Frustrated by the way governments are dragging their feet on combating climate change, leaders of green NGOs from around the world have come together to present the climate treaty they want to see inked at a global summit scheduled to be held in Denmark in December.
The Copenhagen Climate Treaty, as they call it, will be presented to bureaucrats from over 180 countries meeting here (June 1-12) in an attempt to draft the official version of the treaty.
Srinivas Krishnaswamy of Greenpeace India, one of the 47 authors of the NGO document, told IANS: “The treaty does not only tackle dangerous climate change. It will bring sustainable solutions to address the global recession, boost social justice and help eradicate poverty.
“It proposes institutional and political solutions as well as legal structures that governments should adopt to get an agreement all countries could sign up in Copenhagen.”
The authors of the NGO draft treaty have proposed a “global carbon budget that caps the world’s total emissions and breaks down which country can emit how much during the process of transforming the world into a zero carbon economy”.
Excess carbon dioxide emitted due to industrial activity is the main greenhouse gas that is causing climate change, which is already affecting farm output, making droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more damaging and raising the sea level.
India is among the countries worst affected by what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called “the defining challenge of our age”.
India’s chief climate negotiator Shyam Saran told IANS that the government wants more emphasis on strengthening the existing UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol rather than a new treaty.
Reacting to this, Krishnaswamy said no existing agreement would be replaced but would be strengthened to “become broader and deeper, reflecting the need for industrialised countries to commit to much greater cuts in emissions”.
“The Copenhagen Protocol would be additional, setting targets for the US (which is not part of Kyoto), describing the actions that developing countries should take, and defining the financial and technological support industrialised countries must provide to them. It would also set out how adaptation and forest protection will be funded,” he explained.
Developing countries have been strongly against any attempt to cap their carbon emissions, arguing this would constrain their economic growth to handle a problem caused almost exclusively by industrialised countries over the last more than 200 years.
Krishnaswamy said: “Newly industrialised countries, such as Singapore and Saudi Arabia, should take on binding emission reduction targets. The criteria for designating a country as ‘newly industrialised’ should be agreed in Copenhagen.
“There are no top-down targets proposed for developing countries in the treaty because we recognise they are not historically responsible for climate change. All countries have a responsibility to address the problem but these responsibilities would differ according to means and the capacity to act.
“We encourage bottom-up country driven actions based on national circumstances and taking development needs into account.”
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposal that every individual in the world should have equal right to the “carbon space” in the atmosphere has found echo in the “global carbon budget” proposed by the NGOs.
“Of course industrialised countries must act first to cut emissions. However, this will not be enough to bring the world back from the brink of disaster. That will take a global effort,” said Krishnaswamy.
“While developing countries certainly do have the right to economic growth, the ‘treaty’ shows how, with financial and technological support from the industrialised world, they can leapfrog dirty technology and grow in a sustainable way,” he added.
Shyam Saran had expressed concern to IANS because industrialised countries were not likely to meet their legal carbon emission reduction commitments under the existing treaty and had wondered why developing countries should believe their new commitments. It’s a hot topic of debate among bureaucrats here right now.
According to the NGO document, “the penalties for countries that fail to meet their binding obligations need to be tougher and an early warning system should be in place to flag if a country is falling behind. If, after a round of consultation and revision, a country’s plans are still not considered adequate, the ultimate sanction would be financial penalties.”
“We are proposing institutional and political solutions as well as the legal structures that governments should adopt to get an agreement all countries could sign up to in Copenhagen,” said Krishnaswamy.
The “treaty” includes a proposal for a Copenhagen Climate Facility, which Krishnaswamy described as “an effective new institution to manage the processes under the new global treaty, which ensures democratic decision-making through fair regional representation”.
The 47 NGO leaders who have put the draft together include those from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Greenpeace, David Suzuki Foundation, Germanwatch and indyACT, the league of independent activists. The authors emphasise that it is a “work in progress” and have sought feedback from everyone.