Rich states ‘not acting fast enough’

December 3rd, 20115:05 pm @


Sayed Talat Kamal
Durban, South Africa

Durban, Dec 3 ( — Developing countries have raised concerns that they are taking climate change as a more serious global crisis than the rich countries.

The US, in particular, is seen to be dragging its foot on key issues. Delegates at the UN Climate Summit at Durban from Europe and the head of the African bloc have separately denounced the US position.

“Developed countries as a whole are not taking climate change seriously as a global issue,” said Mali delegate Seyni Nafo. Pointing to the US leadership on democracy, human rights and market access, Nafo said, “We want to have the same leadership to tackle climate change.”

The EU chief negotiator, Arthur Runge-Metzger, while expressing his concerns, however, acknowledged that the US delegation may be hampered by the present US domestic scene where climate change was perceived to be an unpopular issue. “It’s very hard for the Obama administration to move forward with climate change because of the situation in Congress,” he said.

The US is perceived as stalling, as it negotiates for conditions on the deal that would legally bind all countries to limit their greenhouse gas emissions – holding up discussions on how to raise US$100 billion earmarked for poor countries to develop low-carbon economies and deal with the effects of global warming.

Climate change is a result of greenhouse gases trapping the sun’s heat in the earth’s atmosphere raising global temperatures, which in turn trigger change weather conditions leading to stronger and more frequent cyclones and floods, rising seas, drought, erosion and increased salinity.

It is widely accepted that a rise of global temperatures over 2 degrees Celsius would cause irreversible climate change. Global studies, endorsed by the UN and the scientific community indicate that in order to arrest the temperature rise within 1.5 degrees, global emissions must reduced to 40 percent of what they were in 1990 by the year 2020 and to 95 percent of 1990-levels by 2050. Furthermore, emissions must not peak after 2015.

Instead of a binding target, the US has said that it favours voluntary pledges by countries to do as much as they can to control emissions. The US has promised to cut its emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020; a pledge that the US delegation chief Jonathan Pershing said this week that he did not believe would change in the near future.

Runge-Metzger, however, asserts that these voluntary pledges taken all together would still amount to about half of what scientists say is required to avert potential climate disaster.

On another front, Rene Orellana, head of the Bolivian delegation, in his nation’s first statement, has categorically dismissed the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (Redd) initiative.

Redd is a set of steps designed to use financial initiatives to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation; and because forests produce carbon credits it is considered an emissions offsetting scheme.

“Bolivia is showing strongly against the mechanism of Redd,” Orellana said, “the role of the forest is not for carbon stocks.”

Almost half of Bolivia is blanketed by forests, “as a people who live in the forest, we are not carbon stocks,” the Bolivian delegate asserted.

“Forests provide a role of food security, a water resource and biodiversity for our indigenous population. Redd reduces the function of the forest as just one, carbon stocks,” he added.

Orellana also went on to criticise some of the aspects of the Green Climate Fund, particularly payments based on results of green initiatives.

While Bolivia has suffered political instability of late, the country has been firm on its environmental stand at the 17th instalment of the conference of parties to the UN climate change convention. For example, this year the South American nation has passed the world’s first laws granting nature equal rights to humans.

Scientists predict that heat waves currently experienced once every 20 years will happen every year due to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Moreover coastal areas and islands were threatened with inundation by global warming and within a decade up to 250 million more people would face water scarcity.

Climate action proponents argue that carbon concentration stabilisation in the atmosphere would only slow economic growth by 0.12 percent per year but, more importantly, that the costs would be offset by improved health, greater energy security and more secure food supplies.

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