The 18th Conference of Parties (COP 18) met this month in Qatar to negotiate ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change amidst increasing global warming impacts worldwide. However, the agreement reached in Doha does not reflect the urgent action needed to combat last year’s record high CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel combustion and damage caused by natural disasters. I wonder if this would have been the case, had there been proper media coverage and civil society representation in these negotiations.
Climate change is not my area of expertise, but it is something I am increasingly addressing in my international development work. I believe that equitable access to sustainable development is a concept that should be more central in climate change policy, funding and programmes. I wish to reach out to the TT network – to let folks know a bit about the summit, share some recent resources, and ask that we explore what could be done to influence these climate negotiations – including COP 19 next year in Poland.
This month, nearly 200 nations agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol to the year 2020, at which point a new global UN pact (to be signed in 2015) will enter into force. A recent statement by Greenpeace International calls the agreement “so full of loopholes as to have little or no effect on carbon emissions”.
In an interview with Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, she explains that civil society is very disappointed because the COP 18 agreement “will do nothing to bring finance over the long term to poor countries that are suffering from climate change. And it will do nothing to pave the way for the global deal that we have all been promised in 2015”.
This week, Professor Michael Jacobs wrote an article calling for sustained global pressure to be put on governments to reach a deal in 2015. Also writing on the COP 18 agreement, CARE International Director of Climate Change and Environment, Kit Vaughan concludes that, “we need to focus our attention on those countries that continually fail to take action and live up to their historical and current responsibilities. Developed countries must now step up their game to kick-start the urgent transition to a low carbon and climate resilient world. It is their duty to invest in creating a safer and more stable world for all.”
A report published last month by the World Bank warns that under current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emission pledges and commitments, average global temperature could rise 3.5-4°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century; and the longer pledges remain unmet, the more likely a 4°C world becomes. It argues that a 4°C world can, and must, be avoided. If it is not, “the projected impacts on water availability, ecosystems, agriculture, and human health could lead to large-scale displacement of populations and have adverse consequences for human security and economic and trade systems.” It also emphasises that the distribution of climate change impacts is likely to be “inherently unequal and tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions, which have the least economic, institutional, scientific, and technical capacity to cope and adapt.”
The COP 18 deal did establish for the first time in an international legal document that rich nations should move towards compensating poor nations for loss and damage due to climate change, though it merely "encourages" rich nations to mobilise at least $10bn (£6bn) a year up to 2020.
While wealthy nations continue to argue that they cannot make greater contributions to climate financing, a new study by Oil Change International has found that they spend five times more money on fossil fuel subsidies than on supporting developing countries to address climate change and its impacts.
Greenpeace's Energy Revolution contests that economic crisis and climate change are two problems with one solution, showing that “with only 1% of global GDP invested in renewable energy by 2050, 12 million jobs would be created in the renewable sector alone; and the fuel costs savings would cover the additional investment two times over."
As Transitioners, we have an amazing network in place to affect local and national policies. Can we make it a New Year’s Resolution to use our network to impact international climate negotiations – in addition to the good work we are already doing? Developed nations and corporate interests have a disproportionate influence on the outcomes. Isn’t it our responsibility to ensure that they are sending the right message and taking appropriate measures? Or at least, shouldn’t we say that they are not doing it in our name?
I suggest discussing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in your circle meetings – perhaps invite experts to give talks. Let’s discuss questions like, ‘Why wasn’t this year’s COP the climate coming-out-party for the Obama administration that many had hoped for after his re-election acceptance speech?’ and, ‘Why did Europe refuse to go beyond a 20% emissions target, which would barely decrease emissions from today’s levels, and side with Poland, which demanded the right to keep 'hot air' Kyoto credits awarded to them in the 1990s?’ Then I hope we could explore how best to communicate our thoughts to our communities and the world.
I do not intend to emphasis the importance of making better international agreements over, say, improving international development policies or national level energy policies. As University of East Anglia doctoral student Martin Mahony wrote in a recent blog, “the UN process is not the be-all and end-all of climate change policy”. Whilst true, I believe there is a need for more links between local, national and international ideas and actions for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Angela de Prairie (Transition Circle Earlham)
Picture: communications by MiljÃ¸magasinet Putsj.