Copenhagen Negotiators Bicker and Filibuster While the Biosphere Burns
George Monbiot despairs at the chaotic, disastrous denouement of a chaotic and disastrous climate summit
Saturday, December 19, 2009
by George Monbiot
First they put the planet in square brackets, now they have deleted it from the text. At the end it was no longer about saving the biosphere: it was just a matter of saving face. As the talks melted down, everything that might have made a new treaty worthwhile was scratched out. Any deal would do, as long as the negotiators could pretend they have achieved something. A clearer and less destructive treaty than the text that emerged would be a sheaf of blank paper, which every negotiating party solemnly sits down to sign.
This was the chaotic, disastrous denouement of a chaotic and disastrous summit. The event has been attended by historic levels of incompetence. Delegates arriving from the tropics spent 10 hours queueing in sub-zero temperatures without shelter, food or drink, let alone any explanation or announcement, before being turned away. Some people fainted from exposure; it’s surprising that no one died. The process of negotiation was just as obtuse: there was no evidence here of the innovative methods of dispute resolution developed recently by mediators and coaches, just the same old pig-headed wrestling.
Watching this stupid summit via webcam (I wasn’t allowed in either), it struck me that the treaty-making system has scarcely changed in 130 years. There’s a wider range of faces, fewer handlebar moustaches, frock coats or pickelhaubes, but otherwise, when the world’s governments try to decide how to carve up the atmosphere, they might have been attending the conference of Berlin in 1884. It’s as if democratisation and the flowering of civil society, advocacy and self-determination had never happened. Governments, whether elected or not, without reference to their own citizens let alone those of other nations, assert their right to draw lines across the global commons and decide who gets what. This is a scramble for the atmosphere comparable in style and intent to the scramble for Africa.
At no point has the injustice at the heart of multilateralism been addressed or even acknowledged: the interests of states and the interests of the world’s people are not the same. Often they are diametrically opposed. In this case, most rich and rapidly developing states have sought through these talks to seize as great a chunk of the atmosphere for themselves as they can – to grab bigger rights to pollute than their competitors. The process couldn’t have been better designed to produce the wrong results.
I spent most of my time at the Klimaforum, the alternative conference set up by just four paid staff, which 50,000 people attended without a hitch. (I know which team I would put in charge of saving the planet.) There the barrister Polly Higgins laid out a different approach. Her declaration of planetary rights invests ecosystems with similar legal safeguards to those won by humans after the second world war. It changes the legal relationship between humans, the atmosphere and the biosphere from ownership to stewardship. It creates a global framework for negotiation which gives nation states less discretion to dispose of ecosystems and the people who depend on them.
Even before the farce in Copenhagen began it was looking like it might be too late to prevent two or more degrees of global warming. The nation states, pursuing their own interests, have each been passing the parcel of responsibility since they decided to take action in 1992. We have now lost 17 precious years, possibly the only years in which climate breakdown could have been prevented. This has not happened by accident: it is the result of a systematic campaign of sabotage by certain states, driven and promoted by the energy industries. This idiocy has been aided and abetted by the nations characterised, until now, as the good guys: those that have made firm commitments, only to invalidate them with loopholes, false accounting and outsourcing. In all cases immediate self-interest has trumped the long-term welfare of humankind. Corporate profits and political expediency have proved more urgent considerations than either the natural world or human civilisation. Our political systems are incapable of discharging the main function of government: to protect us from each other.
Goodbye Africa, goodbye south Asia; goodbye glaciers and sea ice, coral reefs and rainforest. It was nice knowing you. Not that we really cared. The governments which moved so swiftly to save the banks have bickered and filibustered while the biosphere burns.
From Copenhagen to Sabah: 1Earth, 1Climate Change; 1Najib?
By Saves DK
From Copenhagen to Sabah – Does the threat of Climate Change ‘change’ according to Time Zones?
Dear Prime Minister Najib Razak,
Once again, we welcome your serious and determined efforts to reduce carbon emission to help halt global warming in the interests of our future generations.
Surely, the first important step to CUTTING (rather than increasing) carbon emission is to cancel the proposed coal power plant to be built in Felda Sahabat, Lahad Datu, which is very close to the various pristine, precious natural paradise of Darvel Bay, Coral Triangle Initiative, Tabin Wildlife Conservation area and so on, which make the East Coast of Sabah one of the remaining natural treasures of the world.
You have asked for our views “on what more we can do to ensure a greener Malaysia, so that we can learn from each other.” Great! Here are some. We do not dream that you would actually ‘learn’ from humble Sabahans like us, but we would be very grateful already if you could at least be consistent in your position on climate change and coal.
You have asked Sabah to accept the “dirty, environmentally not friendly” coal power plant even though:
Sabah does NOT produce coal, and all the coal used for the proposed power plant would have to be IMPORTED all the way from Indonesia.
We can understand why countries like China and USA use coal — because coal is produced locally in these countries; but we are puzzled by why we are forced to import toxic trash like coal when we don’t need it nor want it here in Sabah!
Sabah has ALTERNATIVES to generate electricity without resorting to dirty coal.
As a major palm oil producer, we — especially in the East Coast of Sabah — have plenty of empty fruit bunches left over everyday, a natural waste product of cultivating palm oil, which could be easily used for generating bio-mass power. All it takes is for your government to take steps to tap into this abundantly and easily available resource of Sabah. Yet, it does not seem that your government is serious about taking any other initiative which would save Sabah from coal.
Or, we could either use the natural gas produced in Kimanis, Sabah itself or — if your government insists on depriving Sabahans of their own natural resources by exporting it all the way to Sarawak — then at least exchange the export of our natural gas to Sarawak with hydro-electricity power from Bakun Dam, Sarawak, which your government now plans to export all the way — across the mountains, forests and even ocean — to West Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Anywhere but Sabah, even though it is feasible to supply to the East Coast of Sabah.
Basically, your government has:
forced us to give up our own natural gas from Kimanis, Sabah,
refused to at least give us clean hydro-power from Bakun, Sarawak in exchange,
exporting Bakun hydro-power to everywhere EXCEPT Sabah, and then
forced us in Sabah to IMPORT DIRTY COAL from Indonesia!!
Why is it that when it comes to DIVERTING clean energy sources AWAY FROM Sabah, your government is willing to leave no stone unturned regardless of how difficult it may be, but when it comes to POLLUTING Sabah with dirty, environmentally unfriendly coal, your government is determined to force it down our throats and even ask us to sacrifice?
This basically sums up Sabahans’ bewilderment with your decision to force us to accept coal:
“The bottom line is Sabah has alternatives to having a coal-fired power plant and the technology is available now, what we seem to have is a lack of will from certain parties who say that there is no alternative but this is not true, we have alternatives. Imagine what a great model for the world Sabah will be with this!”
Whether the proposed coal power plant passes the so-called “Environmental Impact Assessment” and whether there really is such a thing as “clean coal technology” are completely beside the point — because Sabah DOES NOT NEED COAL IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Therefore, we are still very puzzled by why you must FORCE us to accept coal, given your own apparently strong stand on climate change and dislike of coal whenever you spoke OUTSIDE of Sabah.
In Paris, when addressing the Unesco General Conference on 6 October 2009, you have said:
“…The forthcoming summit in Copenhagen must reflect a strong commitment and action to reverse serious deterioration of planet earth.
The tragedies in the region such as the earthquake in Padang, Indonesia, hurricanes in the Philippines, tsunami in Samoa and major floods in southern India “should remind us of how fragile the world we live in is, and how interdependent our world has become“.
Najib said that although the task of the policymakers and leaders in ensuring that these challenges were met was not easy, they could not afford the price of inaction.
“We need to do what is right even if it is hard. These are the challenges of our times. It can neither be left unmet nor unresolved.
“They must be addressed head on by the world community with a concerted will and common purpose drawing upon our reservoir of good will and collective experience.””
But how can there be “the next logical extension of the national philosophy would be the concept of 1Region and ultimately 1World” when you can’t even have a 1Coal Policy? (Or is this ‘anomaly’ only peculiar to Sabah — the only Malaysian State where ALL EXCEPTIONS APPLY?)
In Kuala Lumpur, on 31 October 2009, in your keynote address at Malaysia’s electricity utility monopoly (the parent company of those who are hell-bent on setting up the coal power plant in Sabah), Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s 60th anniversary celebration, you said:
“…The government needs to revise its energy policy, ..the current one [is] obsolete and in need of a revamp… was proven to be costly, both environmentally and financially.
“I don’t like the current energy policy. It’s not right,” he told some 1,500 TNB workers attending the event.
“…coal is what we call DIRTY technology, it’s NOT environmentally friendly,”
As revealed in Najib’s maiden Budget recently, the prime minister told the media that his administration had started studying sectors like renewable energy and green technology to replace the current policy.
“It’s not a short-term solution, it’s a long one but we need to make the first step,” he said.”
Surely, the ‘first step’ is NOT to build more coal power plant, certainly not in the State of Sabah which is heavily dependent on its natural treasures for its tourism business.
On your blog on 21 November 2009, you have said:
“With nations recently meeting to discuss a climate change treaty, ahead of the Copenhagen summit in December, I’m reminded that the environment is everyone’s responsibility, and that we must all change our mindset to give it greater consideration. We should do this especially as we are custodians for future generations.
New Malaysian initiatives unveiled recently leave me feeling ever optimistic that we are doing more to preserve what we have, in order that our children and their children may enjoy our unique, natural wonders for years to come.“
And on your blog on 14 December 2009, you then said:
“Climate change is probably the most critical issue facing mankind today. To underscore our concern and our commitment towards saving Planet Earth, I will attend the forthcoming UN Climate Change Summit. I will present Malaysia’s own position, and participate working to achieve a global consensus so that collectively, nations around the world will make a positive contribution towards reducing carbon emission and in turn save Planet Earth.”
And we believe you are rubbing shoulders with world leaders in Copenhagen this week, you would continue to maintain the image that your administration is serious about reversing climate change.
Yet, very disappointingly, when you came to Sabah on 8 November 2009, all your determination to fight global warming and reduce CO2 emission completely went out of the window and you have forced us ‘SACRIFICE’ UNNECESSARILY (including our natural gas from Kimanis) and to accept DIRTY coal:
“We have to accept what is good and we have to be realistic. If we understand and are willing to sacrifice we will achieve higher level of development for Sabah,”
Even though you yourself had said earlier that coal is NOT ‘GOOD’ — it’s DIRTY, and ENVIRONMENTALLY UNFRIENDLY?
Does it mean that all the “decisive actions” and “uneasy tasks” necessary to tackle climate change could be ignored in the name of “achieving higher level of development”? Is your ‘conviction’ on tackling climate change so feeble, after all? If so, why do you think in Copenhagen, the developing world should agree to the reduction of carbon emission and to sacrifice their goal of “achieving higher level of development”?
Indeed, you have forced us to accept dirty coal despite our State leadership’s collective strong stance in REJECTING this coal power plant earlier in April 2008:
“After weighing the pros and cons, the [State] Cabinet decided to SCRAP the proposed project, because we DO NOT WANT TO RISK the WELFARE AND HEALTH of the communities in the area [in Lahad Datu] as well as any ADVERSE IMPACT on the environment… I know some say with today’s technology, the proposed plant is safe and clean BUT some EXPERTS also DISAGREE.”
Nonetheless, despite your unfair treatments towards Sabahans on this topic, we still wish you well in Copenhagen and hope that you would “clearly demonstrates the importance that Malaysian attaches to the issue of climate change”, and make all of us proud — not just those in Copenhagen, but also those of us in Lahad Datu, Sandakan, Tawau, and Sabah as a whole:
– By being CONSISTENT, and having 1 Climate Change/ Carbon Emission policy (and 1 only) for your government, which does not change according to time zones or audiences, including when it comes to Sabah.
Please, CANCEL the coal power plant in Sabah — this would be the best leadership example and gift you could give to Copenhagen, and the future generations of the world.
Malaysia PM to offer CO2 reductions in Copenhagen
Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:04pm GMT
By David Chance and Razak Ahmad
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s government will offer “credible” cuts in its emissions of carbon dioxide at the Copenhagen climate change summit in a bid to halt global warming, Prime Minister Najib Razak told Reuters on Sunday.
Najib will be among more than 110 world leaders who will meet in Copenhagen next week to attend a summit to try to clinch a deal on deeper emissions cuts by rich nations, steps by developing nations to cut their carbon pollution and finance to help the poor adapt to climate change.
“We are willing to offer our commitment, I am not just going to call on the developed world I am going to commit Malaysia and I am going to commit Malaysia to very credible cuts which means we have to spend, which we will do,” Najib said in the interview.
Najib said the cuts were still being worked on.
The United Nations has said a full, legal treaty to expand or replace the existing Kyoto Protocol is out of reach at the talks, after two years of troubled negotiations, and is likely to be agreed some time in 2010.
UN data shows Malaysia’s carbon emissions in 2006 stood at 187 million tones or 7.2 tonnes from each Malaysian.
Although that figure is far less than neighboring Indonesia, which is the world’s third largest emitter with 2.3 billion tonnes or 10 tonnes per capita, according to Indonesian government data, Najib said all nations must contribute.
“It has to be predicated on the fundamental principles of the Kyoto protocol and the UN Framework on Climate Convention,” he said.
“Amongst which the most important being the common but differentiated responsibilities that the developed world must deliver against larger cuts in terms of carbon emissions and that the developing world should be assisted particularly in terms of finanancial assistance, capacity buiding and technology.”
TIGHT BUDGETS MUST ACCOMODATE CLIMATE CHANGE
Najib said that despite the current economic turmoil, which has seen the United States and Europe plunge into huge budget deficits, the fight against climate change had to take priority.
The United Nations wants to raise $10 billion a year from 2010-12 in quick-start funds to help the poor cope with global warming and move away from fossil fuels. But few nations have offered quick-start cash.
In the longer term, the United Nations estimates the fight against global warming is likely to cost $300 billion a year from 2020, largely to help developing nations adapt to impacts such as droughts, floods and heat waves.
“If we really talking about it we must walk the talk (on funding). Otherwise we are just going to face a very uncertain future and the effects will be quite catastrophic,” Najib said.
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