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Climate Action 2011-2012

The road to rio ©

The road to rio © Nepenthes The road ahead is blocked by a number of issues, including: finance, apportioning responsibility and addressing uncertainties. Long hard roads to Durban and Rio 190 climateactionprogramme.org By Elizabeth Thompson As I sit to write this article, which I do in my personal capacity, the lyrics of Jamaican reggae icon Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Hard Road to Travel’ come to mind. “It’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go, But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed. My mind is made up. I’ll never stop. My faith will see me through.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has identified sustainable development and climate change as the two top priorities of his second term. On the matter of attaining inclusive sustainable development, one must embrace Jimmy Cliff’s sentiments of being firm in mind and forging ahead without turning back, not out of a sense of resolute stubbornness but because the planet and its people need hope and sustained effort in crafting solutions to the challenges which we are facing. The UN is also uniquely placed to assist countries with these objectives. Indeed, the confluence of crises and circumstances which have given rise to the current global tensions, uncertainty and upheavals – economic, ecological and social – require three things of all of us as individuals, but particularly of governments and the international institutions which connect them. First, we must accept responsibility that the current difficulties have been driven by our lifestyles and consumption patterns and in that regard, we must change. Second, there must be an acknowledgement that current development models do not address the existing problem. And third, governments and businesses must formulate and implement new approaches which will preserve our natural resources while allowing investment in human and social capital, together with business prosperity and economic growth. The Durban, rio journeys The original Rio conference was iconic, created global excitement, popularised Agenda 21 as a definitive statement on environmental and development issues, promulgated an integrated approach to development, presented society, economy and ecology as being equally important threads in the tapestry of development, and introduced new language and concepts into the development lexicon. Rio was also the birth mother of three new conventions, on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification. Kyoto was itself ground-breaking, not only because it placed climate change on the multilateral agenda, but because, although

controversial, it introduced the concept of carbon capture and storage, established the Clean Development Mechanism and carbon as a traded commodity, with a market worth US$143.7 billion in 2010, up from $118 billion in 2008, which was itself an 84 per cent increase over 2007 (World Bank, 2010). There must be an acknowledgement that current development models do not address the existing problem. Now, with the Conference of the Parties in Durban and the follow-up to Rio, Rio+20, slated for June 2012 in Rio, we appear to have come to a major crossroads in the journeys on which these seminal conferences set us. Both conferences have their supporters and sceptics. In relation to climate change, the sceptics point to the disappointment of COP15 at Copenhagen in 2009, and the ‘dwindling hope’ for a negotiated multilateral agreement which has characterised and shadowed Copenhagen and Cancun and consequently now precedes Durban. On reflection, we should realise that the sense of disappointment in the Copenhagen outcome was due partially to the fact that the conference did not live up to its billing – as the summit which would produce a multilateral agreement to ‘save the planet’ from the peril of climate change. The summit ended with the leaders of the world assembled but without the anticipated legal agreement. Now, with the negotiations having become highly divided over several definitive issues, including targets, and commitments, and with some, including politicians, still discounting the existence of climate change, some argue that a cloud has fallen over Durban. There is a growing body of thought however, that the new UNFCCC Executive Secretary has managed to rebuild enough trust between North and South and South and South for more constructive engagement between the Parties. What then of Rio+20? This conference will follow Durban by six months but the two are not inextricably linked. There is still sunshine as we approach Rio, for a number of reasons. Nostalgia and excitement surround Rio+20 as part of the legacy of the original Rio. This is in stark contrast to the controversy and absence of consensus which surrounded Kyoto almost from the onset. Citizens of every country want a sense of hope, and their governments must offer it through a suite of policies that deliver economic growth and an improved quality of life. A positive Rio+20 outcome will inspire multiple stakeholders with this much needed hope. The agenda of Rio is multi-focused and countries are suggesting a number of subthemes under the aegis of the green economy – water, energy, sustainable cities, blue economy/oceans, food security, green business and investment. Rio’s broad agenda and themes will precipitate a plethora of issues around which convergence might come, as opposed to a single issue over which there is significant divide. While Rio runs on a different track to Durban, it must be conceded that a good outcome at Durban will create a more positive environment for Rio, and increase the likelihood of a positive Rio outcome. Equally, success at Rio will also create a corollary benefit for the climate change agenda since catalysing a global green economy will mean exploring low carbon policies, programmes and business approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. some of The roaDblocks There are a number of roadblocks common to both processes, including the issue of finance. Developing countries contrast the promise of funds with the reality of delivery and point to shrinking official development assistance (ODA), limited foreign direct investment and a lack of innovative financing; and they raise questions surrounding the capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund, such as whether the new fund is plus or minus ODA and monies previously promised but not yet disbursed. Yet progress on the parameters, structure and capitalisation of this fund would be a major positive result of both the Durban and Rio processes. UNEP, in its 2011 report Towards a Green Economy, urged that “a green economy creates jobs and economic progress … and higher growth in … GDP per capita.” UNEP’s report indicates that the transition to the green economy will require countries to invest 2 per cent per annum of global GDP from now to 2050, in “ten key sectors including agriculture, buildings, energy, fisheries, forests, manufacturing, tourism, transport, water and waste management”. The critical question is, “Are countries willing and able to make that investment?” Technology is in greater abundance in the North than in the South, except for the emerging economies. Developing countries, especially small island developing states which have been described by the World Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat and Barbados Programme of Action as having Despite it’s high profile and expectations, the Copenhagen Conference largely did not deliver the actions necessary to halt climate change. © SustainUS 191 climateactionprogramme.org

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