November 22, 2000
Back to Basics by Anil Agarwal
Nobody needs a fair and effective treaty more than the South
It is time the Southern delegations put their foot down, just like the US has always done in climate change negotiations. Set your own terms and conditions and tell the EU and the Umbrella Group to accept them, or go jump into the North Sea.
Why is the US setting the terms for all the discussions here in the Hague? Simply because it is the biggest polluter and a Kyoto Protocol without it would be meaningless. The US uses this power to set terms and conditions. But as Western experts repeatedly tell us, if USA and EU are big polluters only today, India, China and Brazil will be equally big polluters tomorrow. If USA is the biggest cause of climate change today, we will be become as big a cause of climate change tomorrow. Then Southern delegates too, should tell the US and the EU to listen or else pack their bags. We are here to discuss how to solve a global problem, not to satisfy the whims of some individual nation. If US senators have the power to hold up the Kyoto Protocol, then leaders of the South must remember that they, too, will have to face their people back home if they give away our environmental rights. Set out your non-negotiable terms and conditions. If they don't want to listen, let them go home.
It is most in the interest of the South - not the US or the EU - to get both fair and effective action out of the discussions here in The Hague.
Nobody will suffer more from climate change than poor countries. And not just the AOSIS members. Imagine what will happen to the millions of poor people of the Sahel region of Africa, with the current state of its degraded ecosystems, if there were increased periods of drought. Imagine how many Bangladeshis or Egyptians will be displaced if even a tiny fraction of these countries went underwater. And if the Maldives were to drown where would its citizens go? Not to the US, which is the major cause of the problem. But to Sri Lanka, India or Pakistan.
Therefore, developing countries must stand together with one voice and demand effective action. If one thing is clear, it is that The Hague conference is not about effective action to control climate change. It is about the creation of a global carbon market. We are not against markets.But where are the policies to ensure that the market will achieve what it is meant to achieve - to avert the build-up of carbon in the atmosphere, and that too fast? Why should we suffer from floods, droughts, storms or sea level rise because the West took too little action and too slow? The West must tell us clearly when it will make the transition to non-carbon energy systems. And ensure that a CDM which looks for least-cost options will not lock us further into fossil fuels.
Insist on fairness in burden-sharing based on per capita entitlements in order to get involved fast, not to delay action on your own part. By demanding per capita entitlements you are actually making a bigger commitment than what the Western nations so proudly did in Kyoto.
Now is the time to spell out your vision on how to save the Earth's climate. And tell the North to listen, or go home.