Expectations in the Cancun conference

Maswood Alam Khan from Maryland, USA
People in Pakistan are now realizing what it is like to face a natural calamity like the devastating flood that recently affected over 20 million people in their country. Like Pakistani people we Bangladeshis too and also our neighbours in the Maldives, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka are now living in a nightmare wondering and worrying what awaits us in case a similar calamity hits us.

Climate change is an all-embracing issue which has a deep impact on the development of the human race. The climate situation which is changing ominously has already contributed to the decrease in glaciers and ice caps in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres leading to sea level rise. Such a change in climate is causing island nations such as the Maldives, Tuvalu and the Solomon to sink into the sea naturally portending not a distant day when communities in countries which are now standing a few meters above the sea level may ultimately lose their homelands and cultures.

Many international organisations have been working together to tackle the climate change, many climate change campaigns and mobilisations have been held to demand for a real and fair deal from the world leaders. Thousands of organizations like Greenpeace, TckTckTck, Hopenhagen, YOUNGO, and other environmental organizations across the world did their utmost to mobilize people to fight climate change. “Hope” is giving millions of us motivation to keep moving on.

But, “Hope” turned into “Despair” on the 19th December 2009, the last day of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen known by its acronym COP15(the fifteenth conference of the Parties). After weeks of frantic negotiations, the conference ended with the announcement of “Copenhagen Accord”, a non-legally binding political agreement apparently for complete eyewash. President Obama’s statement in the conference rather provoked anger as it failed to include any concrete and binding measures for emissions reduction targets. Moreover, a funny meeting was held between 25 leaders from key nations such as China and India to negotiate the aspects of the climate change draft just hours before President Obama delivered the speech—a meeting that was dubbed the “Summit within the Summit” and the “mini-summit of the 25”.

Later, representatives of only five countries met behind closed doors, leaving the most vulnerable countries such as the Maldives, Bangladesh, the Island of Tuvalu, whose existence is extremely endangered by rising sea levels, watching helplessly how the industrialized and the emerging countries blocked each other and at the end of the day negotiated a minimum outcome which only magnified the magnitude of the global inequality.

Instead of becoming a historic endeavour the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last year became a historic failure. With regards to emission reduction targets, the parties only paid some lip-service to climate change issues committing to a mere two-degree target that was not even legally binding and having no concrete emission reduction targets.

As regards to financing the adaptation measures in developing countries, an annual upfront payment of $ 10 billion in 2010-12 and an annual green fund of $ 100 billion until 2020 were however announced in the conference; but the financing too seems to be lying at the lower bound of expectations as they were also not legally binding.

When the sessions of the COP15 conference ended, the parties did not formally adopt any accord but merely voted to “take note” of an accord. So what was and still is the exact status of the Copenhagen Accord, nobody knows! Overall, the outcome of COP15 was a climate shame. And the world leaders till now seem to have already failed to deliver what they promised at the COP15. That is how “Copenhagen” turned initially as “Hopenhagen”—and now “Brokenhagen”!

The failure of the last year’s climate conference was parodied by many organisations and leaders in many laughable names and phrases such as a “tremendous disappointment”, a “climate catastrophe”, a “humiliating defeat”, a “negotiation disaster”, a “climate fiasco”, a “shame in Copenhagen” and a “black day for climate protection”.

Now we the helpless people in countries like Bangladesh, the Maldives and Pakistan have reasons to doubt the very intention of the world leaders who matter most in changing our fate in a changed climate. With vague commitments which is not legally binding no accord, however sweet the words and the tones of the accord may sound, is going to solve the climate crisis that is endangering the humanity.

However, the failure of the Copenhagen Conference last year has prodded many organisations and people all over the world to take more aggressive actions to ensure that their voices are heard this time at COP16 (the sixteenth conference of the Parties) which is going to be held shortly at Cancun, Mexico from 29 November through 10 December, 2010.

Hopefully this time the world leaders meeting in the United Nations Climate Change Conference at Cancun will feel a little more pressure and a little bigger push from inside and outside of their respective countries to discuss future commitments from the industrialised countries in implementing successful and sustainable solutions that may substantially contribute to addressing the climate change issues. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon has assured the world community that the Copenhagen Accord will be made into a legally binding treaty at COP16.

In spite of hope and expectations there is a fear that Cancun Conference may also fail — if the leaders fail to pass any concrete and legally binding global emission agreement. And the probability of another inconclusive consensus in the Cancun conference cannot be ruled out owing to the fact that a number of the newly elected politicians in the United States Senate Election held on 02 November 2010 are basically climate change deniers.

Is then COP16 ordained to be another failure? No one knows. The outcome of COP16 is not yet predictable. But with ominous signatures of our gruesome future on this Planet Earth that have been palpable with snow storms across the United Kingdom last year and the Pakistan floods this year, we should realise that the human race cannot afford much time wasting only in deliberations without taking a solid step to correct the injustices we meted out in the past against the nature. Actions we must take and survive we must strive to in synch with the Mother Nature. Let’s hope that COP16 will be a success!

E-mail : maswood@hotmail.com