Climate regime on the brink
climate talks held in
month of June saw the first real negotiations on climate change since
the United Nations conference in
issues were discussed at the meetings in
The progress was in the setting up of a Standing Committee on finance (that is expected to oversee and track climate funds for developing countries), a technology transfer mechanism, and an adaptation committee to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change.
discussed was the concern that in taking climate actions, developed
countries may cause economic or social harm to poorer countries. Some
developed countries are already preparing unilateral measures to impose
charges or taxes on goods and services of developing countries, an issue
highlighted at a special workshop in
The Europeans came under fire for their new scheme to tax foreign airlines that do not meet greenhouse gas emission standards. There was also concern over some United States Congress bills that call for an emissions charge on some developing countries' products.
In future, such unilateral measures should be discussed before they are designed or implemented, and a forum under the UNFCCC should be set up on the impacts of mitigation actions to provide this kind of preventive diplomacy. This was suggested by many of the developing countries.
Despite good discussions on these issues, however, both the climate situation and the prospects for the global climate regime have become more grim.
Global emissions from the energy sector went up a record 5% last year, according to the International Energy Agency, which painted a doomsday scenario if this trend continues (see box).
developed countries except the
three countries (
European Union (EU) countries, traditionally the strongest members of
the KP, have yet to declare conclusively whether they will sign up.
If they do, some others like
if they don't, then the KP will almost surely die out. In its place
will probably be an inferior system of voluntary pledges by both developed
and some developing countries. The outlines of this new system were
already ushered in at
The inadequacy of such a voluntary system can be seen from the pledges already made by the developed countries.
Instead of cutting their emissions by at least 25-40% below 1990 levels in 2020 as science requires (or by more than 40%, as demanded by developing countries), the developed countries will actually increase their emissions by 6% in a bad scenario (based on the lower end of pledges and the use of loopholes) or will only cut by 16% in the good scenario (based on the upper end of pledges and without the use of loopholes). These estimates were made in a report of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) last December.
These pledges, together with targets announced by some developing countries, indicate that the world is moving towards a global temperature increase of between 2.5 and 5 degrees Celsius before the end of this century, according to the report. This is far removed from the 1.5oC or 2oC 'safe limit', and is a recipe for catastrophe.
Recently another report was published showing that the pledges by major developing countries would contain more emission reductions than those of major developed countries.
According to Oxfam, the study it commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to do shows that:
* The emission reductions of developing countries could be three times greater than those of the EU by 2020;
The emission reductions of
is still hope for success in
Developing countries meanwhile for the first time are making national targets, and those of the largest countries have been credible, as the SEI report shows. In future, as they gain more experience and confidence, the developing countries as a whole will be prepared to do even more.
However, it is neither fair nor realistic to expect the developing countries to make the same binding commitments as the developed countries.
Furthermore, to downgrade from the current system with the KP at its centre, to just a voluntary regime in which every country can choose by how much to cut (or raise) their emissions will be a recipe for disaster.
If that does not take place, we may witness the dismantling of the present regime, even as events on the ground, such as increased floods, hurricanes and forest fires around the world, indicate that the climate change crisis is already upon us.
Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, an intergovernmental
policy think-tank of developing countries, and former Director of the
*Third World Resurgence No. 250, June 2011, pp 11-12