CPI (ML): `Shameful betrayal' at Copenhagen -- India and China sign undemocratic US-scripted accord
By Radhika Krishnan
December 24, 2009 -- Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation -- The 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) has finally ended in Copenhagen, and it is now time to officially write the obituary. This week-long conference, where 110 countries got together to try and evolve a blueprint to handle the climate change crisis, has quite predictably and most unfortunately ended in failure. Predictable, because for a long time now there have been indications that the US would continue to hold the rest of the world to ransom by refusing to accept responsibility for its role in creating the climate crisis.
Much was at stake at Copenhagen. The Kyoto Protocol, which was the first concerted attempt to address global warming, comes to an end in 2012 and the Copenhagen conference was meant to build on the foundations that Kyoto had set. The Kyoto agreement essentially suggested that all industrialised countries cut their carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists however believe that the emissions reductions suggested in Kyoto are far from sufficient to keep the atmospheric carbon dioxide at an acceptable level, and therefore it was widely hoped that the Copenhagen summit would result in an agreement wherein industrialised countries would commit themselves to deep cuts in their current emissions levels.
Before the negotiations officially began, the US came up with a proposal to cut its emissions to just 3 per cent below its 1990 levels. This proposal was patently absurd, since any meaningful effort towards mitigating the climate crisis demands that the US cut its emissions by at least 40 per cent. Apart from this pathetic offer, US President Barack Obama (representing his corporate funders) came to Copenhagen armed with the usual bullying tactics and United States’s oft-used trump card: unless India and China agree to binding emissions cuts, neither will we. In a most shameful betrayal of Third World unity, India and China responded to this blackmail by breaking away from the Group of 77 countries (G-77) and signing a US-scripted "deal" on the last day of the conference. It is indeed shocking and shameful that India and China, along with Brazil and South Africa, decided to sign this deal – an agreement which signifies an important departure from the developing countries’ long-standing position at the climate change talks.
Copenhagen agreement: recipe for disaster
The "Copenhagen Accord" that was finally tabled (though not approved) at the conference is nothing but a recipe for an environmental catastrophe of monumental proportions. To those millions all over the world who were looking forward to an agreement with some teeth, capable of ensuring swift and effective mitigation of the climate crisis, the agreement is a huge disappointment.
To begin with, the agreement mentions no legally binding emission cuts for industrialised countries, thus effectively letting them off the hook. Given the fact that prior to the conference, many other industrialised countries had promised reductions (the European Union for instance had unilaterally agreed to reduce its emissions by 20%, and the UK by 40%), it is clear that the US obduracy and arrogance finally scuttled any meaningful proposal. More importantly, the agreement asks developing countries to also "voluntarily" reduce emissions, thus eliminating the important distinction between developing and developed countries.
Developing countries have fought long and hard to maintain this distinction – and this huge political volte-face aided and abetted by India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh absolves the developed world from their historic role in creating the present crisis, and essentially locks existing inequities for perpetuity. The agreement also states that developing countries’ performance on emissions reductions (even those that are not funded by international finance and technology) will be subjected to “international consultation and analysis”. This clause clearly opens the door to enforcing international monitoring, and will soon lead to binding commitments by developing countries.
Regarding the other important agenda of funding mitigation efforts in developing countries, the developed countries have set a goal of mobilisng jointly US$100 billion a year by 2020. This includes a short-term financing pledge (for 2010-2012) of $10.6 billion from the EU, $11 billion from Japan and $3.6 billion from the US. To put this "dole" in perspective, the EU’s contribution (which is the largest) is approximately 0.5% of global entertainment and media spending, 0.7% of the US military expenditure for 2008 and 1.4% of the bailout package that richest corporations of the world received following the economic recession! The priorities of the powers-that-be, and the level of their commitment (or the lack of it) to tackling the climate crisis, has become abundantly clear.
Indian government surrender to US imperialism
At Copenhagen, Manmohan Singh and environment minister Jairam Ramesh worked overtime to broker this blatantly pro-US deal. An effort which earned them praise from none less than Obama in his post-conference speech. And while this betrayal of the G-77 and of India’s poor is shocking, it is certainly not surprising. Some time back, Ramesh wrote a “confidential” letter to the prime minister articulating precisely the agreement which has been now signed. At that time, the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) tried to defend itself and fend off the resulting uproar by distancing itself from Ramesh’s proposals. Now, after Prime Minister Singh himself has signed this proposal, the slavish, pro-US kowtowing of the UPA government stands thoroughly exposed. Let us not forget that India has already announced targets for reducing carbon intensity (i.e. not total greenhouse gas emissions, but emissions per unit of GDP generated) – as a result of a "bilateral agreement" with the US.
Not surprisingly, India’s and China’s stand has deservedly invited an angry response from the other developing countries. And it was not just the content of the agreement that merited their anger. The entire process of drafting the agreement was marked by secrecy and a lack of respect for basic democratic principles -- most countries were deliberately kept away from the drafting process. Bolivia, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Cuba have therefore blamed those who have drafted the deal for showing them great "disrespect" by leaving them out of the drafting process and imposing their document on the vast majority. The Sudanese G-77 delegate Lumumba Di-Aping has gone to the extent of comparing the deal to the Holocaust.
Overall, the Copenhagen summit was a shameful display of the UPA’s subservience to US imperialism. Instead of this betrayal, what Jairam Ramesh and Manmohan Singh should have done was to cash in on the massive worldwide support and aspirations for a meaningful agreement. They should have joined hands with the vulnerable coastal nations most likely to suffer the most from the climate crisis and the G-77 to build pressure on the US. The industrialised countries, including the US, have to be forced to accept responsibility for their huge greenhouse-gas emissions. More importantly, they have to be held accountable for the historic role that they have played over the past two centuries in contributing to the climate crisis through their capital and energy intensive economies.
India should of course also reduce its emissions – not because the US demands it, not even because it is a huge contributor of greenhouse-gas emissions (though India’s total emissions are quite high, its per capita emissions are just 0.9 tonnes per person per year compared to the United States' 20.1 tonnes and China’s 2.3 tonnes) but because it is in the larger interests of India’s poor, and because it is essential for maintaining the delicate ecological balance.
India should have demanded funding and technology transfer from the industrialised countries for reducing its emissions. Let us understand very clearly that this funding is not a "gift" from some of the richest countries in the world, it is rather a small attempt on their part to compensate the millions of poor in the developing countries for the massive crisis that they have plunged the world into through the mindless, profit-driven, ecologically insane "development" paradigm that they have been pursuing for centuries. This funding could have been used to completely revamp our internal energy policy. It is an ideal time and occasion to pull away from our fossil-dependent energy policy to a more ecologically sensible one that depends more on renewable sources of energy.
However, it is clear that the UPA is least interested in pursuing any of this. For instance, forcing India's industry to invest in cleaner technology or to comply with strict pollution standards is complete anathema to the current regime, which is hell-bent on protecting the huge profit margins of corporations. The UPA, with its single-minded agenda of pandering to US imperialism and corporate interests back home, would much rather take the business-as-usual approach.
And in the process, be party to what the Sudan has called the new Holocaust.
[This article will appear in the January 2010 edition of Liberation, the magazine of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation.]
By Alemayehu G. Mariam
The 'delegation of African negotiators' rumbled into Copenhagen rubbing their palms and licking their chops to load up tens of billions of dollars in carbon blood money and make a quick exit. They were disappointed. There was no gold at the end of the Copenhagen rainbow. At the end of the day, the industrialised countries pledged chump change in the amount of US$30 billion to the poor countries for the 2010–12 period.
In the run up to the Copenhagen conference, the trumpeted bravado to the world was that the 'African delegation' will 'walk out' and 'de-legitimise' the proceedings unless the industrialised countries forked out a cool US$40 billion. The delegation and its leader, Meles Zenawi, were prepared to strong-arm, outwit and outplay the industrialised countries in their usual zero-sum game. This time the game backfired. The wily 'neocolonial' Westerners outmatched, outplayed, overpowered and slickly finessed the African negotiators and others from the developing world.
Nobody walked out of the conference. The 'African negotiators' let off a whole lot of steam and huffed and puffed in the frigid Copenhagen winter, but they stayed in. Zenawi's vaunted Copenhagen showdown at high noon with the rich countries never materialised. The bravado about 'walking out' and 'challenging' the industrialised countries proved to be just hot air. When push came to shove, all the bravado was replaced by servile grovelling. Some representatives of African countries refused to walk into ('boycotted') the conference. But they did their 'boycott' during their lunch hour. They complained that the industrialised countries were railroading them into signing a deal that would be 'against the interest of Africa'. A couple of days later, chief African negotiator Zenawi stood attentively clutching the podium at a farcical French–Ethiopian press conference as President Nicolas Sarkozy harangued his industrialised country partners for not being more forthcoming on emissions limits and mitigation aid.
At the press conference, Zenawi and Sarkozy buttered each other up. Zenawi said that he and Sarkozy mirrored each other so much on the issues that they were 'preaching to the converted'. In a joint communiqué they declared 'France and Ethiopia, representing Africa' and appealed to all participants 'to adopt an ambitious agreement limiting the increase of temperatures to 2°C above pre-industrial levels'. They proposed 'the halving of global CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.' This would require the developed countries to commit to an 80 per cent emissions reduction by 2050.
On the cold cash end of things, Zenawi and Sarkozy proposed 'the adoption of a "fast-start" fund of 10 billion dollars per year covering the next 3 years'. The fund will be used for 'adaptation and mitigation actions, including the fight against deforestation'. Africa would get a cut of '40% of the fund'. They called for the 'creation of a tax on international financial transactions and [to] consider other sources such as taxes on sea freight or air transport'. They proposed 'the development of carbon markets, which will be a major source of capital flows and investments between the North and the South'.
Throughout the negotiations, the rich countries threw out dollar figures at the poor countries as one would throw bones to hungry dogs. The US offered the developing countries US$85 million as part of a combined donation of US$350 million from the industrialised countries to support clean energy technologies (wind and solar). Japan said it will kick in US$15 billion a year over the coming decade. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised a contribution of US$100 billion a year to a long-term fund by 2020 to help poor countries deal with worsening floods, drought, storms and rising seas. The catch was that the developing countries had to sign on the Copenhagen deal and agree to transparency and emissions-verification standards.
Other African countries and negotiators saw the Sarkozy–Zenawi deal as an outrage, an unconscionable trick to sell 'Africa's future' down the proverbial river. To borrow Zenawi's pre-conference phrase, they said the deal would lead to another 'rape of our continent'. Rising to Africa's defence was Algeria, with the support of South Africa and Nigeria. The trio accused the industrialised countries of conspiring to 'kill' the Kyoto Protocol and get away with an agreement in Copenhagen that does not have strict and legally binding commitments on emissions cuts.
Zenawi was whipsawed by various representatives of the developing countries for barefaced double-dealing. Lumumba Di-Aping, the chief negotiator of the G-77 bloc of countries, representing some 130 nations, mauled Zenawi for selling out Africa to the rich countries:
'Meles agrees with the EU perspective and the EU perspective accepts the destruction of a whole continent plus dozens of other states… The EU's very moral foundation is deeply questionable because she accepts that a large section of the human family should suffer in order for her to continue to thrive and prosper… The African Union has not accepted this. Meles is not the author of this proposal, the EU definitely is, along with the UK and France.
Mithika Mwenda of Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, citing a study of the Working Group I to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, lashed out at Zenawi:
'The IPCC science is clear – 2 degrees is 3.5 degrees in Africa – this is death to millions of Africans… If Prime Minister Meles wants to sell out the lives and hopes of Africans for a pittance – he is welcome to – but that is not Africa's position.'
Zenawi's befuddled response was drenched in crocodile tears:
'I know my proposal today will disappoint those Africans who from the point of view of justice have asked for full compensation for the damage done to our development prospects. My proposal dramatically scales back our expectation with regards to the level of funding in return for more reliable funding and a seat at the table in the management of such funds.'
Compare this to Zenawi's braggadocio in September 2009:
'We will use our numbers to de-legitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position… If needs be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent… Africa's interest and position will not be muffled as has usually been the case… Africa will field a single negotiating team empowered to negotiate on behalf of all member states of the African Union… The key thing for me is that Africa be compensated for the damage caused by global warming. Many institutions have tried to quantify that and they have come up with different figures. The sort of median figure would be in the range of 40 billion USD a year.'
The farcical saga of the 'African delegation' at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP 15) is reminiscent of the story in Leonard Wibberley's 1955 book, 'The Mouse that Roared'. In that satirical work, the fictional little duchy (a territory ruled by a duke or duchess) of Grand Fenwick in the French Alps declared war on the US so that it could lose the war and receive US aid. Following a series of wacky and comic twists and turns, Fenwick wins the war and forms a League of Little Nations which dictates its own peace terms to the US and Russia and blackmails them into a general nuclear disarmament.
The 'African delegation' came to Copenhagen with pipedreams of billions of dollars in carbon blood money. They left with pledges and promises of chump change. As the Copenhagen drama drew down its curtains, the 'African negotiators' learned a valuable lesson: They may huff and puff and try to blow the Copenhagen house down, but in the climate change theatre, they are nothing more than servile stagehands. After two weeks of hanging around Copenhagen, the 'African negotiators' became mere sideline onlookers to a hollow agreement, the 'Copenhagen Accord', signed by the US, China, Brazil, India and South Africa dubbed a 'historic step forward' with 'much further to go'.
The accord affirms the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol and sets a maximum of a two degrees celsius average global temperature rise. Following a review in 2016, that could be reduced to 1.5 degrees celsius. The rich countries pledged to commit US$30 billion in new funding to help the poor countries during 2010–12. They also promised to support 'a goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion dollars a year' by 2020. The rich countries committed to a minimum 80 per cent in emissions reductions by 2050. There were other vague provisions for supporting national mitigation actions and verification procedures.
As the shiny limos scampered in the dark towards Copenhagen airport on 18 December with their freight of the world's high and mighty, John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, lamented: 'The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.'
So ended the great adventure of the mouse that roared in Copenhagen.
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* This article was originally published by The Huffington Post.