The volatile situation sweeping across nations because of the devastating effect of storms, tsunamis, floods and other catastrophes is predominantly a consequence of the rising sea levels – a direct impact of global warming. The last few years have seen the consequences of global warming like perhaps never before. More than 110 people were killed in the US alone by Sandy, apart from 67 casualties in the Caribbean and 2 in Canada. In Philippines, the biggest and the deadliest typhoon, Bopha, killed at least 540 people, injuring another 1100. Topping the misery chart in recent times is Japan’s tsunami, which claimed a jaw dropping 15,700 lives – a toll that created a shock wave not only in Japan, but also across the world. All these calamities, and – as the scientists claim – many more that are queuing up against the backdrop of climate change and global warming, are posing an impending danger to human lives. This year itself has begun with a scary chill across the world with temperatures falling to new lows, pollution smogs hitting new highs, and examples like Delhi, where the shivers of winter were felt like never before in the past half a century almost!
Given the fragility of human civilization, this rapidly changing climate and deteriorating ecosystem has induced fear and panic among mankind across the globe. Yes, there is no clear evidence that can pinpoint that global warming would be the reason for the end of the world; but then, there is no denial to the fact that human activities have made life worse in many parts of the world. Increasing pollution and use of toxic products have endowed diseases (both new and old) with an environment to incubate and flourish. The fear and panic has also gifted developed nations a reason to meet every year and make policies that seem pro-environment but in reality are pro-rich countries and anti-poor nations!
One such global event that is organized under the pretext of addressing global warming is the UN Climate Change Conference. The latest conference, better known as COP 18 (Conference of Parties; session 18), which concluded in Doha last month is a case in point. Nothing can be more paradoxical than the COP 18 gathering, at a time when we really need fast and serious action. A summit on protecting the environment was held in a city (and a country) that in all probability is the largest contributor to global warming. Surprisingly, no renewable sources of energy are used in Doha, which has a per capita annual carbon emission of 50 tonnes that is three times that of US, eight times that of China and 33 times that of India! Moreover, this so-called Climate Change Conference, year after year, witnesses delegates flying down in their fuel-guzzling private jets from all corners of the world, parades of motorcycles plying through the streets for security checks, water supplied from state-of-the-art power consuming desalination plants (in a country where water is the most scarce resource), exotic food items being mobilized from various regions and delegates commuting in sedans and SUVs that guzzle tonnes of fossil fuel. For around 17,000 delegates for the last conference, more than 21,000 rooms at 87 hotels and residences were blocked, which additionally wasted monumental energy while providing the most luxurious service. The amount of environment destruction can be gauged by the fact that a similar conference back in 2009 released around 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent!
The Doha COP 18 conference was also more of a freewheeling exercise where the delegates across the globe gathered without a purpose, commitment or initiative in mind. For those who still remember the moribund Kyoto Protocol (a resolution between industrialised nations that placed restrictions on their emissions), the agreement was supposed to expire by the end of last year; yet, there was no sign of any major country coming forward to extend a token of consent for its extension, though a resolution was taken finally to make a second commitment to reduce emissions by the end of 2020. However, as we know, the US has never joined the Protocol, and Japan, New Zealand, Canada and Russia didn’t see any virtue in its extension. At present, the Kyoto Protocol only represents a meager 15 per cent of global emissions of greenhouse gases, a sharp departure from the promise it laid down in 1997 when it was signed. A broader agreement should have been reached at Doha as emissions are not merely restricted to developed nations – even though both sides of the world (rich and poor) had agreed for a deal by 2015.
The rounds at the Doha conference brought nothing but disappointment to climate campaigners, rights groups and the scientists who expected at least some concrete steps and realistic targets with earmarked carbon cuts within a stipulated deadline. But nothing happened except some rhetoric and efforts to protect the public opinion in the home turf of concerned countries – a US delegate candidly admitted of a possible backlash back home in case they agreed to any fossil fuel reduction commitment. Falling in line with this notion was US senator, Republican Jim Inhofe, who, in a video recording, featured in a press briefing at the sidelines of the conference, accusing the conference of not focusing on the environment but simply on “spreading the wealth around.” Interestingly, the Senator wrote a book last year titled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.
There were also accusations of a corporate siege on the event via government delegates. The Belgium-originated and Left-leaning international peasants’ movement, represented by Via Campesina, called the conference a big corporate lobbying drive managed through planned capitalist manoeuvring.
There are a number of developing countries and even least developed countries which are island nations and totally off-guard in their ability to cope with the perils that global warming and rising sea levels are bringing to them. Philippines, for instance, made an earnest plea to the developed countries during the conference for some positive action – the most important being aiding poor nations to implement some tangible deals – but found its appeal falling on deaf ears. And Philippines is not alone! There are a host of island states in Asia Pacific and other parts of the world that are exposed to the vulnerability of rising sea levels and the natural disasters that the same reinforces. The minimum they demanded was $60 billion on the table for the next three years and commitment to scale the figure up from there till 2020 – but they failed to obtain even this from the rich nations, who had an alibi that they were holding on tight to their purse strings due to budget crunches.
In the Copenhagen Summit held in December 2009, in a pitched battle between the rich and poor countries, developed nations cleared a sum of $30 billion to developing countries as an additional funding in 2010-2012. However, many investigative agencies have enough evidence in their hand to prove that the funding commitment has not been kept. Either the promised funding was simply not disbursed or it was adjusted against loans, thus flouting their clearly written obligation to treat the funding as non-refundable aid. Thus, there is every reason to suspect that the elaborate show of this so-called ‘COP 18 circus’ is another sham too. The environment summit’s flop traits continue with things getting worse and worse as years roll by. America was one nation that had been nonchalant about climate change from the very beginning; but with time, even erstwhile anxious parties like Japan and Australia want the problem off their hands!
Everything said and done, climatic changes are becoming a greater cause for worry than anything else and for the survival of the Earth itself, and we desperately need a seriously focussed platform that delivers results. The much hyped COP 18 doesn’t really seem to be that. It has, at the most, been latently helping a few nations, besides allowing political leaders to showcase their oratory skills and allowing backdoor lobbying, notwithstanding the fact that the conference brings in a new wave of tourism to Qatar, which of course comes at a cost to the environment. And not to forget, the biggest climate change summit was organized in a country that itself earns around $7,000 million every month from the export of fossil fuel! Undoubtedly, COP 18 is a failure; it’s time for a serious rethink and action.
- 17 January 2013 |
- Arindam on Indian Economy