November 17, 2000
A visitor to the Congrescentrum would never guess it, but there is only one reason why we are here: the Western model of economic development which is heavily dependant on carbon-based fossil fuels has turned out not to be such a good idea after all, and we need an alternative. Fast.
As this issue of Equity Watch shows quite clearly, if the world is serious about addressing climate change, it will have to immediately start moving out of fossil fuel technology to renewable technology. That fact is undeniable, and is being pushed by many environmental groups at this meeting. It also has the support of the EU, even as the US continues to vehemently push for a "least-cost" fossil fuel option under the CDM, which could actually end up subsidising the fossil fuel sector.
The question, however, is whether renewable energy should be pushed down the throats of developing countries by Northern governments through the use of financial clout, or should be the result of negotiations that seek and get global trust and cooperation, and are based on the principles of good global governance?
Many groups have called on their governments to stop multilateral organisations, such as the World Bank, from funding fossil fuel projects in the South. Trade and aid have been used in the past to force developing countries to comply with environmental standards. In the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), for instance, the US used trade sanctions against Taiwan to force them to implement legislation to save the tiger.
Once again, the cause was noble, but the means were undemocratic in a world that respects national sovereignty, because Taiwan could not do the same to the US in case of the latter's non-compliance. The issue becomes clearer from the point of view of poor countries if you consider an example that we often give: if the gas-guzzling US does not meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, can drowning Bangladesh impose trade sanctions against the US?