LETTER

Not a high-income but a climate sustainable society

Ratna Devi Nadarajan

Published
Modified 18 Dec 2009, 10:18 am

Amidst all the media hype about the climate change negotiations taking place in Copenhagen now, what does it all mean to you and me? What are the possibilities for us to contribute to the negotiations or influence its outcomes? Is it important that a deal is sealed in Copenhagen?

If not, so what? Will we change the way we live or lead our lives if or not an agreement is reached? I attended the CAN International discussions held during the COP 15 at Bella Center, Copenhagen on Dec 8. One of the panelists was from the International Institute for Economic Development (IIED).

After the panel discussion, one of the members from the audience questioned the Danish panelist who is from a Danish NGO about the supposedly leaked text drafted by the Danish together with US and UK.

As the Guardian reported. ‘A confidential analysis of the text by developing countries also seen by the ‘Guardian’ shows deep unease over details of the text. In particular, it is understood to:

- Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement;

- Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called ‘the most vulnerable’;

- Weaken the UN's role in handling climate finance

- Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.’

The G77 and China refuted the proposal calling it one-sided and undermining the Bali Action Plan. The G77 also argued that the views of developing countries were not considered at all in the proposal and thus it was not acceptable.

It appears that the outcomes of the negotiations are far from predictable and will head in any direction. The chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol and the Long Term Commitment Action (AWG KP and AWG LCA) will review the current text from Barcelona with government ministers and if the Danish text is somehow admitted, then it will open the gates for China and other countries to admit their version of the proposals.

This brings us to another problem where if the ministers then cannot decide, the heads of governments including President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Hu Jin Tao etc will have to deal with unfinished business. Due to political ramifications in case a deal is not sealed at Copenhagen, leaders may have to take a stand on the negotiations.

The Copenhagen COP is deemed as unlike any other COP before it and nobody controls the direction or the outcome of the negotiations especially with the G77 and China and the Africa countries being empowered and have very strong if not equal influence on the process now.

As consumers though, what will it mean whether or not a climate change agreement is reached at Copenhagen? Fomca is part of the Climate Sustainability Platform and the outcome of discussions among members of the platform from North and South paints a different picture. A picture where when people lead, leaders follow.

Members of the platform called for new role models - not fashion models, not successful business entrepreneurs like Donald Trump or Warren Buffet, not football or cricket celebrities but models who have lived or are living their lives in a sustainable manner. One academician from an Austrian university wore a t-shirt which said: ‘Gandhi - they do not make him anymore!’

Another member from the Responsible Initiative of Pakistan coined it perfectly at a dialogue organised by the Climate Sustainability Platform at the University of Copenhagen, Centre for Africa Studies. It goes like this -

‘If:

Governments become pro-people

Mega-companies become ethical

Politicians become honest to their vocation

Scientist become conscious of their integrity

Funders become open to traditional wisdom

NGOs become free from ‘tyranny of the project’

Youth become aware of their future challenges

You and I become fair to ourselves...

Then perhaps climate sustainability is possible’

- Dr. Faiz Shah of Responsible Business Initiative, Pakistan.

It appears that the UN system represented by governments, most of which are elected every five years and with different agendas, will not represent the interests of the people. Politicians have vested interests and their powers vary from developed to developing and least developed countries.

It is nearly impossible for them to represent the interests of the poor and destitute who bear the brunt of climate change. A member of the platform from Senegal refused to engage with his government noting that he does not want to sell the communities he works with to corrupt politicians who use poverty to generate aid from rich countries.

His is a success story of a self-sufficient community not in need of food aid but rather assistance to realise their fullest potential to live in pride: proud of their origin, their community and the ability to manage their own resources and live sustainably for many years to come.

The UN system does not allow for their national delegations to have effective and useful stakeholder engagements. There have not been clear and transparent guidelines to encourage multi-stakeholder engagement to produce useful agreements which impacts societies around the world positively.

Fomca has planned a very noble campaign through which consumers will be empowered to be mindful and responsible of their consumption. Malaysian urban lifestyle is spreading like wild fire to the rural and suburban areas. The National Consumer Campaign is aimed at the very core of what causes unsustainable and inconsiderate consumption.

The campaign is also aimed at addressing policy issues and their implementation. We hope the government agencies realise that most developed countries and aid agencies do not view Malaysia as destitute, developing country but rather close to the developed nations.

We then need to adopt strict measures that developed nations are required to take under the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Action Plan on common but differentiated responsibility. Do we actually realise what a high-income nation as envisioned under the latest budget announcement means to the consumption pattern of consumers in Malaysia?

It is crucial that the National Consumer Campaign work towards fulfilling its objectives and all the relevant stakeholders, namely the government agencies and businesses, get on board to ensure that together we build not a high-income society but a climate sustainable society.

The writer is deputy secretary-general, Fomca.