Paul Horsman, one of our climate campaigners, comments on the current situation with the global climate deal - or lack thereof:
Much has already been written and said about the failure of the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, and no doubt there will be plenty more commentary over the coming months and years. But one thing is certain and that is the Summit marks a point in history where millions of people made clear their demands to protect the climate and the World’s political leadership ignored them. But be sure – those voices will not be silent. They will gather in number and strength over the coming months.
Another key issue that has emerged is that the old power blocs are changing as fractures begin to appear and new alliances are form. Elsewhere on the political stage the G8 is being over-shadowed by the G20 and we have Major Emitters Forum – a legacy of the Bush era – or should that be error?
Developing countries have largely been represented by the G77+China bloc. This bloc has been a formidable and, hitherto, an almost unbreakable alliance, believing, as they do, that they must present unity in the face of the powerful industrialised countries. In the lead up to and during the Copenhagen summit, a powerful group of emerging country economies has surfaced. Brazil, China, India and South Africa - the BASIC group have shown themselves as key players in the political games at Copenhagen.
They were a key element in, together with the US, producing the Copenhagen Accord – a weak political statement with no targets for emissions cuts or a timetable – though it did include some – though not enough - financial support for developing countries.
One of the many criticisms of the Accord was the process by which it was achieved which was regarded by many as a ‘deal’ struck behind closed doors by a select few.
However, the BASIC group is now a powerful force within the climate negotiations and last Sunday, at the invitation of India, the group met in India to discuss how to move forward from Copenhagen. The group’s statement at the end of the meeting was broadly welcome.
Despite their role in negotiating the Accord, they describe it as a ‘political agreement’ – I would argue it is a weak political agreement. Most significantly, though they have endorsed the UNFCCC (the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) as ‘central’ to the process of achieving a fair, ambitious and binding deal to protect the climate and have called for all negotiations to be inclusive and transparent. The reality is that, with all its foibles and difficulties, the UNFCCC process is the only all inclusive process where all countries from the poorest to the richest have a voice as was demonstrated in Copenhagen. In their call for ongoing work on elements of the Climate Convention (the Kyoto process and Long-term action) they are clearly serious about the process.
And, as the arguments continue about the huge responsibility borne by the industrialised countries for causing climate change, it should be noted that the countries in the BASIC Group have already announced a series of voluntary emissions cuts for 2020.
But with economic power comes responsibility and the group emphasised that they were not just a forum for negotiation but also for cooperation on climate change, science technologies and support for vulnerable countries.
This powerful voice from the developing world is welcome, but the reality remains stark that to prevent the worst impacts of a climate change, industrialised countries need to step up and commit to cutting their emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and provide massive financial and technological support to enable developing nations as a whole to reduce their projected growth in emissions by 15-30% over the same timescale.
The BASIC countries appear to be showing a lead that the wealthy industrialised countries could follow – but it is clear that unless they countries are willing to pick up the gauntlet and make the deep emission cuts that are necessary then the outlook for the future is bleak indeed.
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Paul Horsman is currently leading our campaign on a global climate deal post-Copenhagen. He is an international campaigner with over 25 years experience at the forefront of campaigning on environmental and peace issues in different countries – 20 of these years with Greenpeace.