A summit in crisis
It is a summit in crisis. These are not our words -
that is how the UN Environment Program's Achim Steiner described
the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, yesterday. It
is plain for anyone following developments in Copenhagen that
the summit is not going anywhere in terms of real pledges, real
Delegates from 193 nations are in Copenhagen to negotiate an
agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, in order to
prevent dangerous climate change. The crux of the matter is that
developing nations want rich nations to cut emissions by at
least 25 percent by 2020. But rich nations are reluctant to go
so far and want developing countries to curb emissions too.
Such fundamental differences mean that there is widespread
uncertainty over the shape of any eventual deal. Global warming
is a real threat, but the world must come together instead of
bickering over emissions cuts. It is grossly unfair for the
developed world to expect more or less the same commitments from
the developing world.
In fact, some developing countries have repeatedly complained
during the two weeks of high-handed treatment by the Danish
hosts and the West in general.
Such discrimination and bullying on a matter so vital does
not augur well for the planet's long-term health.
The slow pace of progress in this sphere is frustrating to
say the least.
Developing countries have every reason to be disappointed
because they have invested a lot of time in the Kyoto Protocol
discussions which had been going on for four years. World
leaders have to be personally committed to change the status
quo. There has to be some give and take. Both the US and China,
the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, have indicated
they might make concessions.
We hope the world leaders' summit at Copenhagen would be able
to make substantial gains and formulate an agreement.
There is a debate on whether we are too late for such an
agreement. There are fears it might not prevent a catastrophic 3
Celcius temperature rise. A document prepared by the UN Climate
Convention Secretariat confirms that current pledges on cutting
greenhouse gas emissions are almost certainly not enough to keep
the rise in the global average temperature within that level.
Moreover, an agreement on paper is not enough. There should
be more financial commitments, especially from the First World.
In fact, finance has emerged as an issue more likely to make or
break a deal than emission pledges themselves. US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton has said her administration was prepared
to help establish funding of US$ 100 billion a year for
developing countries, which is a step in the right direction.
The catch? The deal that emerges from Copenhagen must meet 'US
Again, it boils down to the mismatch between the interests
and goals of the developed and developing worlds.
The stark message for world leaders at Copenhagen is that the
proposals on the table - especially from industrialized
countries - fall far short of what the world urgently needs. The
developed countries should accept legally binding greenhouse gas
emissions cuts and there should be a mechanism to monitor the
World leaders should also decide what works best - direct aid
for emissions cuts or carbon trading. With the Kyoto Protocol's
current targets expiring in 2012, we hope that a deal that
addresses all these concerns and takes urgent steps to save the
planet emerges from the chaos in Copenhagen. It may not be as
bad as the scenes from the Roland Emmerich apocalypse saga
'2012', but time is running out for Planet Earth and its
inhabitants. Now is the time for concrete action.
A curious intermission
The European Commission (EC) has adopted a proposal to
temporarily suspend the GSP Plus trade concession to Sri Lanka.
The GSP Plus, which gives 16 developing countries access to EU
markets under preferential conditions, is important for the
garment industry, though it will certainly be able to go on
without it. This decision was announced on December 17, which
coincided with the nominations day for the Presidential Poll in
Contrary to propaganda by certain elements, this does not
mean the duty free benefits given to Sri Lankan exporters will
be withdrawn immediately. This is because it would take at least
six months for the suspension to become totally effective. In
the meantime, the EU and Sri Lanka will have a dialogue on
issues pertaining to GSP Plus. The tariff concession is highly
likely to be restored after these consultations.
The other significant fact is that EU members have "two
months" to decide on it, according to the EU website and news
reports. This time period coincides with the Presidential
Election on January 26, 2010. The EU's period of contemplation
has somehow matched the Presidential Elections window, a curious
coincidence at best. We cannot surmise whether this is
intentional or incidental, but we hope that the issue can be
resolved in favour of our garment industry regardless of
developments in the political landscape.
After all, innocent garment workers deserve a deal that would
benefit their industry and the country at large.