A message from William Rees, Canada;
Humans claim to be uniquely capable of logical thought, forward planning and moral judgment. None of these unique capabilities are evident in the mainstream international dialogue on responses to climate change. The time has come to rise above primitive tribal instincts and exercise our full human capacities in confronting climate change. The time has come to act with intelligence, foresight and compassion for the mutual benefit of all.
What could have happened
At COP15 2010, on December 17th and 18th, presentations were made, by the heads of states, to the Plenary. The majority of heads of states were calling for the global community to maintain the rise in temperature to well below 1.5 degrees. Tragically, it was clear at COP15 that the demands of the majority of states were disregarded. On December 7th, Papua New Guinea had proposed that, rather than descend to the lowest common denominator, the parties should strive for consensus with a fallback of 75%. Unfortunately, this proposal was summarily dismissed by the Chair.
What must happen
If one counts the G77 representing 130 developing states along with some low -lying states or small island states which were not members of the G77 and, with some of the member states of the European Union, then possibly over 75% of the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would have been prepared to sign and ratify a strong, legally binding agreement. It could be argued, on the one hand, that such an agreement would have been irrelevant because the major greenhouse gas producers would not have signed on. On the other hand, citizens in the major greenhouse gas producing states could have used a new legally binding agreement to pressure their governments to commit to stronger emission reductions; the states, signatories of the new protocol, could have forced the delinquent states to comply either through the International Court of Justice, or through an International Climate Justice Tribunal set up specifically under the UNFCCC to address the failure to comply with international obligations under the UNFCCC. COP16, in Mexico, must respect the demands of the majority.
Respecting emerging science, and other reports
The UNFCCC is ratified by 192 countries representing near universal membership. It commands near universal support and its legitimacy is unquestioned. Therefore all signatories of the UNFCCC are legally bound to discharge the obligation in Article 2 which states: 1C stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere must be at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
One means of discharging this obligation is for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to rectify the fact that militarism a major contributor to greenhouse emissions has been excluded from the IPCC deliberations. These emissions must be included in the assessment of each governments contribution to CO2 emissions. Another means for discharging obligations is to respect the emerging science, including the scientific assessments from COP15, from the IPCC, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the emerging data from other international organizations. At COP 15, a representative from the IPCC stated that at 2 degrees rise, the poor, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable would not survive, and at 1.5 degrees rise, they might survive. Reports from the WMO indicated that temperatures were rising faster, climate-related incidents more intense, and drought was advancing more extensively than anticipated. The emerging science indicates that the global climate crisis is much more urgent than what was conveyed in the 2007 IPCC Report that was based on data up to the year 2005. In addition, it appears that the 2007 IPCC Report worked within projections of a 90 percent confidence level which comes close to requiring full scientific certainty; this practice was in violation of the precautionary principle which affirms that where there is a threat of climate change the lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent the threat. If the IPCC had explicitly considered the risks of higher temperatures outside the boundary of a 90 percent confidence level, dynamical melting of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets, and nonlinear responses to drivers of climate change this would have enabled States to have far more clarity in regards to the dire urgency of the climate crisis emergency.
The degradation of Arctic terrestrial and sub sea permafrost must be taken into account
The IPCC excluded non linear events that could result in more rapid temperature increases or sea level rise. Perhaps one of the most frightening and recent findings is that degradation of the Arctic terrestrial and sub sea permafrost is releasing large amounts of methane that have been frozen as methane hydrates (Canadell and Raupach 2009). This is particularly disturbing because methane is approx. 23 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide. Release of methane hydrates was not considered in the AR4 report at COP15. Yet, recent information indicates that: (i) large amounts of methane are frozen in arctic methane hydrates; (ii) continental shelves hold most of the methane and they increasingly are being released as permafrost melts; (iii) sub sea permafrost is already releasing methane; and (iv) there is a positive feedback of methane release insofar as methane hydrates increase in volume when they are destabilized by an increase in temperature and this leads to abrupt methane releases to the atmosphere. Once released, methane would speed up global warming by trapping the earths heat radiation about 20 times more efficiently than the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The 2005 NCAR report found that virtually the entire top 11 feet of permafrost around the globe could disappear by the end of this century. (MIT) Methane emissions from the Arctic permafrost increased by 31% from 2003-07. The IPCC states that methane emissions have over seventy times the heating power of CO2 over twenty years. Methane emissions last in the atmosphere about 12 years and have 100X heating of CO2 for the first ten years in the atmosphere. Both permafrost and methane hydrates each have twice the amount of carbon than the atmosphere. Further immobilization of stored methane could cause abrupt methane release and unpredictable climatic consequences (Shakhovas).
Taking into account the acidification of oceans
The acidification of the oceans due to CO2 emissions is the highest in 20 millions years, is three times higher and increasing at a rate 100 times faster than in the past 800,000 years (NOAA) which is now catastrophic to the worlds coral reefs and the marine ecosystem.
Committing to necessary targets
The issue of climate change and its serious adverse consequences on the Earth and humanity is the most urgent issue of our time. Because of the global urgency, there is a legal obligation to contain the rise in temperature and reabsorb emissions in order to keep temperatures at less than 1C above pre-industrial levels, and the parts per million to 300 ppm. While currently there has been an increase of from 0.7C to 0.8C degrees above pre-industrial levels, rising above the 1C level is now acknowledged to be the point at which global systems on land, water and air will be so affected as to create irreversible vicious feedback cycles and destabilize many ecosystems and human societies. Strict timeframes must be imposed, so that overall global emissions will begin to be reversed as of 2010. Only in the case of essentially complete elimination of emissions can the atmospheric concentration of CO2 be stabilized at a constant level (IPCC 2007). There must be a global target of 30% below 1990 levels by 2015, 50% below by 2020, 75% by 2030, 85% by 2040 and 100% by 2050, while adhering to the precautionary principle (Principle 15 Rio Declaration, Preamble UNFCCC), intergenerational equity principle (agreed to in numerous international instruments, such as in the UN Convention on the Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage), the differentiated responsibility principle (Principle 7, Rio Declaration, and in UNFCCC) and the Ecological Footprint principle (agreed to by all states at Habitat ll, 1996).
Subsidizing real solutions; not false solutions
States must phase out and end the subsidizing and financing of the fossil fuel industry, and other unsustainable industries promoting false solutions such as nuclear, genetic engineering, biofuels and environmentally destructive hydro-electric projects. Carbon markets and market-based mechanisms (Annex 1, Kyoto Protocol) have proved to be an ineffective and spectacular failure and must be abandoned. States must institute a fair and just transition programme to socially equitable and environmentally safe and sound employment. States must also prevent the transfer to other states of substances or activities that are harmful to human health or the environment (Principle 14, Rio Declaration). States must move away from car dependency, and promote safe environmentally sound public transit systems. There must be instituted a fair and just transition principle for a transition to socially equitable, environmentally sound development.
Ensuring biodiversity and Indigenous rights
In the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity, all member States of the United Nations must sign and ratify the convention on biological diversity and implement the necessary legislation to ensure compliance. All states must end deforestation, preserve forests and protect biodiversity and states must recognize the vital processes in the forests, ones that have taken place over millions of years, upon which Indigenous peoples depend. All states must adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and enact the necessary legislation to ensure compliance. States must seek and respect Indigenous knowledge.
There must be generous subsidies to assist a global conversion from industrial livestock farming to organic, primarily plant based small scale agriculture rich in biodiversity. Intensive livestock production and the intensive food production for livestock contributes to massive deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Conserving biodiversity, as well as feeding humanity must be a global priority over sustaining factory-farmed livestock and bio-fuel production.
Revisiting the REDD, Reducing emission from deforestation and degradation
The REDD program must have universal state participation and fund public, not the private sector. It is reported that there will be a meeting, regarding the REDD programme, in Norway: While REDD is a UN program under United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), only those states that have signed or been coerced into signing the Copenhagen Accord have been invited to participate in the deliberations in Norway. The UN REDD programme is a United Nations FUND and must involve the participation of all states, not just those that have signed or been coerced into signing the Copenhagen Accord.
In 1996, at Habitat II, all states made a commitment to ensure that all corporations including transnational corporations comply with all international agreements, including international environmental agreements. These agreements would include the UNFCCC and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Transnational corporations have been granted concessions in forests in developing states and on Indigenous lands, to log or to plant bio-fuel plantations, which have been in violation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The REDD program must fund state programmes and not be used to give carbon credits to transnationals under the REDD plan. All developed states, in which the transnationals are registered, must be required to revoke the charters of the aforementioned transnational corporations for contributing to the violation of state obligations under the Biodiversity Convention; if developed states fail to do this, developing states must be urged to expropriate these transnational corporations for violation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Furthermore, the UN fund should be used to give money to the state to conserve forests and for Indigenous peoples for their use, and for local communities to use for socially equitable and environmentally sound development.
It must be acknowledged that the major contribution to the causing and the exacerbating of climate change is waste and over-consumption; the root cause is corporate capitalism; a destructive model centred on individualism, accumulation of monetary wealth and corporate profits. Historically 75% of emissions have been caused by states that represent 20% of the population.
In the hands of capitalism everything becomes a commodity: the water, the soil, the human genome, the ancestral cultures, justice, ethics, death and life itself. Everything, absolutely everything, can be bought and sold and under capitalism. And even climate change itself has become a business. (Bolivian submission to COP 15)
Replacing GDP with system to assess well-being
The flawed system, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) must be replaced; a new means of measurement which reflects the quality of life is required for the twenty-first century. Respecting the integrity, resilience, and essence of the integration between humanity and nature within an ethical framework of conservation and preservation must be the foundation for a new economy.
Developing countries not responsible for the historical pollution must preserve the necessary space to implement an alternative and sustainable form of development that does not repeat the mistakes of savage industrialization that has brought us to the current situation. To ensure this process, developing countries need, as a prerequisite, finance and technology transfer. (Bolivian submission to COP 15)
Addressing climate debt, financing and technology transfer
The historically large emission state parties must acknowledge their emissions debt to developing countries. To address the emission debt developed states must; (i) cancel the existing debt owed by developing countries, (ii) implement the long-standing commitment of .7% of GDP for overseas development aid in public funding (ODA), and (iii) ensure new funding for climate change compensation, and for socially equitable and environmentally safe and sound development and transfer of technology through public funding not through public private partnerships (iv) above all, specifically compensate Indigenous peoples.
A funding institution must be established that ensures funding flows down directly to regional levels and local communities. Such a fund could be named the Fund for the Implementation of the UNFCCC, and it would fund the development, promotion and transfer of socially equitable and environmentally safe and sound renewable energy, transportation, agriculture and forestry. This technology must be in the public domain unencumbered by private patents.
The administration of the fund must be with the full participation of all member states of the United Nations. This fund would replace the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as the main source of funding for the UNFCCC. Funds must no longer be distributed by the Bretton Woods Institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The time has passed for bailing out banks and unsustainable corporations and for imposing IMF Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPS).
All country parties must renounce war and reallocate military expenses. Note that as early as 1976, all states agreed to the following: The waste and misuse of resources in war and armaments should be prevented. All countries should make a firm commitment to promote general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. Part of the resources thus released should be utilized so as to achieve a better quality of life for humanity and particularly the peoples of developing countries (II, 12 Habitat I, 1976). Subsequently, all states made a commitment in 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) to reallocate military expenses (Chapter 33, Agenda 21). In the context of the current annual 1.7 trillion military budget, the financial proposal, made by the developed states in the Copenhagen Accord, is unconscionable. To seriously address the issue of climate change and its adverse present and future consequences, all states must begin to transfer at least 50% of their military budget.
Guaranteeing fundamental human rights
Climate change will undermine fundamental human rights, such as social, and economic and cultural rights, civil and political rights, womens rights, labour rights, the right to education, the right to safe drinking water and sewage treatment, the right to universal access to publicly funded non two tier health care system. Climate change will also have lead to further discrimination on grounds such as racial. All states must enact the necessary legislation to discharge their obligations incurred through Human Rights instruments.
Ensuring legal rights for Mother Earth
In guaranteeing human rights in the 21st century states must recognize that Mother Earth also has rights. States collectively must endorse Bolivias proposal of a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and restore harmony with nature. This declaration builds on international commitments from the 1982 World Charter of Nature; one significant provision is in the preamble as follows: Convinced that, every form of life is unique, warranting respect regardless of its worth to man (humans) and, to accord other organisms such recognition, man (humanity) must be guided by a moral code of action.
This charter was adopted by all states with the exception of United States. To ensure the inherent worth of nature and life beyond human purpose, to save humanity and our Mother Earth, all states must promote, protect and defend these rights at the regional, national and international level.
States must seek to inspire a sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of all life and the living world by respecting the three laws of ecology. i) that all forms of life are interdependent; ii) that the stability (unity, security, harmony, togetherness) of ecosystems is dependent on their diversity (complexity), and iii) that all resources (food, water, air, minerals, energy) are finite and there are limits to the growth of all living systems. States must acknowledge that if the logical implications of these laws are ignored, the destruction of the Earth will lead, inevitably, to the destruction of humanity and to the collapse of the global ecosystem. States must commit to developing and nurturing a global ethic in which humanity is interwoven with nature.
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