15, Number 19
the news section:
A Caribbean perspective on the climate change summit
by Bharrat Jagdeo
Address by Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, at the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 17 December 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark.
I am not going to stand here and re-define the climate change problem. We know the gravity of what we face.
Instead I want to focus on what we can do to solve the problem.
It would be tempting to be daunted by its complexity. It would be especially tempting to leave it to others to forge the global solution, and to blame them if they fail, not through endless procedural wrangling and national posturing.
But the people of our countries deserve more than political rhetoric and defensive posturing while we prepare for failure. Instead, they deserve our hard-working, problem-solving, reality-grounded resolve to face down the threat of catastrophic climate change.
There has been much talk this week of procedural failings, of logistical mistakes and of a lack of transparency in the way this Conference of the Parties has been managed. I agree with many of these criticisms, and I suggest that we have much to learn to make sure it does not happen again.
Alternative texts that are negotiated outside of the COP process, confusion about when meetings are to take place and about what the meetings are to discuss, delegates forced to stand in the cold for hours on end just to enter the building: these are matters I wish had been handled in a better way.
But we need to remember why we came here in the first place. Because for all the talk of brackets and of mis-managed procedure, a solution is still within our grasp. A solution that will bring hope to billions of people, that their children's future is not being squandered and that decades of human progress will not be reversed.
As leaders, we need to identify and solve the strategic issues that will create this hope. If we as leaders think that we should work through hundreds of brackets in a legal text, we will fail. Our job is to cut through invented complexity, and to instruct our negotiators to quickly translate our decisions into operational language that can then be codified into a legal agreement. This is the best way to isolate those who would stand in the way of progress.
I believe that there are four issues that we as leaders can resolve to use the remaining hours to generate momentum to secure a positive outcome.
First, we need to reconcile our differences on the temperature target that is needed to stabilize our atmosphere. I support the AOSIS target of stabilizing at 1.5 degrees. But whether we target 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees is irrelevant if disagreeing about the target makes the achievement of both impossible. This confusion may suit some countries by blocking a deal, so we need to enshrine in our agreement a process that maximizes ambition, but is continually guided by science.
We should commit here to a maximum 2 degree rise above pre-industrial levels, and use the IPCC process to translate scientific evidence into a revised set of targets when necessary. We should also commit to a specific review of the evidence for a 1.5 degree target by a particular date. We in AOSIS should subscribe to this position only if the following issues are resolved to the satisfaction of the developing world.
Second, to achieve these targets, we need to ensure that the developed world agrees to ambitious, binding cuts in emissions, and we should leave here with clear commitments that cannot be reversed. Focusing on targets is meaningless unless we are mobilizing the action needed to achieve them. If the commitments made here are still not enough to reach the stabilization targets we set, we need to finalize the commitments in a legally binding agreement within six months. We should also commit to use a 2015 review process to assess the performance and ambition level of the individual commitments.
Third, we need to see commitments to financial transfers to the developing world that match the scale of what needs to be done. I welcome the announcements of recent days and in particular, I applaud the progressive commitments from the European Union, Japan and others to both a Fast Start Fund for the next three years and a 2020 target for significantly scaled-up funding.
But welcome as these are, we need to be frank that others have not yet fully internalized what is needed to solve this problem. At a minimum, we need to leave here with commitments for a Fast Start Fund of US$10 billion per year from 2010 to 2012, coupled with a mechanism to make it work effectively --- that is less over three years than the bonus pool of three of the world's investment banks for one year, 2009.
We also need to leave with a firm commitment to funding up until 2020. At an absolute minimum, that funding must be $100 billion per year. Not only to finance the adaptation needs of the developing world, but also because if we are to defeat climate change, we need to unleash the biggest wave of innovation the world has ever seen to stimulate energy efficiency, catalyze a global move to clean energy, and to redesign the agricultural and forestry economies in the developing world.
The fourth issue is the form of the long-term agreement and the monitoring, reporting and verifying of the commitments that countries make. This can be resolved in a way that ensures the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol's provisions for countries that have ratified Kyoto, whereas other Annex I countries are required to commit to targets in which the rest of the world can have confidence, and where the large developing countries can demonstrate how their contributions are real, and in accordance with the principles of common but differentiated responsibility.
A COP decision that encapsulates each of the above is within reach in the next two days - if we apply collective political will.
Some have said that it is unfortunate that Copenhagen is taking place this year, after the financial crisis ravaged economies across the world, leaving many countries heavily indebted and in recession. I disagree. This past year has shown what the international community can do when its interests are in danger. Trillions of dollars were mobilized to rescue banks and protect the economies of the developed world. Long-established conventions were torn up to rescue entire countries. Governments in the developed world invested heavily to save jobs, citizens' homes and individual companies. This year has therefore shown that when the world wants to act, the world is able to act.
We stand ready to do what we can to break through the problems that remain. But we must also be frank. The world is looking, not to small countries like mine, and not even to bigger more powerful countries in the European Union and elsewhere. The world is now looking to two countries for leadership: the United States of America and China.
We understand the reality that President Obama's progressive domestic agenda and international military commitments both require immense political capital and administrative effort. We also recognize the justice in China's argument that it bears little responsibility for the accumulation of pollution in our atmosphere, and that in the absence of action from others, it does not bear the responsibility for acting first.
But at this point in history, we need leadership that transcends these realities, and a generosity of national commitment that matches the greatness of these two nations.
The United States needs to recognize that a 4 percent reduction on a 1990 baseline is simply not enough to stabilize our climate. The so-called realities of domestic politics do not change this scientific truth. Recent policy shifts concerning the US Environmental Protection Agency are welcome.
Yesterday's announcement of support for addressing deforestation, and today's announcement that the United States will play its part in generating $100 billion globally per annum by 2020 are both significant steps forward. But cumulatively, the people of the world need the United States to do more, especially to commit to deeper emissions reductions.
China has been a true friend to the developing world, and has consistently given us a powerful voice against the vested interests of those who seek to hold back the poorer countries of the world. We, the developing countries of the world, now need China's help to defend us against an even bigger threat. China's ability to solve problems of immense scale and complexity has been shown again and again, as they have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
The world now needs China to apply this ability to stop us from racing to climate disaster. I hope that China will do this, not because anybody is telling them to, but because they are the world's indispensable actor and the future of developing countries everywhere is dependent on their action.
With joint leadership from the United States and China, the world can turn the risk of irreversible, devastating climate change into the biggest wave of innovation, green growth and collective action that the world has ever seen.
To conclude, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we are presented with one of the most profound choices in history. We hold in our hands the well being of billions. And when future generations look back on these days, they will not focus on brackets and the administrative failings of those who ran this process. They will look at the world around them. They will look at the quality of their own lives and the lives of their children. They will know whether the universal values that underpin peace, justice and human development gained ground because of the decisions we make.
And they will judge whether their world is one of opportunity and hope, or one of increasing conflict and climate disaster. That world, their world, is not predestined. It is being created by us at this time in this city. Whether or not we let them down is entirely up to us.
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