:
Despite the impacts of climate change already pushing the most vulnerable people in to grave danger, despite the science compelling emissions to peak and decline in the next decade, and despite two years of concerted civil society action to ensure leaders know that Copenhagen 2009 was the final deadline, we are still not ready to act and we will leave millions of people unprepared for the consequences.
It remains to be seen which will come first: action from rich countries, or catastrophic climate change. Many people who rely on the climate to survive will sadly find out the hard way.No Comments » | Add your comment
Tomorrow is deal day. At some point – maybe not until the wee hours – the world will get an announcement about a plan to tackle climate change. Since nations pledged to address global warming 17 years ago in Rio de Janeiro, we have waited about 17 years for governments to take the problem seriously. Tomorrow is their chance.
They go it alone. Civil society has ostracised from the proceedings, forced, because of ‘overcrowding’, into a renovated cattle market miles away. Huddling before two screens streaming footage from the conference, people that have been fighting for environmental integrity since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 (find a politician that can say the same) try to decipher what is really happening behind the scenes.
Fortunately, civil society has put the hours in over the last twenty years; closely monitoring the science, addressing the impacts of climate change on vulnerable people, and campaigning for climate justice. If nothing else, we are certain what the deal must look like. Here is list of the essential components to measure whether tomorrow’s announcement is everything it should be:
1. Mitigation targets
The science for avoiding dangerous tipping levels is unequivocal; industrialised nations must cut their emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. These measures should limit increases in global temperatures to 2 degrees, but this could still be too much for parts of Africa and small island states.
Look out for: Anything less than these figures; baselines other than 1990; loopholes for offsetting responsibility.
2. Adaptation support
Developed nations have contributed the most to global warming, yet the poorest people in vulnerable countries are hit first and worst by the consequences. Compensation is due in the order of $100 billion a year by 2020. Without this, those who have not caused the problems will be forced to pay for the impacts.
Look out for: That the funding is additional to existing (unrealised) development aid targets; big headline grabbing figures masking a lack of long-term support; funding must given as grants, not loans.
3. Finance for mitigation
The levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere mean that developing countries, although not historically responsible, will have to take action too. Rich nations are required to fund clean development in these countries.
Look out for: Figures in the region of $100 billion per year
4. A legally binding deal
An outcome that will compel industrialised countries to take action.
Look out for: A ‘political deal’; statements about ‘intention to act’No Comments » | Add your comment
These last couple of days I have been feeling very uncomfortable here in the Bella Centre. Getting into the building, even with the correct badge, has been an endurance test through long queues and brusque policemen.
NGOs have been issued with a secondary pass to limit our numbers in a vast conference centre that not crowded with 15,000 people. Now, with the restrictions, it feels really empty. Is security the real reason, or the wish not to be scrutinised by civil society?
We have had to select people who will be among the 1000 NGO participants for tomorrow, on a strategic basis – trying to represent regions, key issues, ability to reach to high level people in delegations, as well as familiarity with the key issues that still need to be fought for. The rest of us will work from a nerve centre in Copenhagen, feeding messages to support those inside.
So we are shackled right when the negotiations really are on a knife-edge. With so many major unresolved issues left to the heads of state, it is hard to be optimistic unless either America or China is willing to accept legally-binding emissions reduction targets.
As weak or non-existent targets litter the negotiating table, the world is faced with warming of 3 or 4 degrees above pre-industrial levels – and even higher temperature rises for parts of Africa. Lack of ambition, morality and selflessness are currently putting these regions and small island states well beyond the reach of adaptation. Yet even this provision, a support system supposed to compensate for the loss associated with global warming, hangs in the balance and largely unsupported by developed countries.
Many of us have worked so hard to get climate justice for vulnerable groups, and find it very painful that at present these people are not even mentioned in the text – deletion at the express wish of their own governments, the majority (or loudest voices) within the G77 group.
It is indeed a dark day here. We can only hope, and those of faith should pray, for the world’s leaders to act in the world’s interest, not, as they seem to do now, for the greed of the powerful fossil fuel industry and their own short-term political survival.
Yesterday the African Group walked out of discussions at the Copenhagen climate talks, but it feels more like the negotiations have walked out on Africa.
I am from Sudan, where we are currently experiencing a prolonged drought and many people are moving into urban areas, especially Khartoum, because it is too dry to grow crops on their land. Farmers in developing countries are on the front line of climate change and cannot wait forever for these negotiations to come up with a fair treaty.
The African Group are concerned that the industrialised nations, which are historically responsible for climatic change, want to ditch the Kyoto Protocol. It is not that they love the Protocol itself, but that it is the only legally binding treaty in existence.
They fear that by focussing on a new and alternative treaty, many rich countries will have shirked their responsibilities to reduce emissions and, worse, that it may not be possible to get a better treaty for some time. For a continent that stands to lose so much as the climate continues to change, this is too much of a gamble.
It would be absurd for Africa to sign on up something that will doom vast areas of the continent. So when we see the historic emitters proposing targets that take no account of science, we are of course frustrated. The issue is much wider than the Kyoto Protocol debate; it is about the widespread ignorance of African experiences and Africa’s needs.
I fear that many countries are busy protecting their economic interests when it is the world that is at risk. They are too cowardly to look at Africa, to look at the science, and to face up to the fact that serious changes are needed. If they do not look soon, they may not like what the see when they next visit Africa.No Comments » | Add your comment
The weekend disappeared into seemingly endless work save for the NGO party on Saturday night, and it wasn’t great to have to attend a long strategy day at 11am on Sunday. This rolled late into the evening as we took to the serious issue of bridging the ‘Gigatonnes gap’ – the deficit between the emissions cuts proposed by developed and larger developing countries, and what science says is needed to prevent a rise in 2 degrees rise in global temperatures. I am no expert on this, but I went to offer some input on how to convey these ideas to developing country colleagues and delegates.
How nice then to be greeted by lengthy queues to get into the conference centre this morning! At 10 o’clock I met with the UK’s development minister, Douglas Alexander, to stress that the current offers from industrialised countries would undermine development totally. We urged him to pressure on the UK and his EU peers to ramp up mitigation targets to at least -30%, and to start making proposals on long-term adaptation finance.
Out of this meeting, I flew from being the interrogator to the interrogated, as I sat on panel of two side events – the first on ensuring finance for adaptation reaches the most vulnerable people, and another on gender perspectives of climate. Both were really well attended, and people showed a lot of interest in the work Practical Action has been doing.
Meanwhile, the negotiations were suspended when the Africa group walked out until the issue of keeping alive the Kyoto Protocol is resolved. The Africa group have very valid concerns – but the huge challenge is that we are short of time here in Copenhagen, the world is short of time before we have to cut emissions – a collapse of these talks could be a high risk strategy for securing a decent deal.No Comments » | Add your comment
The Copenhagen negotiations have now reached the mid point, marked by the world’s largest public demonstration on climate change marching from the city to the conference. It’s time to spin round and assess the view. In the last six days we’ve had texts, non-texts, Danish texts, boos, cheers and a sweating polar bear posing for pictures.
The ministers arrive next, so what awaits them? The world expects a climate deal in six days time, so what are the chances?
Practical Action’s team in Copenhagen give their views on how things stand and which way is forward
Well, after a slow start and really gloomy outlook, negotiators are working flat out to try to get reasonable drafts of text before ministers arrive (Ed Miliband, the UK’s representative is already here), wanting to know what political elements they need to make decisions on.
Today, the draft protocol released by the Association of Small Island State looks pretty good on its proposals on adaptation. One or two other text also are reasonable in many respects.
The EU has now put short-term money on the table for adaptation and mitigation – not enough, but a start, yet they have offered NOTHING on long term finance.
The big problem is the ‘Giga tonne gap’ – the fact that the emissions reductions on the table just do not add up to -40% reductions, and the view is that there is little scope for moving the key countries to reach this level.
A huge amount of lobbying needs to be done, and a lot of work has been left for the Heads of State on Friday!
During the week, Sri Lankan civil society representatives met regularly providing a boost to their delegation. The Sri Lankan group also met and discussed the pressing issues with their Environment Minister. Overall, nineteen Sri Lankans participated in the talks.
Progress in Copenhagen is very slow, but there are some glimmers of hope after the first week. Sri Lanka is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and has pressing adaptation needs but faces the problem that it might not fall under the current definition of most vulnerable countries. However, Sri Lanka will now hopefully not miss out on much needed adaptation funds as the latest proposals for adaptation finance do not specify any particular groups of countries
My feeling is that most countries want a legally binding agreement – the problem is in their interpretation of what an agreement will contain. Developing countries want the historic emitters to reduce their emissions and fulfil their moral obligation to support the countries vulnerable to climate. The industrialised nations expect the rapidly developing countries to also take on binding targets.
Because Nepal has negligible emissions, the developed countries are not demanding that we take cuts, but we are still suffering from the emissions they have created historically.
The best outcome for Nepal would be that in the next week developed countries commit to support for adaptation and also propose sufficient legally binding targets so adaptation remains an option.
Negotiators have left many important decisions to the last moment and have woken up to discover that time is running out. It is looking increasing unlikely that developed countries will deliver on the promises they made in Bali two years ago, but there is still cause for determined optimism.
Civil society groups, including Practical Action, continue to send a strong message to the delegates that they will be unable to sell political hot air as a successful outcome of these negotiations. Any deal must lead to concrete commitments on emission reduction and finance.
The message was heard loud and clear on the streets of Copenhagen throughout the day as nearly 100 000 people marched to the conference venue demanding climate justice.
Whilst public support flowed in the street, within the conference centre the talks received an injection of reality when Tuvalu’s delegate began an emotional appeal to the plenary chair. Tuvalu’s representative could not hold back tears as he described the situation in his country, which is just four metres above sea level.
Tuvalu’s plea was not merely borne out of a frustrating week (or even year) of climate talks, but the regular flooding that threatens their existence. Hopefully, this will be a wake up call for the countries causing problems. They now have one week to realise the human implications of climate and agree a deal to stop it.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Well, yesterday I found really difficult – the conference hall is hectic and there didn’t seem much positive to report about- just rather predictable opening speeches that are not really convincing.
Today I feel more positive. I went to a meeting with UK delegation – Gordon Brown will, they say, stand firm on his commitment to at least 30% emissions cuts for UK and Europe, and fast-start finance, of which the UK will commit towards £1bn. It is recognised that the key figures for emissions cuts and finance will almost certainly be left to Heads of State to add in – it’s useful to know that now.
A few of us then had a meeting with the UK negotiators on finance, and from that too we gained useful information.
The Practical Action team is now 7 – with Varaidzo from Zimbabwe joining us, and everyone is doing useful work, and that feels good. We are finding time to brief each other over breakfast and dinner, and our friendly but simple hotel is a great haven to return to each night.No Comments » | Add your comment
As the UN climate change talks open in Copenhagen, Veena Khaleque, director of Practical Action Bangladesh, explains why the developing world needs a fair, ambitious and effective deal that will end climate injustice and avert the worst impacts of climate change.No Comments » | Add your comment