Saturday, December 03, 2011

COP and COPs

A police constable guarding our hotel in the city of Durban in South Africa where COP 17 is happening told me that local people here wondering whether this is an event organised by them. As you know COP is an acronym for (Police) constables. He asked me what is happening inside the International Convention Centre (ICC) where the world governments are gathering to discuss the future of the climate on the Earth. He told me that local people don’t understand how to react to the climate problem and if they were told they could have done something that would help reduce climate change.

Sunday night downpour killed 13 people in the area of Durban. The same cyclone killed 11 people in Sri Lanka and reported many fishermen are missing. Sri Lankan authorities admitted that they failed to inform the people about the Cyclone on Sunday. This is the story across the world. More cyclones and droughts are common in the World.  According to the IPCC experts it is virtually certain that on a global scale hot days become even hotter and occur more often. For the high emissions scenario, it is likely that the frequency of hot days will increase by a factor of 10 in most regions of the world. Likewise, heavy precipitation will occur more often, and the wind speed of tropical cyclones will increase while their number will likely remain constant or decrease.

Pablo Solon, former chief negotiator of Bolivia said “In Cancun, the developed countries listed their greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges for the 2012-2020 periods. The United States and Canada said they would reduce emissions by 3% based on 1990 levels, the European Union between 20% and 30%, Japan 25%, and Russia from 15% to 25%. Adding up all the reduction pledges of the developed countries, the total reduction in emissions by 2020 would be 13-17%, based on 1990 levels. However, Kyoto targets expect to reduce GHG emission by 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The current pledged are far behind this expectations and it will increase the temperature 5-8 degrees Celsius. Are we ready for this?

It is clear that United State want to kill Kyoto protocol. They are not signatory to it. Russia, Canada and Japan declare that they will never agree to a second commitment of period of the Kyoto Protocol. Will the Kyoto protocol die in Durban?

It is clear that the countries are not going to agree on the earth climate future in Durban. However, South African Government is trying hard to produce a “Durban mandate” as a result of the ongoing negotiations. The “mandate” is nothing else other than agreeing on the EU position. The EU publicly supports a second commitment period as it believes that a single legally-binding instrument would be the best while that it should be the last one before convergence between the Kyoto Protocol and Convention outcomes, and that in any case it should last no longer than 2020. So hopefully Kyoto will survive although it is in great danger in Durban.

Other than the Kyoto protocol is being the only legally binding treaty, it has provision to cover the  principle of “historical responsibility”  and the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility. It is in the opinion of many in the climate justice movement that the world is no longer going to have these principles in any future agreement. Saving Kyoto Protocol therefore is the responsibility of the developing countries.

Many African countries and small Island states are trying hard to save it. G77 and China is also trying its best to stop wrecking the Kyoto ship in Durban harbour. Yet, is not an easy task. Many smaller countries including Sri Lanka has no voice in the climate summits. Unfortunately as one of the most vulnerable island nation, we haven’t played our role in the climate negotiations.

Developing countries should be committed to direct the UNFCC negotiations in line with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations of greenhouse gas emissions reduction for developed countries (including the EU) of at least -25 to -40% based on 1990 levels by 2020, and -80 to -95% by 2050 to avoid an increase in global temperature of more than 2°C by 2100. However, division in African, Asian and other developing country groupings may decide the survival of the vulnerable communities due to climate change.

Duty of the COP (Constables) is to secure the people. Can COP 17 secure all of us living on the earth?

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