North versus South Views on Climate Change

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/07/2009 04:53:00 PM
Noted third world activist Martin Khor of the South Centre pulls no punches in his latest missive anticipating the ongoing Copenhagen summit. To no one's surprise, Khor is not very happy with the outlines of a prospective deal. He says that developed countries are asking for additional concessions previously not asked for of developing countries in binding cuts. Meanwhile, the cuts for developed countries that ought to be binding are lower than expectations. What is more, developed countries are remiss in providing technology transfer as well as development aid to LDCs that will help the latter in becoming low-carbon economies. Putting the question of aid's efficacy aside, it's definitely an intergenerational justice question as the bulk of carbon emissions since the start of the Industrial Revolution have been spewed by Western nations.

If this sounds awfully much like China's position on this issue, you're right. China along with the G-77 group of developing countries has been formulating the Global South's response to climate change. As you may expect, some like Martin Khor see it as possibly another effort to undermine development. Below is the blurb I received via the e-mail; the South Centre site has a heckuva lot more including this neat overview of the issues involved--at least from an activist, third world first perspective that I'm not always averse to:

By Martin Khor (Executive Director, South Centre)


In late November the news on climate change has been on the downgrading of expectations for the Copenhagen conference in December. This is a surprise to those who have been involved in or following the UNFCCC climate talks

The last two sessions of the climate talks - Bangkok in October, Barcelona in November -- saw the deepening of disagreements, instead of bridging of the gaps. There was little progress on the key issues, and a few dramatic events that showed the depth of the impasse.

But it was not all doom and gloom. There was some advance in clarifying some issues, for example some new texts were discussed in finance and technology issues. This helped countries to clarify their positions better, including on structural issues in finance and technology.

First is the future of the Kyoto Protocol. What was signaled in Bangkok in early October was confirmed in Barcelona, that almost all the developed countries have decided to abandon the Protocol.

They apparently want to establish a new agreement, which is likely to be a climb down from the internationally legally binding regime that was Kyoto, to a collection of national efforts and peer review of performance, in the new agreement.

The developing countries made clear in Barcelona that they would not accept this climb-down. But up to the end of Barcelona, developed countries, including the EU, were referring to a "single agreement", the code for discontinuing with the Kyoto process.

Second is the very low level of ambition of developed countries in emission reduction. Most developing countries have called for developed countries to commit to an aggregate cut of at least 40% by 2020 compared to 1990.

The latest figures revealed at Barcelona is that the national announcements amount to only 16-23% (excluding the US; UNFCCC Secretariat data) and 12-19% (including the US, according to an estimate of the Alliance of Small Island States). The developing countries are aghast at such low levels of commitments, which do not form a basis of an environmentally ambitious outcome in Copenhagen.

Third is the continued attempt to shift the burden of responsibility to developing countries, and in violation of the principles and provisions of the Convention and the Bali Action Plan.

Developed countries at Bangkok and Barcelona proposed to blur the distinction between the differentiated responsibilities of developed countries (mitigation commitments that are legally binding) and developing countries (mitigation actions enabled and supported by finance and technology).

The attempt included getting developing countries to adhere to new and broad reporting and verification procedures similar to developed countries, to get some "advanced developing countries" to adhere to reduction emission targets, and to get developing countries in general to have emissions "deviation from business as usual by 15 to 30 percent". These were not agreed to in Bali nor are they in the Convention's provisions.

Fourth, the adequate means to enable developing countries to take actions, are still not forthcoming. On finance, the developed countries have yet as a group to respond to the finance proposals of the developing countries which rage from 0.5 to 5 percent of GNP. The EU's recent announcement of a willingness to consider Euro 22 to 50 billion by 2020 of international public finance is seen by developing countries and by NGOs as grossly inadequate.

On technology transfer, there is a reluctance of developed countries to agree to setting up an executive body to decide on technology issues and to effect technology transfer. An advisory group, which is what they are agreeable to, is not good enough, especially since there has been very little tech-transfer achieved under the Convention for the past decade and half.

The G77 and China's demand is for a new technology body inside the Convention, with policy-making authority. It also wants a relaxation on the rules on intellectual property which is seen as a barrier to technology transfer.

Fifth, there is a difference over the "shared vision" and a long-term global goal for emissions reduction. Some developed countries confirmed their proposal for a global 50% emissions cut by 2050 compared to 1990, and a 80% cut for themselves. However what was unstated is that this requires developing countries to also cut by 20% in absolute terms and 60% in per capita terms. Some developing countries have to cut by significantly more than 60% from the 2009 level.

Thus the "burden" in percentage terms is almost the same. Yet the massive finance and technology transfers that may enable developing countries to take on a part of this challenge is not forthcoming.

There has to be much more discussion on the figures. In particular, the developed countries should undertake to have targets for "negative emissions" (or to achieve net emissions reduction, below zero). And the finance and technology issues have to be resolved beforehand, since developing countries' mitigation actions depend on the support they get.

The above are some of the issues that have to be resolved if Copenhagen is to be a success. Whatever is the nature or form of the outcome (whether a full deal or a framework of a deal, or a decision to continue the talks), the aspects of environment, equity and North-South balance have to be taken care of.