By Hiroshi Nagai and Taro Ichikawa
TOKYO (IDN) - Though the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference in China is far from satisfying, there are glimmers of hope for the year-end global gathering in Cancun, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat, Friends of the Earth International and Oxfam. But there is also lingering scepticism.
As the six-day climate negotiations concluded in Tianjin on October 9, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said that governments had made progress in defining what could be achieved at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun from November 29 to December 10, 2010.
"This week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancun. Governments addressed what is doable in Cancun, and what may have to be left to later," she said.
Figueres said that governments had discussed each element of a package of decisions, including a long-term shared vision, adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, key operational elements of climate finance and capacity building, along with the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Governments need to finalize these decisions in Cancun.
The UN's top climate change official pointed out that action on climate change that could be agreed in Cancun and beyond was about turning "small climate keys to unlock very big doors" into a new level of climate action among rich and poor, business and consumers, governments and citizens.
"If climate financing and technology transfer make it possible to give thousands of villages efficient solar cookers and lights, not only do a nation's entire carbon emissions drop, but children grow healthier, women work easier and families can talk, read and write into the evening, "she said.
"In the end, this is about real people being given the opportunity to take control of their future stability, security and sustainability," she added.
Addressing the media together with Figueres on the final day of the Tianjin meeting, Mexican Foreign Minister and President-designate of the Cancun UN Climate Change Conference Patricia Espinosa said that the Cancun meeting can and should be a significant step forward to benefit everybody, above all the most vulnerable and poor countries.
"In Mexico, we will show the world we are committed to take the next essential steps on climate change and that we are committed to the multilateral path as the only fair and effective route to resolve global problems," she said.
Espinosa also said that no country was stepping back from the emission reduction or limitation pledges it made at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. "Each country has recognized that it will do what it can. No country has reneged from its commitment," she said.
Contradicting this view, Meena Raman of Friends of the Earth International said: "Unfortunately, what we saw in Tianjin was backsliding on the commitments rich countries have already made not forward progress. Rich countries are still refusing to meet their obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide funds for developing countries to deal with climate change.
"Now, rather than honouring their existing legal commitments, they are immorally trying to shift the burden to developing countries and extract further concessions from them. A second period of pollution reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol is essential. We must progress toward this second period in Cancun, as the first one expires in 2012."
Friends of the Earth U.S.'s Karen Orenstein said: "While rich countries' backtracking has been tremendously disappointing, there is at least one sign of hope to emerge from Tianjin. The establishment of a global climate fund under the authority of the UNFCCC appears within reach. The devil, though, is in the details. The fund must be designed entirely within the UNFCCC with no role for the World Bank. And the United States must stop holding the fund hostage to new demands on poorer countries. Rich countries’ legal as well as ethical obligation to provide financial resources to developing countries must not be treated as conditional."
Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland's Asad Rehman said: "We saw in Tianjin a similar dynamic to what we saw in Copenhagen, with rich countries refusing to do their part to solve the problem. But something new is happening too. A growing international climate justice movement is taking to the streets and putting increasing pressure on political leaders. That movement will be crucial to our ability to achieve progress in Cancun."
International development agency Oxfam said the outline of an agreement on a set of decisions at the Cancun summit in December are beginning to appear, but governments will need to work with real urgency and the utmost determination to achieve real progress this year.
"Real progress can be made in Cancun. But all the talk of 'balanced outcomes' this week will mean absolutely nothing if governments don't make key decisions to keep the flame of a fair, safe and binding global agreement alight," said Kelly Dent, Senior Climate Change Advisor for Oxfam. "Poor people around the world cannot afford for that light to be extinguished. It is a matter of survival."
Oxfam said that the establishment of a new Global Climate Fund that would assist developing countries to adapt to climate change impacts is a vital and achievable outcome for Cancun. Other key elements of a "balanced outcome" to ensure the talks to move forward, include a pathway to a binding agreement that will ensure more ambitious action on emissions reductions and the provision of long-term finance by rich countries.
"This week has shown us that substantive building blocks, like the climate fund, can be achieved in Cancun. It is crucial that rich countries don’t hold the climate fund hostage to progress in other areas of the negotiations. Treating the new fund as a bargaining chip will only result in deadlock and more suffering for vulnerable people in poor countries," she added.
Oxfam is calling for a new Global Climate Fund that is equitable, accountable, transparent and efficient. The fund must be accessible for poor countries, with at least half of the funding going to help vulnerable people adapt to a changing climate, especially women farmers who are responsible for producing over half the food in some poor countries.
U.S. AND CHINA
Much of the attention in Tianjin focused on the United States and China -- while others countries slipped off the radar.
Striking a sceptical note, U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing said after the talks in the Chinese city of Tianjin: "We have made some very modest progress, but unfortunately it is very limited. . . .We did not get a balanced outcome yet." He added: "The lack of progress gives us concern for the prospects for Cancun.”
Chinese negotiator Su Wei said "some developed nations" were "trying to rewrite" the Kyoto Protocol on emissions controls, and "shun their emission cut obligations". Chinese state media quoted Su as saying: "That is a retreat from the past meeting. Any moves that aim to overthrow the Kyoto Protocol should be denounced."
Dent said: "The debate about tackling climate change shouldn't be about just two countries -- no matter how powerful -- when the most savage impacts are felt by those least responsible for causing climate change. If effective solutions to the climate crisis are to be found, their views must be heard in the negotiations."
Dent said she is encouraged by the role played by Chinese civil society around the Tianjin talks. "The active participation of Chinese civil society, which has created important dialogue in the public domain, has been particularly impressive in Tianjin. It is yet another reflection of the growing global movement to tackle climate change," she added.
The Tianjin climate meeting was attended by about two and half thousand participants from more than 176 countries, including government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organisations and research institutions.
With 194 Parties, UNFCCC has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 191 of the UNFCCC Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.
The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. (IDN-InDepthNews/09.10.2010)
Copyright © IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters
Related IDN articles: