In Durban, developing countries must resist the bullying, bribery and blackmail of the rich polluters

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“The best outcome from Durban would be one based on climate justice. It is time to stand up to the climate change bullies, to reject the Copenhagen Accord and the Cancún Agreements that implement it.”

This is the concluding section of  The end game in Durban? How developed countries bullied and bribed to try to kill Kyoto, a new report published by the World Development Movement, a  UK-based anti-poverty campaigning organisation with a worldwide reputation for tackling hard-hitting, controversial issues.

Certain developed countries, including the US, the UK and others, have behaved shamefully in the climate change negotiations over the last two years. Using unfair, undemocratic and even deceitful means to skew the climate change negotiations in their favour, they have colluded with each other in a bid to backtrack on the commitments and responsibilities they previously agreed to in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, and its Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in 2005.

This report shows that during and since COP15 in Copenhagen, these countries have resorted to bullying, bribery, blackmail and outright deceit, sometimes openly and sometimes behind closed doors, in order to persuade reluctant developing countries to ‘associate’ with the Copenhagen Accord, which was drafted by an exclusive group of 26 countries meeting in secret on the margins of the UN’s supposedly democratic negotiating process. Some have even resorted to deceitful tricks to try and silence objecting countries at the end of each COP.

The question is: how many countries would have associated with the Copenhagen Accord voluntarily if there was no risk of losing out on climate finance and existing bilateral aid flows?

The Copenhagen Accord was and remains an illegitimate document. It was not negotiated by the Conference of the Parties, and it is not supported by all of them. It is important to note that the Cancún Agreements, which incorporate elements of the Accord, do not enjoy consensus support either; and that many countries that have supported one or both of these agreements may be doing so grudgingly, feeling that they are unable to speak out because flows of development aid and climate finance may be cut if they do so.

Yet speak out countries must. The Copenhagen Accord conflicts with both the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol. It starts to move away from the principle of historical responsibility, by insisting that developing countries begin to look at how they can mitigate their emissions, even though it had previously been agreed that their overwhelming priority must be poverty reduction.

It replaces binding emissions reductions requirements with voluntary pledges for Annex I countries, which will inevitably limit the extent to which these countries reduce their emissions.

And it makes potentially empty promises about climate finance transfers “approaching” US$100 billion, since donor governments appear to be looking to private sources for the majority of these funds (even though carbon markets are currently weak).

It is unfair and unacceptable that a deal that is so bad for both climate change and developing countries should have been allowed to emerge from the Copenhagen and Cancún COPs. It is also untenable that a country’s objection to a consensus document can be ignored, as happened in Cancún. This latter development, however, clearly demonstrates that it will need more than one or two lone voices to derail the Copenhagen Accord strategy now. Developing countries need to speak up collectively at COP17 in Durban, before it is too late.

The developed countries that have pushed the Copenhagen Accord may well view the coming COP17 in Durban as the ‘end game’, wrapping up two years of political manoeuvring with an outcome that removes all of their existing legal commitments. But in so doing they could be creating the greatest ‘end game’ of our times, runaway climate change.

The best outcome from Durban would be one based on climate justice. It is time to stand up to the climate change bullies, to reject the Copenhagen Accord and the Cancún Agreements that implement it. The need for scaled up climate finance based on public funding should be addressed fairly and squarely, rebuilding trust between developed and developing countries; and developed countries must face up to the fact that legally binding emissions commitments will provide the spur needed for a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The South African government should also ensure that COP17 in Durban is played by the rules, and that everyone gets a real say in how to proceed.

“We are not dealing with charity, but above all with a moral and legal obligation resulting from the commitments adopted in the Convention.”
Letter from Cuba to the Chair of COP16 in Cancún.

Climate justice

The way we understand climate justice is that wealthy nations should acknowledge their historical responsibility, that for 250 years they have been emitting green house gases that have generated a climate change that is affecting all the world, particularly it is generating climate disasters in those vulnerable impoverished nations and sectors that have emitted almost nothing to the atmosphere. And that is not fair, it is an injustice.

It must also be remembered that many countries have been impoverished because of centuries of colonialism carried out by the same nations and sectors mainly responsible for climate change. So a social and ecological debt has been generated.

Now acknowledging historical responsibility means that wealthy nations should:

  • Reduce their levels of material consumption
  • Make a transition to a zero carbon economy
  • Provide funds, as a way of paying some of the social and ecological debt, for impoverished nations to make a transition to a zero carbon economy and for impoverished people to cope with climate change impacts, some people call that adaptation, I call that survival.
  • Devote efforts to rehabilitate ecosystems in the Northern countries. Likewise we in the southern countries have to:
  • Demand the cancelation of the social and ecological debt so we can make that transition to a zero carbon economy, survive climate disasters and improve living conditions of impoverished sectors.
  • Reduce material consumption of the wealthy classes.
  • Rehabilitate our ecosystems.

1 Comment

  • “We need a world-wide flat playing field tilted towards the environment.”
    — Radio quote at G8 conference after 9/11
    Treaty of 2012
    Nations could sign a treaty agreeing to tax their own greenhouse gas emissions at the same (fairly small) rate.* Each treaty nation would keep the same percentage of the revenue raised by this tax in its own territory. The remainder would be administered and spent by the United Nations, or some other body.
    Exporters from non–treaty nations would have to pay a large, potentially refundable import duty to enter their products into a treaty nation. At the end of each year, the portion of greenhouse gas pollution emitted from each non-treaty nation would be calculated. If any such nation has paid more in import duty than it owes for greenhouse gas pollution, the excess would be refunded or credited to each exporter. Clearly, a good banking system is needed.

    Economic Colonialism
    In colonial times European nations invaded less technological lands in search of new land, wealth, and slaves. This hasn’t stopped. Anybody can claim the best wilderness or trees for profit, often with government help. Ecosystem damage causes hunger among the natives and drives them into poorer regions, or to a city, town, or camp, where they lose their independence. These cultures and their technologies have much to teach us, and are not necessarily poorer lives, just moneyless—and with a small carbon footprint.

    “If we can’t help the needy figure out some path to dignity other than our hyper-individualism,
    the math of global warming will never work.” — Bill McKibben

    Expanding the world’s economy to hire all the poor will never work; the planet is barely supporting the development we have now. A subsistence farmer or nomadic wanderer sees no hope for themselves or their children. But she has as much right to food and shelter as I do and, if left alone, she will get it for herself using no money and far less fossil energy.

    Fund for a Cool Gaia
    This Fund, highly stimulating to local economies, assigns an annual credit to every human under a certain poverty line; anybody who can’t earn his own food, or who lives in a moneyless economy. Those who are supporting people could collect their share.
    Ocean waters and subpolar soils are warming, releasing huge quantities of the greenhouse gas Methane. To have solutions rather than unknown side effects, we need to explore the local cooling effects of approaches such as spraying whitewash, or capturing and holding cooler night air, or directing cooler deep waters towards dying coral reefs.
    Large geo-engineering projects should also be considered. As ships and planes travel, they might earn credits for spreading beneficial “cleaning” atoms (maybe Calcium to remove Chlorine from the air, or iron or clay on ocean waters). Ash can be cleansed and spread to counteract acidity.

    Collect Information — Issue open questionnaires on ecosystems and the status of land dwellers and people who left their land recently. Involve ecologists in finding out what the ecosystems’ greatest needs are. Cities and states which support the poor would collect their credit, including paying land taxes.
    Preserve — Nations stop or limit land development in appropriate ecosystems and ecological corridors.
    Water — Improve water supply and distribution: Windmill-driven wells. Pipe segregated** city sewage. Solar evaporators to sterilize or desalt salt water or soil (with salt sequestration), restoring farmland and irrigation. Trees — Pay countries to start and plant useful and native trees.

    * $1 per ton of CO2 released, amounting to 1 cent per gallon of gas. It’s tempting to make it large enough to make clean energy production cheaper ($8 – $30/ton). Though it begins by taxing air pollution, water and land pollution could be added.

    ** Chemicals, heavy metals, and geological atoms must not accumulate in biologically destructive ways. However, germs will die off. Witness Kalamazoo, Michigan, US and Berlin, Germany.