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Climate headed for crash landing

Imagine sending your own daughter on a plane that has only 50 per cent chance of landing. You would never do it. Yet sadly as we gear up for the biggest climate meeting in Copenhagen, this is what many developed countries seem prepared to do with our planet, argues Pablo Solón
December 2009


Much of the discussion in Copenhagen is focused on stabilising greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million (ppm) to limit global warming to an average of 2 degrees. Yet scientists say that at 450 ppm, there is only a 50 per cent chance of not exceeding 2 degrees. That is a huge risk to take. Most scientists say we must keep emissions limited to 300 to 350 ppm, which would limit global warming to about 1-1.5 degrees.

This lack of ambition is matched by an attempt by rich nations to kill the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol, for all its faults, was at least binding, and it also recognised that developed countries had a different obligation from developing nations because their carbon emissions had caused global warming. Now the rich countries want to do away with the Kyoto Protocol and replace it with a new agreement that would dilute their historic responsibilities for the climate crisis. Because of this attempt to avoid decisive action, rich nations are making it increasingly difficult to reach a concrete agreement in Copenhagen.

Bolivia believes that we need to place a concept of climate debt at the heart of the talks, as this climate crisis will only be averted if justice accompanies it. Climate debt tackles the profound social injustice at the heart of climate change - that those least responsible for causing climate change are those that will most suffer its effects. Historically, the developed nations, with less than 20 per cent of the world's population, are responsible for more than three-quarters of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They have pushed the earth beyond its capacity to absorb these gases.

This has created two forms of debt. The 'emissions debt' deprives developing countries of the same right to share the atmosphere equally and develop in the future that were enjoyed by the developed countries. The 'adaptation debt' is incurred because we now face the impacts of climate change in our countries - with deteriorating environmental conditions that will have a huge impact on our quality of life. This climate debt will need to be paid by the world's economically rich nations through substantial commitments to reduce and absorb greenhouse gases and with compensation, including transfers of technology to help build low carbon economies worldwide.

As the talks progress, we can be sure that many of the most powerful nations will use a whole range of tactics to avoid making the necessary commitments to reduce emissions. There will be continuing attempts to divide developing countries. I also won't be surprised if the developed countries get the chair of the UNFCCC or one of the Ad Hoc Working Groups to introduce a last minute paper, saying this is the last chance - and pressure everyone to sign it. Then they will rely on the tactics of blame - saying to developing countries that we are responsible for the failure of the talks if we don't sign it.

That is why all those people of good conscience who believe in creating a safe future for our children must join together and demand a binding, just solution to the gravest crisis that humanity and Mother Earth has faced.

Pablo Solón is Bolivia's ambassador to the UN and part of Bolivia's delegation at COP15

This article is republished from Climate Chronicle


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