Monday, 14 December 2009

Third World Protest Stalls Copenhagen Talks

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As the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen begins its second week of discussions and negotiations, it appears that an impasse between First World and Third World nations has been averted.

The leak last week of a "draft" of a potential treaty was followed by protests from the developing nations, who were apparently surprised by the intention that they would also be required to cut their “greenhouse gas” emissions. The fact that the eventual outcome of the treaty would be that developed nations would be permitted to retain more of their emissions than would be allotted to the developing world meant the agreement would not be an absolute leveler of wealth throughout the world. (However, the implications of First World nations only retaining a level of “greenhouse gas” emissions that would be less than twice that of Third World nations would still means a radical curtailment in the standard of living which recent generations have worked hard to acquire.)

According to an Associated Press report:

China, India and other developing nations blocked U.N. climate talks on Monday, bringing negotiations to a halt with their demand that rich countries discuss much deeper cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

Representatives from developing countries — a bloc of 135 nations — said they refused to participate in any working groups at the 192-nation summit until the issue was resolved.

The move was a setback for the Copenhagen talks, which were already faltering over long-running disputes between rich and poor nations over emissions cuts and financing for developing countries to deal with climate change....

"Nothing is happening at this moment," Zia Hoque Mukta, a delegate from Bangladesh, told The Associated Press. He said developing countries have demanded that conference president Connie Hedegaard bring the industrial nations' emissions targets to the top of the agenda before talks can resume.

Poor countries, supported by China, say Hedegaard had raised suspicion that the conference was likely to kill the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which limited carbon emissions by wealthy countries and imposed penalties for failing to meet those targets.

Poor countries want to extend that treaty because it commits rich nations to emissions cuts but doesn't make any legally binding requirements on developing countries. The United States would never support that, since it balked at signing Kyoto in the first place over concerns that China, India and other major greenhouse gas emitters were not required to take action.

"Trust is a major issue. We have lost faith," in Hedegaard, Mukta said.

In short, the Third World loves the status quo of Kyoto, with a treaty that virtually requires the First World to "outsource" its industrial production to the Third World. It would mean that, once again, the proposed environmental agreement has less to do with "saving the world" from pollution than it has to do with redistributing the wealth and industrial might of the world.

Of course, for Bangladesh, it may be even more overtly a matter of money: that nation’s delegation has gone on record demanding 15 percent of all funds extracted from the First World as part of a Copenhagen agreement.

For Hedegaard, who previously said that a failure in Copenhagen would mean a failure of the “global democratic system,” these developments must be particularly disheartening, since the leadership of a substantial majority of the nations represented at Copenhagen have called into question the integrity of the entire proceedings in Denmark.

Still, as of this writing, it appears that any further impasse has been averted — for the present. A report at (which had previously posted the above-cited AP article, before replacing it with a more positive follow-up story) maintains that the talks are resuming:

The European Union says poor countries have stopped their boycott of climate change negotiations at Copenhagen and have found a solution to their dispute with rich nations.

The EU environment spokesman Andreas Carlgren says informal talks at Copenhagen resolved the impasse.

The basis of this resolution has yet to be revealed.

Photo of British Environment Minister Ed Miliband: AP Images

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