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Questionable Accord

Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 | 2:57 AM

Violates UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Two years of negotiations for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol since negotiations in Bali has yielded disappointing results. The failure of most of the 37 industrialized countries and the European Community that have committed to reducing their emissions by an average of 5 percent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012 is quite regressive in nature.

Difference between Latin America and United States of America and the moral superiority of the former over the latter starkly manifested itself at the global platform of UN in Denmark. calling for combating inequality, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez took the stage at COP15 to argue that seven percent of the world’s population-500 million richest people- are responsible for 50 percent of emissions, while the poorest 50 percent accounts for only seven percent of emissions and declared, "If the climate was a capitalist bank, the rich governments would have saved it."

President Barack Obama who is the Commander-in-Chief of a nation (along with forty three other countries) in the midst of two wars declared in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech that US is "the world's sole military superpower" and "the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action - it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance." "As the world's largest economy and the world's second largest emitter", he announced in Copenhagen quite miserly that it "will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050" but failed to even mention it in the COP 15 Decision that "Takes note of the Copenhagen Accord of 18 December 2009" by the wherein the Conference of the Parties. It is noteworth that China, which is the largest emitter has nearly five times the US population.

Copenhagen Accord has recognized "the crucial role of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation" (REDD), for "the immediate establishment of a mechanism including REDD-plus, to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries". enhanced action on mitigation, including substantial finance to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD-plus)". It refers to "The collective commitment by developed countries" to "provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010 – 2012 with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation." In 2005, at the COP-11 in Montreal the programme of 'reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries' was initiated which was referred to the UNFCCC's Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice. US and some other rich nations had disputed the proposal but had failed in their attempts because in 2007 at COP-13 in Bali, an agreement was reached on “the urgent need to take further meaningful action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation”, which was to be finalized at COP-15.

The Bali Action Plan adopted at COP13 called for “Policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”. The above paragraph (paragraph 1b (iii)) in the Bali Action Plan is referred to as “REDD-plus”. It is feared that “REDD-plus” includes activities which would have adverse consequences for indigenous people, local communities and forests. The reference to “conservation” in the text might endanger the rights for indigenous peoples and local communities, the mention of "enhancement of forest carbon stocks” might result in conversion of land (including forests) to industrial tree plantations, with serious implications for biodiversity, forests and local communities and there is a danger that sustainable management of forests” is likely to include subsidies to commercial logging operations in old-growth forests, indigenous peoples’ territory or in villagers’ community forests.

The Accord states that developed countries have committed "to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries." A significant portion of such funding should flow through the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund and it has been decided that the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund shall be established as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention to support projects, programme, policies and other activities in developing countries related to mitigation including REDD-plus, adaptation, capacity-building, technology development and transfer. Besides this a Technology Mechanism has been decided to accelerate technology development and transfer in support of action on adaptation and mitigation. REDD and REDD-plus has the potential to be violate the letter and spirit of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, efforts must be made to do away with such texts which consequents in furthering their historical deprivation. Even UN Convention on Biological Diversity ignored the rights of the indigenous peoples. It is not a coincidence that the poorest 20% of the world are living on a tiny 1.6% of global wealth and huge part of it comprises of indigenous people.

While the circumstances of Accor's bith and birth pangs merit attention, to begin with it must be noted that the Accord reached in Denmark at the UNFCCC's COP15 summit was agreed between the US and the BASIC group – Brazil, South Africa, India and China but notably it is now being claimed that it was developed by a group of 25-30 heads of governments of both developing and developed countries. Is it true that only a handful of countries – Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Sudan and Tuvalu – opposed the Accord?. Assuming that the claims being made are true, the fact remains it is contrary to the UN’s consensus decision-making model, which prevent the adoption of the Accord by the UNFCCC. Initially, it was stated that UNFCCC simply took note of the Accord but now it is being argued that has the same legal meaning in the UN as “accepts”. While the legal implications of the "takes note", evident lack of consenus and claim of support of majority of 194 countries who are party to UNFCCC will remain unsettled at least till the next meeting in Mexico, what is clearly settled is a profound shift in global geopolitics.

The system of international treaty making in the post second world war era has not changed since the days of the Opium Wars (1857-58) in which China, India and Western countries were involved. The task to get a legally binding agreement has now shifted to Mexico City in a years time. Indeed a 10 billion dollars per year allocation has ensured a carbon market worth $1.2 trillion per year. Coincidentally, as per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2008 the 15 countries with the highest military budgets spent close to $1.2 trillion on armed forces. Whatever has remained in climate talks is because of this market and what is off the negotiation table is military industrial complex. UN climate talks, WTO talks and nuclear talks must be examined together to get real picture else one would end up getting nothing beyond glimpses and fragments of the truth about the global and local affairs. Clearly, when rich nations talk about climate its about strategic importance of commerce and not about golden hearted environmentalism.

As of now the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been confirmed till 2012 but the future is all set to take a different route based on three documents namely, Report of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA), Report of the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments of Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and Copenhagen Accord. But the legitimacy of the Accord is questionable because any this text does not come from working groups under the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention.

UNFCCC is looking forward to the next major meeting at the CoP 16 in Mexico to achieve what was not achieved at Cop 15, which is second commitement period. Take-it-or-leave-it document called Copenhagen Accord was described by the UN as “politically important”, which it is for sure for it calls "for an assessment of the implementation of this Accord to be completed by 2015, including in light of the Convention’s ultimate objective. This would include consideration of strengthening the long-term goal referencing various matters presented by the science, including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Notably, this disputed Accord talks of a post 2012 and Convention's ultimate objectives in a manifest attempt to pave the way for the future but remains imprisoned in an economic growth model that precedes the first world war. Its a model that ensured that the total income of the 500 richest individuals in the world is greater than the income of the 416 million poorest people, 40 per percent of the global population receives only 5 percent of world income, 1.1 billion people without access to drinking water, 2.6 billion without sanitation services, over 800 million illiterate and 1.02 billion hungry people.

Gopal Krishna
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