The collapse of the Copenhagen conference just before Christmas exploded the myth that somewhere down the road is a multinational agreement on climate change, negotiated through the UN and leading to serious reductions in emissions.
UN Climate Negotiator Yves De Boer yesterday admitted that future negotiations will consist of the powerful nations carving out a deal to be imposed on the rest. De Boer has cynically taken the new reality imposed at Copenhagen and adopted it as policy.
“You cannot have 192 countries involved in discussing all the details ...You do have to safeguard transparency by allowing countries to decide if they want to be represented by others, and that if a debate is advanced then the conclusion is brought back to the larger community," he said.
So people spent years of their lives carefully preparing documents to form a successor binding treaty to Kyoto, and then arrived on the last day to have a 13-paragraph stitch-up thrust at them with two hours to discuss it and sign. It had been prepared by 26 government leaders led by Obama with no reference to anyone.
And now this wretched document is now contemptuously ignored by the very people who wrote it. It included a deadline of 31 January for countries to register the level of emissions reductions they would set out to achieve. With 10 days, to go only 20 of 192 countries have bothered. So now the deadline has been dropped. This is how De Boer explained what happened:
“I do not expect everyone to meet the deadline. Countries are not being asked if they want to adhere… but to indicate if they want to be associated [with the Copenhagen accord]. It's a soft deadline. Countries are not being asked to sign the accord to take on legally binding targets, only to indicate their intention.”
Bolivia distinguished itself at Copenhagen by disassociating itself from the deal and yesterday proposed an entirely different approach to global action on climate change.
Speaking at the UN in New York, Pablo Solon-Romero, deputy permanent representative of Bolivia, said the only effective way to stave off the life-threatening effects of climate change is “to build a true consensus in favour of structural change in global consumption patterns with the participation of all the world’s peoples”.
Speaking at press conference to launch the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights to be held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April, he said greenhouse gas emissions were effects of a “wasteful, unequal system of economics and consumption” He added that the upcoming event would discuss what changes must be made to that model in order to reduce greenhouse gases in a way that was fair to all countries and peoples, and to protect the “rights of Mother Earth”.
The Cochabamba conference aims at developing a set of ideas that will allow the participation of all humankind in ecological policy, including a global referendum on climate change.
Of course, the big NGOs will treat the Bolivian initiative as just another opportunity to put pressure on the “real” negotiating process. Already they are packing their suitcases and preparing their caravans for Mexico next year, for yet another expensive waste of time.
A World to Win sees Cochabamba very differently, as an opportunity to begin to develop the replacement for the process that failed at Copenhagen. We urgently need a new kind of international co-operation to replace one which simply imposes the will of the corporations and their client governments.
It would bring together the peoples of the planet in a democratic forum to plan together to halt the growth in emissions and to mitigate the impacts that are now inevitable. They would draw on all the great expertise represented by climate scientists, world food and health experts and support each others’ development towards self-government and independence. The conference in Bolivia is an important step in this direction and should be supported.