Friday, November 13, 2009

Climate Change -Time Ticking for Copenhagen Summit

Climate Change -Time Ticking for Copenhagen Summit
Syed Ali Mujtaba

It’s less than five weeks for the crucial Copenhagen summit for climate change. It’s a deadline for a deal to stop the climate catastrophe. The issue involved is developing countries won't join in a climate deal unless rich countries, which created the climate crisis, pay to fix it.

The Copenhagen summit will have more than 100 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. While the talk will be about the environment, the substance will be about money. Developing nations say that if rich nations want them to stop burning coal or cutting down forests, they should be willing to pay them.

The price tag of a fair, ambitious and binding global treaty is $150 billion a year in funding to help poorer countries to adapt and cut emissions. So far only a fraction of that is pledged by the developed country.

The finance ministers of the world’s 20 biggest economies are meeting prior to that to discuss these issues but its learnt the funding proposal isn’t even on the agenda for such meeting.

The Copenhagen summit could collapse without a funding plan as $150 billion a year is needed by 2020 to invest in low-carbon development and the green economies of the future

There’s no shortage of bold and practical ideas for how the funds could be raised. Experts suggest levies to close the tax-free loophole on aviation and shipping fuels or a charge on financial speculation could raise tens of billions each.

Activities are putting up ads and campaigns that Europe must raise their offer, and other rich countries need to join them. European Union must set a precedent by starting to put money on the table is said in the campaign.

However, so far the US has not pledged any funds to deal with climate issues. Although it’s going ahead to participate at the Copenhagen summit, but its still not clear how much funds it may pledge and on what conditions. Its learnt that US wants to put a rider for releasing the funds with which the developing countries are not so comfortable with. Its certain that if the US is not a party to the global treaty on climate change, the summit at Copenhagen would have no meaning.

As far as India’s stand on this issue is concerned its of the view that any attempt to address the problem of climate change must take into account the imperatives of poverty reduction and economic progress in developing countries and the responsibility of the developed countries.

New Delhi maintains that any long-term goal or conditionalities being set towards lessening the effects of climate change “should always take into account the centrality of the need of the developing countries in this regard.”

India's defiance on the issue of climate change came during U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton's visit to India in July 2009, when India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, publicly asserted that "India's position is clear and categorical that New Delhi simply is not in a position to take any legally binding emissions reduction."

There is no doubt that the world is sitting on the climate catastrophe. If the world has to be saved from this imminent danger, a consensus has to evolve how to fund this problem in a comprehensive way.

To me the entire debate on climate change is going on the lines of Gandhian campaign in India. There is a total disconnect between what is being preached and practiced.

There is north and south divide on this issue. The rich countries want the developing countries to adopt austerities measure to help save the planet, while they may like to continue with their pace of life. They may agree to some funds to the developing countries and may even allow some cheap technology transfer but are not willing to compromise on their lifestyle.

This means the developing countries should cease to develop and remain in poverty trap for years to come. It is one of the most complex puzzles that is being spun at the backdrop of climate catastrophe.

Within the rich countries there are differences, particularly between European Union and US. The Europe has one line of thought, the US has other. Within Europe there are differences as well.
Even the developing countries are not a unified house. There are urban and rural divide on this issue. The argument of the north is extended by the urban centers with which the rural centers are not so comfortable. Those living in the urban centers want the rural people to live in the primitive stage to address the issues of climate change while they may like to continue with their sedentary lifestyles. This is the most ludicrous part of the campaign on the climate change.

As the time ticking for the Copenhagen summit and even though there is a consensus on this issue that’s its extremely essential to sustain the campaign to save the planet from the perils of climate change but the camps are divided.

One school of thought led by the developing countries say “no deal is better than an unfair deal.” They want to abide by their agenda and not ready to compromise, a proposition that could spoil the deal.

“Seal the deal” is another campaign that is being lunched by the developing countries ahead of the Copenhagen Summit. It says if we have to move forward on the issue of climate change, a it’s essential to “Seal the deal”

Arguments and counter arguments are put forward before the Copenhagen summit. The house of hope and despair are equally divided. The skeptics’ view that this talk shop may fail to kick off for want of consensus, the optimist argue, it will roll on in fit and starts because it’s a question of survival of human mankind.

As largest-ever gathering of world leaders at Copenhagen gets underway, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed that there is an urgent need for collective action to save the planet. He has called upon the civil society, faith groups, businesses and governments to join forces to combat climate change.

The sliver lining in the black cloud is that India and China have signed a memorandum of understanding on the issue. It shows that the two world's major players are serious about finding an alternative path alongside trying to attain sustainable development.

Not withstanding, how this story plays itself out, the fact remains that Copenhagen summit on climate change is turning out to be a basket case of ‘now or never.’

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He recently in New Delhi to attended a conference on climate change organized by International Federation of Environment Journalist. He can be contacted at

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