Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Copenhagen Accord" sets stage for climate action - but not everyone is convinced

by Carmelo Amalfi
THE 15th meeting of the United Nations climate change conference has ended with an agreement to raise the finance needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in both developed and developing nations.
The "Copenhagen Accord" is supported by a majority of countries including the United States and China, the two biggest carbon polluters.
The agreement will establish a fighting fund expected to reach 30 billion US dollars over the next three years. Long-term finance by developed countries will collectively attract 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to help developing countries fight global warming.
"We have sealed the deal," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement released yesterday.
"This accord cannot be everything that everyone hoped for, but it is an essential beginning."
The Accord backs the scientific view that an increase in global temperature below two degrees Celcius will help take the sting out of the worst effects of climate change.
It specifies that industrialised countries will commit to implement economy-wide emissions targets from 2020.
These will be submitted to the UN before January 31, 2010.
Countries will communicate their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions every two years.
Mitigation actions seeking international support will be recorded in a registry with details of relevant technology, finance and capacity building support from industrialised nations.
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said the COP15 was a success despite the rollercoaster ride in negotiations over the past two weeks.
"The world walks away from Copenhagen with a deal," he said. "But clearly, ambitions to reduce emissions must be raised significantly if we are to hold the world to 2C."
Leaders plan to review the accord by 2015 and include long-term goals to limit the
global average temperature rise to 1.5C, which is the cap many African nations had argued for.
De Boer said heads of state and government intend to act promptly on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries.
A "Copenhagen Green Climate Fund" will be established to support immediate action on climate change. Governments also plan to establish a new technology mechanism to accelerate the development and transfer of technology.
In total, 119 world leaders attended the meeting, the biggest gathering of heads of
state and government in the history of the UN.
"Climate change is the permanent leadership challenge of our time," Ki-moon said.
"I therefore urge world leaders to remain engaged. We now have a package to work with and begin immediate action."
But de Boer said the agreement was at this stage, "a letter of intent", not a precise about what needs to be done in legal terms. In other words, COP15 failed to set in stone a legally binding accord that locked both rich and poor countries.
"So the challenge is now to turn what we have agreed politically in Copenhagen into something real, measurable and verifiable," he said.
The next UN climate change conference will be held next year in Mexico City, preceded by a two-week negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, between May 31 and June 11.
The European Parliament delegation to the COP15 also released a statement describing the Accord as a huge disappointment.
"The outcome and the procedure show an urgent need to reform the UN working method," European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek aid.
"Copenhagen will only be a first step. We must learn the lessons of how to improve the negotiating process. There are some positive elements to the agreement, but the EU should continue to put pressure on the rest of the world to reach a more ambitious agreement at a later stage."
Delegation head Jo Leinen said the agreement postponed climate change protection to a later date.
"The document lacks a long-term vision for 2050, nor have short-term targets for 2020 been laid down in the final document. The present commitments of industrialized countries will by no means meet the CO2 reduction requirements stated by the scientific panel of the United Nations."
MEPs said the worst aspect of the "Copenhagen Accord" is it did not not hold nations legally accountable for their actions.
"The US has failed to adapt its reduction targets to global needs. China has refused to sign a treaty with international obligations," he said.
Vice-chair Karl-Heinz Florenz added: "It is a slap in the face for the world. There has been a huge lack of trust during these negotiations.
"Some developing countries have been blocking without contributing in a positive manner to the text. For further negotiations it will be crucial to overcome this for the further negotiations."
Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said he was satisfied a result had finally be achieved.
"Now nations will need to sign on, and if they do so, they will support what has been agreed to (in the Copenhagen Accord). This will have effect immediately."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What if we fail at Copenhagen? The world in 2100

by Carmelo Amalfi
“MADAME chair, you have the floor”
Thank you [UN president Michelle Gore].
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, citizens of Earth.
We open this conference, COP16, on the eve of a new century. Nearly 100 years ago this month, leaders of our world came together in Copenhagen to find a way to curb the greatest threat our planet faced, and still faces – climate change.
They failed. They failed the planet and they failed us despite so much hope, time and effort, the promise of a new world for more than six billion people faced with rising temperatures and expanding oceans.
My grandfather received the Nobel Prize for peace before he arrived in Copenhagen, his memoirs revealing his deep sorrow and regret at the lack of action and commitment by developed and developing nations.
Today, there are more than 21 billion people on the planet - a very different place to when our parents were children.
It is nearly five degrees Celcius warmer than 2010. The Arctic sea ice is gone. The Himalayan and Tibetan glaciers, which once fed the major water systems of some of the world’s poorest regions, have retreated. Antarctica, the last frontier where rich countries now exploit its deep reserves of fossil fuels, has lost a third of its ice cover.
Mauritius, the Maldives, once tourism treasures, and hundreds of once-populated islands in the Indonesian archipelago are gone while rising ocean levels have pushed most coastal communities inland.
Climate refugees flood detention centres around the world.
Indoor air pollution accounts for nearly half of all fatal acute respiratory infections in children under five years of age. The poor in India, which stood with those countries resisting global efforts to fight climate change, now loses an estimated four to five billion days of work each year because of sickness and ill health caused by malnutrition the spread of disease.
What pains me is the dramatic loss of so many of the world’s species, particularly fish, birds and mammals. The polar bears and penguins are extinct, their clones grown in “arks” established at zoos and special science parks.
Millions of people have died or been displaced by the impacts of global warming.
Millions more will follow. The African continent is a furnace and bushfires in Australia have become more frequent and devastating, causing major losses of human and animal life.
The Amazon forests have long been cleared and most of the world’s reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, which once supported tourism, fishing and science have calcified - shells of their former beauty.
We come together today to take up where the last generation left off.
Faced with global recession and political unrest, our generation still wages war over water supplies and the air we breathe, the very things we as custodians of the planet were charged with protecting and preserving through adaptation and mitigation.
Flooding, fires and severe storms are commonplace and far more destructive than when I was a young girl.
The world has changed.
But it will not disappear, not unless we unite again to finish what our parents and grandparents began at the start of this century.
Consider this as you deliberate over the future of a planet too precious to abandon to dirty air, pollution and disease. Consider this as you discuss what those before us failed to achieve and what those after us will inherit. Please let us avoid a repeat of the past.
I declare COP16 open.

World powers seal “meaningful” deal on climate

by Carmelo Amalfi
COULD it be true?
Has Nobel Prize winning president Barack Obama helped seal a deal in Copenhagen?
According to a senior United States administration official, China, India and South Africa have reached a “meaningful agreement” on the last night of the COP15.
Described as a “first step”, he is quoted saying it was not enough to put a meaningful dent in the climate threat. But it was a start.
Details of the tentative deal are sketchy. It was reached Friday night at the United Nations climate conference after a meeting between Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Jacob Zuma.
Obama had earlier said he did not come to talk, but to act as the world’s biggest economy and second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Under the "Copenhagen Accord", leaders have committed to the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
It sets a global temperature rise maximum of two degrees Celsius, possibly limiting this to 1.5C after a review in 2016.
The Copenhagen Accord says developed countries would commit collectively to providing 30 billion US dollars in additional funding for developing countries for the 2010 to 2012 period. By 2020, developed countries aimed to raise 100 billion dollars a year.
By 2050, developed countries also would commit to emissions cuts of at least 80 per cent.
But countries including Venezuela, Sudan and Tuvalu are said to oppose the new deal that would need unanimous backing to be adopted by the 193 nations at COP15.
Other nations including European Union states, Japan, the African Union and Alliance of Small Island States urged delegates to adopt the plan.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described the deal as, "a significant agreement on climate change action. It is the first global agreement on climate change action between rich nations and poor countries".
President Obama had promised the US would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, “no matter what happens in Copenhagen”.
Nations have until the end of January 2010 to submit plans for curbs on emissions to the UN.
Environment groups criticised the hurried plan as ineffective because it was not a legally binding treaty.
"The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport," Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said.
The comments follow nearly two weeks of bitter debate and walkouts by delegates and running battles between Danish police and protestors.

Call for climate change journalists to be protected

by Carmelo Amalfi
JOURNALISTS who investigate climate change increasingly are at risk of harm and even death from hostile governments and companies, according to media agencies at COP15.
The International Institute for Environment and Development, International Media Support, Internews and Reporters Without Borders called on delegates and world leaders to sign a global petition to better protect journalists under principle 10 of the Rio Declaration and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The group representing national and international media organisations called on countries to give journalists access to information they need to convey to the wider public complex issues such as global warming, pollution and deforestation.
International Media Support director Jesper Højberg said in the past three years 15 cases of threats and intimidation, imprisonment and deportations, had been linked directly to environmental issues including climate change.
“There is a need to focus on better protection of journalists, particularly environmental and climate journalists,” he said.
“Journalists live very dangerous lives exposing corruption, nepotism and negligence which obstruct efforts to protect the environment.”
Vincent Brossel, head of the Asia desk at Reporters Without Borders, said many of the countries attending the conference recognised the importance of empowering people to tackle climate change issues. But they could not do so with their hands tied.
“Without a free press, companies and governments will not be compelled to join the fight against climate change,” he said. “Journalists must be free to investigate.
“More and more are being harassed, some even killed for reporting on environmental issues.”
The media delegation said journalists investigating deforestation faced imprisonment and death in countries such as Cambodia, Philippines, India, Brazil and South Africa.
They said these countries say they are committed to fighting the causes of climate change yet it is journalists in their countries who were being persecuted.
Internews Earth Journalism Network global director James Fahn said climate change journalists faced similar dangers to covering the crime beat when covering pollution and illegal logging in countries such as Indonesia and Brazil.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, freelance journalists make up nearly 45 per cent of all journalists jailed around the world.
Half of all those in prison are online journalists.
In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, released last week, the Committee found a total of 136 reporters, editors and photojournalists behind bars on December 1 this year, an increase of 11 at the same time last year. The increase is due to 23 journalists jailed after a media crackdown in Iran.
“The rise of online journalism has opened the door to a new generation of reporters, but it also means they are vulnerable,” CPJ executive director Joel Simon said in a statement.

* Novaya Gazeta is an independent newspaper uncovering corruption and human rights abuses in Russia. Four of its journalists have been murdered. Other journalists on staff have been beaten, arrested and continue to be watched closely by the police
* Jila Baniyaghoub is an Iranian journalist who has been beaten, arrested and imprisoned for covering women's rights and State oppression
* Terry Gould is a freelance investigative journalist and author of ‘Murder without Borders: Dying for the Story in the World’s Most Dangerous Places’. His book examines the lives of seven journalists killed because of their work.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Stay in Copenhagen until the job is done!

Comment and analysis
by Johan Lidberg
FROM the outside, without inside access to the no doubt complex negotiations, the whole situation seems bizarre. Here we have a clear and present global danger to the future of mankind and our leaders are arguing over…money.
The rich world has become rich by creating the situation we are in now. So, the rich world should make amends by supplying sustainable energy technology to the developing world and help these countries adjust to a sustainable economic system. Apart from changing at home (which is needed too) this is by far the most effective way to take action on climate change.
Billionaire hedge fund manager, George Soros, suggested last week at COP15 that the rich countries should draw on some of the their billions that lie idle in the coffers of the International Monetary Fund. This is a good concrete suggestion, but as so many times before Soros is not listened to. He is dismissed because he is a hedge fund manager. This is unfortunate as he is not your average venture capitalist. He predicted the financial crisis. He has long been deeply critical of unregulated, runaway markets and predatory capitalism. He has spent hundreds of millions on supporting civil society via his Open Society Institute. The man deserves and should be listened to.
It seems like a big chunk of the world is screaming to the leaders of the rich countries: ‘just pay the damn money so we can get started!’. Eleven million plus signatures in the on-line action group’s save Copenhagen petition sends a clear message.
“Petition to the 110 Presidents and Prime Ministers negotiating in Copenhagen:
"We call on each one of you to make the concessions necessary to meet your historic responsibility in this crisis. Rich countries must offer fair funding, and all countries must set ambitious targets on emissions. Do not leave Copenhagen without a fair, ambitious and binding deal that keeps the world safe from catastrophic global warming of 2 degrees.”

Allow me to add to the petition. The delegates should stay in Copenhagen and the conference should go on until a substantial agreement has been made. This is your job. Anything less will be a failure and you will have let those down that elected you and that put their trust in you.