Looking to Cochabamba : Where we really stand after Copenhagen

T
he annual meeting of the 192 signatory countries to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as we all may know was held December 7-18, 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. COP– which stands for Conference of Parties had its 15th such meeting (COP-15) to negotiate an international solution to the problem of climate change since the UNFCCC entered into force in 1994. These signatory parties met to discuss climate change and a framework for strategizing reduction in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Much fanfare went into preparations for this meeting and the media feasted copiously on the various projections of the meeting’s outcomes. Around the world, participating governments made claims about their expectations while some were more overt in stating their case against the developed world and their responsibility to the planet.
 
According to the conference website, it was stated that what was expected to be discussed in Copenhagen would be centered around negotiation of several issues, namely: mitigation, adaptation, deforestation, technology transfer and financing, before crafting an international agreement on climate change that is environmentally effective, politically feasible and economically sustainable.
 
By mitigation, expectations were that developed countries reduce their current level of emissions (the amount of CO2 that humans emit into the atmosphere) and developing nations curb the rate of growth in their emissions as they continue to expand economically. Adaptation refers to the reduction of vulnerabilities to populations by the worst effects of climate change, taking into consideration limited funding on the part of developing countries to counteract such effects and thus, must be provided with funds for these measures. Deforestation greatly affects the concentrations of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere (because forests remove CO2 from the atmosphere); expectations were for negotiations to address deforestation concerns. Technology transfer, a feature of previous international agreements such as Kyoto (1997) focuses on developed countries promoting energy efficient and environmentally sound economic growth to developing countries. Financing focuses on the responsibilities of “who pays for what and how much” based on the sustained idea that the historical and ethical responsibility of the current state of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere lay on the shoulders of the  developed world who polluted without restraint during their periods of industrial and economic growth.
 
But what was the Real Deal…
 
Seeking consensus among 192 countries is not going to be an easy task. What occurred however at the 12 day summit was a limited agreement on climate change that fell short of even modest expectations. The original goal of the conference was to emerge with a legally binding treaty to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, amid several spectacles at the conference, the five nation deal among-US, China, India, South-Africa and Brazil secured to limit temperature rises to 2C (2 degrees Celsius) but without specifying the global emissions cuts that would be needed to meet that target as reported by the UK based Telegraph Media Group. Under the agreement, each country is expected to list the actions it will take to cut global warming pollution by specific amounts. The deal also provides a mechanism to help poor countries prepare for climate change. The accord also laid out plans for eventual funding of 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to help poor countries fight climate change, but gave no precise detail on where the money would come from. In the end, pollution cuts and the best way to monitor those actions, a crucial expectation, remained unresolved. A leader of the developing nations bloc, Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, stated the the proposed declaration was “weak” that there was “…nothing ambitious in [the] text”. The U.S’ goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels according to an NPR (National Public Radio) report was said to have fallen “below offers put forward by Europe, Japan, and Russia.
 
 In addition, they reported that analysis by the Eurasia Group, a global political risk research firm, stated that “one of the major revelations coming out of the Copenhagen summit [was] the strength of the developing country coalition. The clear implications from this development [was] that these countries consider their interests far more aligned with each other that with industrialized countries, despite concerted efforts by the U.S, E.U., and others to divide them into two main groupings-poorer countries (such as least developed countries in sub-Saharan Africa) and larger, faster growing economies (like China and India).”
 
The Aftermath
 
 Several mechanisms and perspectives had been blamed: the UN negotiating process to prevent “procedural wrangling”- aims at blocking progress to an international , legally-binding deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the politics of climate change being posed as the problem- alluding to a more ideological than practical base, and the claim that climate change politics according to climate change secretary Ed Miliband must be presented in terms of “economic and other opportunities rather than a sacrifice”. Miliband’s point was that “leaders should see their missions as one of persuading and unifying rather than to “denounce and divide”. There was a lot of talk even with time to digest the aberration of the summit that the mainstream press did not minutely address, like the real reason for the summit’s ‘flop’? In kinder words than I would provide, John Sauven, the UK executive director of Greenpeace’s response to the talks stated: “It seems there are far too few politicians in this world capable of looking beyond the horizon of their own narrow self-interest, let alone caring much for the millions of people who are facing down the threat of climate change. It is now evident that beating global warming will require a radically different model of politics than the one on display here in Copenhagen.”
 
Bolivian President, Evo Morales however, has been more righteous in his talk than most. “Our objective is to save humanity and not just half of humanity. We are here to save mother earth. Our objective is to reduce climate change to [under 1C]. [Above this] many islands will disappear and Africa will suffer a holocaust”. As reported by John Vidal for The Guardian (UK), Morales blamed Capitalism squarely for climate change, stating that: “The real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the earth then we must end that economic model. Capitalism wants to address climate change with carbon markets [as was alluded to by Ed Miliband previously]. We denounce those markets and the countries which [promote them]. It’s time to stop making money from the disgrace that they have perpetrated”. In addition, Evo Morales at the climate change summit in Copenhagen demanded rich countries pay climate change reparations and proposed an international climate court of justice to prosecute countries for climate “crimes”. Morales’ perspectives are in direct opposition to Ed Miliband’s proposal for climate change terms be made via “economic and other opportunities rather than a sacrifice.” Absent of the ever present warring scientists over the major culprits of climate change, there is no question that at least 60% of the world’s population live in coastal areas. There is no question on this matter and yet, Miliband and other delegates who are the overseers of this climate change process cannot see beyond dollar signs to a moral obligation to humanity. Evo Morales in a November 2008 address stated that
 
“Competition and the thirst for profit without limits of the capitalist system are destroying the planet. Under Capitalism we are not human beings but consumers. Under Capitalism Mother Earth does not exist, instead there are raw materials. Capitalism is the source of the asymmetries and imbalances in the world. It generates luxury, ostentation and waste for a few, while millions in the world die from hunger in the world. In the hands of capitalism everything becomes a commodity: the water, the soil, the human genome, the ancestral cultures, justice, ethics, death … and life itself. Everything, absolutely everything, can be bought and sold and under capitalism. And even “climate change” itself has become a business.”
 
Evo Morales and those partnered in his ideals on climate change, are concerned about the structural causes of climate change. Bolivia was in dissent of the non-binding COP-15 agreement and as a result of his dissent with the Copenhagen charade has planned for a Bolivian Alternative Climate Summit for April, 20-22, 2010 in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Though much detail is not the flurry of the press as of current, Morales expects to focus on putting pressure on rich nations to accept the fact that they owe a climate debt to the poor nations of the world, the development of an international court for environmental crimes, a "universal proposal for the rights of mother earth", and technology transfer.
 
It is evident that the latter two are broader goals not fitting with current talks of climate change, but it may be the real “fire at the feet” needed to nip the incessant greed that capitalism has wrought on the minds of humanity: That we do have moral obligations to “Pachamama”-as Evo Morales refers to “Mother Earth” in his native tongue, who provides for our needs, that it is not ok to plunder her so that some (a minority % of the global population- the U.S at only 5%) may live in luxury while the rest of the world suffer to feed themselves. This is an aberration and just another way of marginalizing peoples.  We should all look forward to what avenues the Morales’ Alternative Climate Summit may provide in April. In solidarity with Morales we should agree with his stance that “the earth is much more important than the stock exchanges of Wall Street and the world”. We should be looking toward Cochabamba to unite on some real propositions.
 
Uhuru!

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