For the next two weeks, there will be daily blogs on ItsGettingHotInHere.org from the Bonn meetings of the UN.
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Yesterday evening’s pre-sessional, ‘Workshop on issues relating to the scale of emission reductions to be achieved by Annex I Parties’ saw about 10 presentations from different nations, followed by some scientific/technical/economic presentations, all discussing mitigation potentials are necessary, possible according to the research, and ‘at what cost’.
Japan, Australia, the EU, New Zealand, China, South Africa and Iceland all made presentations, but the final presentation, from AOSIS – the Alliance Of Small Island States, the most climate-vulnerable nations in the world – really kicked serious butt.
China demanded 40% by 2020 reductions for ‘Annex 1′ (ie, ‘rich’) nations.
South Africa presented research from the IISD demonstrating that 40% by 2020 (currently the most ambitious targets being pushed for) is achievable for Annex 1, who strongly resists needing to take on such targets.
They then finished with a strong comment on Obama’s lame target of returning to 1990 levels by 2020:
‘Having done nothing for so long is no excuse for doing less than what the science requires.’
Iceland‘s presentation was largely technical, about ways to measure and report on emission reductions in small nations – as well as this gem:
“We are a small nation, responsible for only 0.1% of global emissions. However, we believe that this should place us at no advantage, nor disadvantage, when it comes to taking action. There should not be any free-riders in the effort to reduce global emissions.”
So next time you hear a sceptic, or a developed nation government propagate the myth – like Australia often does – that ‘We’re less than 2% of global emissions, what we do doesn’t matter,’ you can use the example of Iceland’s moral leadership to counter.
Then AOSIS, came off the blocks – before negotiations have even started – with all guns blazing. They’ve set the moral minimum benchmark for these negotiations.
“For us in the small islands, this is an issue of survival – not just for AOSIS but also for LDCs and for all developing countries. In the case of AOSIS, sea level rise threatens our sovereignty…. there is a possibility that our nations will no longer exist, in the lifetime of our children and our grandchildren.”
AOSIS says that any global deal should:
Ensure that the ultimate objective of the Convention (The UNFCCC) is achieved – the avoidance of dangerous climate change.
Act on the precautionary principle and on inter-generational equity
Avoid any further impacts on Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
Be based on the best and most recent science – and that no longer means the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
As a mechanism for maintaining flexibility in the climate agreement, AOSIS has proposed that rather than a 2012-2020 agreement, the next ‘global deal’ should close in 2017 – enabling the ‘post 2017′ agreement to respond directly to the next IPCC report, which is due in early 2014.
They are pushing hard for targets set at ‘well below 350ppm’, to leave us a decent chance of avoiding 2 degrees of warming.
“It is clear that 2 degrees is too high for Small Island Developing States. I don’t need to repeat the list of effects of 2 degrees… there are some issues that no amount of adaptation funding can deal with. When a hurricane wipes out your whole country, adequate adaptation funding is very hard to come by.”
“And it is clear that the latest science shows that 450ppm carries a 50% risk of exceeding 2 degrees of global warming. It is also clear that sea-level rise will be higher than the AR4 scenario of 18-58cm. It is more like 50-140cm by 2100 [in a business-as-usual scenario]. We would see the disappearance of whole countries… the Maldives, the Bahamas… and if not total disappearance, what would be left will not be viable.”
“We do not want to be looking at options to relocate our populations. We want to take strong mitigation action so that such a scenario is not necessary. That decision rests with the AWG-KP…“Either we accept a higher stablisation level and high impacts, or Annex 1 has to do more.’”
AOSIS is calls for global emissions to peak by 2015, and for Annex 1 countries to reduce emissions by more than 40% by 2020. They pointed out that Nicholas Stern’s latest statements on economics showed that inaction would cost 30% of GDP due to climate effects, whereas the cost of acting would only be closer to 5% below business-as-usual scenarios by 2050.
“I’ll leave you to do the maths.”
Their closing statement illustrated what may be their theme for the rest of the year:
“We need to ensure that no island is left behind.”
When their statement finished, I wanted to applaud – I wanted to show my support for a progressive government, to support the island’s efforts to maintain their sovereignty. But the negotiating room is dead. Aside from AOSIS and a few outspoken LDCs, there appears to be no passion here, no vitality and no inspiration.
My only consolation was that in the Chair’s brief summary of the session, he pointed out one thing that would not have been possible to say even a year ago – 550ppm appears to be totally off the table, not mentioned by any nation.
Sadly, it is the largest flaw in this UN process that the most vulnerable nations have the smallest political influence on the process. A true consensus process, as we understand it in grassroots activist circles, is designed to remove the flaws of the simple ‘majority vote’ model – in which a decision could seriously disadvantage up to 49% of the population. In a true consensus process, you are meant to reach a result that everyone will be able to live with, and which puts no party at a disadvantage. AOSIS nations literally cannot live without an ambitious global approach to solving this crisis. It isn’t acceptable.
The Marshall Islands last night made a statement demonstrating this, saying that an agreement not based on the best science would result in ‘an ultimately unsignable agreement’ in Copenhagen.
This sort of statement from developing nations can be taken as a sign, either that they are starting to lose faith in the process, or that they intend to use moral pressure as a direct threat to the richer nations throughout 2009.
The implications for our campaigning are clear in either case.
Youth at Bonn are standing in solidarity with the AOSIS nations.