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Sunday December 13, 2009

A cold shoulder treatment for a hot issue just won’t do

FOR 80% of the world’s population, the on-going United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (Cop15) is too important to fail. That’s because many of them are already experiencing the effects of climate change.

In some low-lying island states like those in the Pacific Ocean, relocation to higher grounds or even abandoning the entire island has already begun.

The Inuits of the polar region are facing drastic changes in their lifestyle and culture, not being able to find game as the animals disappear with melting ice-sheets. In the Himalayan region, communities are living in fear of bursting glacier lakes on the slopes.

There is one similarity among these communities that are at the frontline of climate change - they and their ancestors did not cause the present problem. And they are too poor to be able to adapt to the drastic changes around them.

They felt betrayed when rich countries, like the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia and Japan, which had built their high-carbon economies over the centuries, reneged on their promises under the Kyoto Protocol to cut their emissions, provide funds and technologies. And the US is not even a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol.

They are infuriated with developed countries who are not honouring the convention’s principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, which they are party to, and the woefully inadequate fund that had been proposed so far under an agreement that is currently being shaped amid intense diplomatic trickery, shenanigans and manipulations in the negotiation rooms of the Bella Centre in Copenhagen.

They are shocked that the descendants of the polluters would choose to ignore what climate science is telling them - that merely agreeing to cap global temperature rise to 2°C would condemn the African continent to the furnace and their own future generations to an unlivable planet.

And these descendants want to continue pumping more carbon into the atmosphere at the expense of developing countries by telling growing emitters like China and India to take on higher emission reduction targets.

The Copenhagen outcome will be the turning point in world relations - either humanity prevails or greed dictates the dawn of carbon colonialism.

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