Thursday, June 13, 2013

Russia, Ukraine and Belarus Derail 2013 UN Climate Talks in Bonn

The United Nation's (UN) climate talks in Bonn, Germany have collapsed despite the fact that we have marched past the symbolic milestone of 400 ppm of atmospheric CO2. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have rejected a compromise and effectively stalled discussions on climate compensation, adaptation and finance until the main summit in Warsaw in November.

The problems originated last year in Doha when Russia, Ukraine and Belarus expressed concern over the extension of the Kytoto Protoco, which is currently the world's only obligatory climate agreement. (Although the US and Canada are not signed on).

“We’re getting the impression these three countries are not interested in climate change,” said the Tuvalu delegate whose nation is one of those most vulnerable to sea level rise. The deep concern of delegates from Tuvalu and other vulnerable islands is justified. We have not seen these levels of atmospheric CO2 in more than 3 million years when sea levels were 80 feet higher than they are today.

Even though Island nations are most vulnerable, climate change will adversely impact every nation on earth. History will record the wreckless shortsightedness.

While Russia is questioning the process the reality is that they are using the process as leverage to politicize their point.

"Governments need to look up from their legal and procedural tricks and focus on the planetary emergency that is hitting Africa first and hardest," declared Mithika Mwenda, coordinator of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance. "Russia's shenanigans have set back critical work on loss and damage mechanisms and so now Poland, as host of the next summit, must find a way to ensure this issue is dealt with fully."

Some fatalistically believe the UN climate negotiations are doomed to fail. Many detractors of the UN process favor of action at local or regional level. However, they are fooling themselves if they think we can significantly impact emissions in the absence of an overarching global treaty.

While it is easy to point to yet another failure at UN climate talks it is important to understand that despite the position of the three holdouts, progress has been made. The highly destructive stance of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have overshadowed progress on other aspects of the ongoing negotiations Negotiations of the UN climate process, including the new 2015 treaty.

Despite very serious obstacles we cannot give way to fatalism and despair. The UN process is the only shot we have and we need to stay at it until the job gets done.

As Tomasz Chruszczow, chair of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI)said, "it is up to the Parties to save the world.”

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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