From Rhine Land to Amazon Forrest

From Rhine Land to Amazon Forrest

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Forest for Trees resizedCan we see the Forest for the Trees?

I am on the way to Rio to participate in an event nick named ‘Rio+20’ and seize ‘one in life time opportunity’   as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described.

On such Journey, as a former Director in United Nations, I should be forward looking. But I just cannot wipe out the scenes on the banks of Rhine in Bonn where the preparatory meeting on Climate Change hosted by UNFCCC concluded on 25 May 2012. The Amazon forest lies ahead  of me , but I just cannot shrug of the feeling that would we be able to distinguish  Brazilian forest behind Rio for  European trees on the banks of Rhine?

‘Climate Crisis is not caused by the Green House Gases (GHGs) but by the Grim-faced Hesitating Governments (also GHGs)’, one of my journalist friends commented at the end of that meeting. Before embarking on flight to Rio I thought of meditating about Bonn affair. The past  impregnates  future. Who said that?

The Meeting and the Abbreviations

Those who care to know what that meeting in Bonn was about –note it down: it was conglomeration of 36th sessions of , now hold your breath, the SBI and SBST, 15th session of AWG-LCA, the 17th session of the AWG-KP and, first session of ADP. Feel like yawning? That’s natural. I would like to give you some tips. Do not bother about those abbreviations. AWGs, sort of working groups , would vanish soon having lived their vociferous life. SBI and SBSTA are eternal bodies and that deal with every thing that you can imagine under Climate Change at glacial speed . But yes, you should know what ADP is about, because it is going to stay with us for next at least 9 years and will give birth to brand new Protocol to replace Kyoto and would put it in action. ADP is oven-fresh abbreviation and brand new addition to more than 200 already existing entries in the list of glossary on Climate Change that includes some cryptic entries like REDD+ and LULUCF. But remember this one: ADP means Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.

Who said what

Another journalist friend sarcastically mentioned that under UNFCCC only emissions and entries into glossary increase, not the actions and finances to fight Climate Change. Cynicism  apart,  I had quick look at the columns of journalists that flashed in the week following  the conclusion of the meeting. The meeting as per them was distracted, discorded, disappointing, down-beat, dejected, disgusting, and full of D-graded debate on Durban Platform. In Zulu, ‘Durban’ means ‘lagoon’. It looked like that Durban Platform would remain an isolated lagoon for long. No one had clue how to approach that lagoon and how to take enhanced action. Because almost whole meeting was devoted by the delegates only to understand what they themselves decided in Durban in the first place. It is like standing at the cross road with the road map not knowing how to read a road map drawn by the one who is reading it.

Climate Meetings resizedHere are some comments actually made by the delegates and appeared in the press:

  • Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate chief: “The world cannot afford that a few want to backtrack from what was agreed in Durban only five months ago. Durban was – and is – a delicately balanced package where all elements must be delivered at the same pace. It is not a pick and choose menu. It is very worrisome that attempts to backtrack have been so obvious and time-consuming in the Bonn talks over the last two weeks.”
  • Developing country delegate: “It’s incredibly frustrating to have achieved so little. We’re stepping backwards, not forwards.”
  • Tove Maria Ryding, coordinator for climate policy at Greenpeace International: “Here in Bonn we’ve clearly seen that the climate crisis is not caused by lack of options and solutions, but lack of political action. It’s absurd to watch governments sit and point fingers and fight like little kids while the scientists explain about the terrifying impacts of climate change and the fact that we have all the technology we need to solve the problem while creating new green jobs.”
  • IISD Bulletin: “Negotiations in 2012 got off to an inauspicious start and the?Bonn Climate Change Conference was marred by mistrust?and unabashed posturing.”

Thinking Positive

Having worked in United Nations for two decades, I, however, always see hopes amidst despair. What caught my attention was optimism of Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC–  “Work at this session has been productive. Countries can now press on to ensure elements are in place to adopt the Doha amendment to the Kyoto protocol. I am pleased to say that the Bonn meeting produced more clarity on the Protocols’s technical and legal details and options to enable a smooth transition between the two commitment periods of the protocol.”

Overall aim of the meeting was to agree or at the least, beginning to agree,  on timetable to bring in new global climate treaty, once the existing treaty- Kyoto Protocol. Having already hit by the iceberg,  Kyoto Protocol is well  on the way to the Titanic submergence in the rising and disturbed sea! The new Protocol expected to be drafted by the end of 2015 after the negotiations and to come into force in 2020. The meeting was also to discuss amendments to the Kyoto Protocol, including the length as well as enhanced ambition of the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, discussion on status of annual Green Climate Fund of USD 100billion, ambitious targets under new Protocol and new institutional structures on technology transfer and Green Climate Fund.

If I shed some disdain, there has been positive progress on:

Climate Technology Centre: Ranking of three shortlisted hosts for the Climate Technology Center (CTC) was agreed for further discussion, with a UNEP-led consortium leading. The example of the Regional Networks of OzonAction Programme of UNEP was among the key experience given by UNEP to substantiate the claim.

Green Climate Fund: The first Board meeting may be held at end June/beginning July-2012, which would allow for the Fund to become operational in 2013.Many delegates however talked about this Fund as ‘ empty shell’

Adaptation: A text for COP/MOP was agreed on ways to implement National Adaptation Plans for least developed countries.

Registry: The UN Climate Change Secretariat presented the prototype of a registry that matches information on developing country actions to curb emissions with industrialized country support.

And here comes the irony of all:

Amidst this mixed progress in Bonn, following news had remarkable impact. USA, a country, which never joined the Kyoto Protocol and never took any commitment of emission reduction, has been able to achieve the reduction in CO2 emissions in 2011 of 7.7% as compared to emissions in 2006, the largest reduction of all countries or regions.

Compare this with another news: Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion reached a record high of 31.6 Gt in 2011, according to preliminary estimates This represents an increase of 1.0 Gt on 2010, or 3.2%.

At least the world cannot take USA for task in Climate Change meetings in 2012 and  for few years from now .

Obviously, national and sub-national Efforts go beyond the International Commitments.  There lies the clue for the Rio+20 summit. In the huge gatherings the one cannot vision forest for trees.


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