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EcoChamber in Copenhagen: "This conference will probably be wrecked."

emily hunter

Naomi Klein giving the opening keynote at KlimaForum09, the alternative climate change conference underway in Copenhagen. Photo courtesy KlimaForum.

Naomi Klein giving the opening keynote at KlimaForum09, the alternative climate change conference underway in Copenhagen. Photo courtesy KlimaForum.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — The thread is being pulled on the climate talks here in Copenhagen, and the whole show is beginning to unravel. There are really several different conferences happening, and the cracks are showing.

The developing world has been so outraged by the proceedings in Copenhagen that the G77 leader, Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, walked out of the conference last Friday in protest. “Things are not going well,” he said in the Politiken newspaper. “This conference will probably be wrecked by the bad intentions of some people.”

The eruption and divisions began last Tuesday when the Guardian leaked a document, called the “Danish Text,” that virtually back-rooms the climate summit to the rich and powerful. The document, that is perceived to have been a draft floated strictly to G8 countries by the Danish government, takes two steps backwards on the industrialized nations’ obligations to the developing world, and sidelines the entire UN climate negotiation process.

In response to this, The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) also on Friday protested inside the conference demanding their own draft treaty—a survival pact instead of what they called a “suicide pact.” They say that the 2°C being agreed upon by the Industrialized world would submerge many of the world’s Small Island States this century, and that instead 1.5°C needs to be the target.

“We are facing an emergency, a planetary emergency that affects everyone but first and foremost affects AOSIS,” said Dessima Williams, Chair of the AOSIS from Grenada.

Even if the Danish Text were ignored, there is an underlining sense in the conference halls that the summit is behaving more like a G8 meeting than an international negotiation.

Reasonability is the core of this issue: Responsibility to include the marginalized, responsibility to lower our emissions, responsibility to the people who will be most affected and who have contributed the least, the responsibility of politicians to recognize scientific realities.

But lack of responsibility is hindering this Copenhagen deal, potentially sabotaging the entire negotiation. Naomi Klein says that we are facing is a “climate debt,” a debt the Industrialized world needs to pay up to the developing world, as the Western World has created most of the problem with our climate and needs to take responsibility for it.

“It is after all Industrialized countries that have emitted 75% of the world’s greenhouse gases, yet 75% of the affects will be faced by the developing world,” said Klein in her opening statement at the alternative people’s conference in Copenhagen, KlimaForum09.

Some argue that the West is beginning to take responsibility. The announcement just before the climate conference began by the Obama administration gave some life to this debate, as the States offered a $10 billion dollar annual aid fund between the rich nations to the ones in need as of 2012. But is this really enough?

The World Bank says that developing states are facing costs of US$100 billion a year just to adapt to the current climate change situation we have created, while Climate Action Network US argues for $600 billion.

Somehow we found the money to bail banks out of a crisis they created, with the US mustering $700 billion and Canada $75 billion. So the question must be asked: where are our priorities? Averting the greatest man-made crisis? Or propping up the elites in a “disaster-capitalist” system?

No, the Developing world is not blameless. Many, like China and India, do not want to be restricted in the climate treaty with absolute reduction targets nor to curb emissions by 2020, which is part of the hindrance to these negotiations. But you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

Though the west must be accountable to the countries that will face the brunt of the pains of climate change, it is now all of our problem so we all need to take responsibility for it. Until we do, we will not be ready to make a real climate treaty.

Emily Hunter Emily Hunter is an environmental journalist and This Magazine’s resident eco-blogger. She is currently working on a book about young environmental activism, The Next Eco-Warriors, and is the eco-correspondent to MTV News Canada.

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