Thursday, November 28, 2013

United Nations Climate Conference Again Fails to Agree on Reducing Pollution

United Nations Climate Conference Again Fails to Agree on Reducing Pollution

Warsaw meeting characterized by acrimony and compromise

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

In the former socialist state of Poland yet another gathering to discuss the impact of climate change ended without firm commitments to reduce CO2 emissions. Over 190 countries attended the event which is ostensibly designed to address the ongoing threat to the world's environment.

Under the banner of the 19th Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) environmentalists condemned theevent claiming that no real agreement could be reached due to the intransigence of the western industrialized states.

These meetings have been held since 1992 but are routinely marred by fierce debates over who should be responsible for reforming the character of production policies aimed at addressing the degradation of the planet as exemplified by global warming which is said to have a profound impact on disastrous storms and flooding.

Not even a weak agreement would have occurred if China and India had not backed away from demanding that specific goals related to the 1992 meeting calling for specific actions by the imperialist states be adhered to. On November 21, environmental activists had walked out of the gathering frustrated that no real progress was being made.

According to an article published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "The Warsaw conference called on parties to announce their offers to rein in or cut emissions by the first quarter of 2015 if they are 'in a position to do so.' But it gave little detail on what kind of information should go into those offers."

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists was quoted as saying that "Unfortunately, they failed to agree on what process and criteria they would use to evaluate the adequacy and fairness of each other's proposed actions." (, November 23)

Moving Further Away From the Kyoto Protocol

The United States has been the most obstinate government in rejecting concrete guidelines and objectives aimed at reducing CO2 emissions.

Even under the current Obama administration the notion that there should be standards established that hold the capitalist countries accountable for their industrial crimes against the planet has been firmly rejected.

Todd Stern, the U.S. envoy for climate change, reiterated that there should be no categories of countries as it relates to emission standards. In Washington's policy submissions to the UN it opposes formulas which would provide guidelines based upon the economic capacity and character of various states.

The U.S. documents frames the discussion on climate change as a "race to the top" in which "parties are both comfortable with putting their best commitment forward, and uncomfortable about not putting their best effort forward, because they want others to see they are contributing the most they can do to solve the climate problem."

India has maintained that formulas should exist based upon the degree of industrialization and a state's carbon emissions that would be strictly measured. China also wants the pollution history of various countries taken into consideration as a precursor for any binding agreement that may develop by 2015.

At present the existing categories consist of Annex 1, the capitalist industrialized states largely in the West and non-Annex 1, the former colonial, semi-colonial and so-called developing or emerging economies. Both China and India wants the developed states to provide assistance to the developing countries in order to improve technological systems that limit greenhouse gases.

With specific reference to Indian governmental policy documents submitted to the UN there should not be any "dilution" of the annex framework. Developing states over the last two decades have continued to demand that wealthy countries adopt legally binding quantified emission reductions programs while the oppressed and emerging economies will make changes "enabled by finance and technology transfer," based upon how much various states have contributed to climate change. (E&E Climate Wire, November 18)

Western industrial state funding must be enhanced, India argues, and it is also stressing the need to loosen intellectual property rights on environmental technology, an objective that Washington is adamant should not be realized.

South Africa has also been involved in the debate around climate change. The country is considered one of the emerging economies and has recently joined the Brazil, Russia, China, India (BRICS) Summit which held its last gathering in Durban.

Lisa Friedman wrote in E&E Publishing that "South Africa has one of the most comprehensively laid-out submissions for the 2015 deal. While it shares the language of its fellow emerging powers about the need for equity, South Africa breaks with others on some key issues. For one thing, it wants to see a single legally binding protocol for all parties, with a common global commitment to stay below the 2-degree threshold, saying that approach 'has the most potential to mobilize ambition.'"(November 18)

Although South Africa maintains that there should be different approaches to emission standards for developing and developed states.

Nonetheless, between 2020-2030 there should be a transition for lesser developed countries which will strictly limit CO2 emissions.

Brazil over the last two years served as a mediator between the sharp differences between developed and developing states. However now, they appear to have shifted to a different view that is quite similar to that of India and China basing guidelines upon the history of carbon emissions.

The aim of the U.S. and Canada is to prevent the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol treaty that was adopted by the UNFCCC in 1997. The document set the stage for the current positions adopted by developing states and environmentalists that places responsibility for climate change on the industrialized capitalist states.

Kyoto was slated to go into effect in 2005 but the U.S., which signed the agreement and is the world's major polluter, has failed to ratify the treaty. Canada, which also signed the treaty, withdrew from it in 2011.

Ottawa under its present Conservative Party leadership has moved closer to the U.S. on many international issues involving environmental as well as military affairs. Although the European Union adopted the Kyoto Protocol, its alliance with the U.S. has prevented it from adopting similar views as the developing states.

Environmental Debate Must Be Given a Class Character

It is in the interests of the majority of nations and peoples of the world for measures aimed at preserving the planet to be put in place with firm regulations and guidelines. The major impediment to the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol is the quest for profit maximization that has characterized the world capitalist system for well over a century.

The increase in so-called natural disasters including massive heatwaves, storms and floods have been attributed to climate change.

Inside the U.S. the issue is highly politicized with the barons of Wall Street influencing government and academia to deny even the existence of a crisis in climate change.

Environmentalists must view the ideological and political struggles surrounding climate change as a manifestation of the modern-day global class struggle. Progressives, trade unionists, national liberation movements, socialist states and international solidarity activists must enter the debate in order to provide it with the necessary organizational direction to push back the U.S. and its allies in their continuing exploitation of peoples around the world.

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