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A shared vision for the climate or for taking shorter showers?

Posted Dec. 2, 2008 / Posted by: RConnors

As talks continue, developing country negotiators reminded rich, industrialized countries on Tuesday of the big picture: we undeniably have to reduce unsustainable consumption to address the climate crisis.  Unfortunately, Japan appears to not really understand the scale of the problem we are facing.  Instead of meaningfully addressing the need to radically decarbonize our economy and transition away from the destructive patterns of consumption, the Japanese delegate focused instead on superficial changes in individual behavior, like taking fewer showers.  Seriously, that’s what he said. 

As we face the greatest ecological crisis, perhaps ever, Japan is still talking about the role of taking a short shower instead of a bath.  If this is really lens through which developed countries see these negotiations, we’ve got a real problem. As Bernaditas Muller, lead delegate of the Philippines and spokesperson for the G77+China (the group of developing countries), stated later, while Japan is talking about taking fewer showers, how many people don’t even have access to drinking water?  Even worse, how many people see the limited water supply may have in peril due the serious impacts of climate change?

Progress in Poznan will be crucial in framing the scale of action developed countries will commit to in meeting the obligations on technology transfer and finance under the Bali Action Plan.  Developing countries continue to state that rich industrialized countries have failed to either reduce their emissions or provide finance and technology to assist developing countries to achieve low-carbon sustainable development – both of which are legally binding obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

Once again, industrialized countries are trying to deflect attention from their failure to make good on obligations contained in the Framework Convention by focusing so much attention on the shared vision of a 2009 agreement.  What many industrialized countries seem to be forgetting is that there actually is a shared vision for a climate agreement, which was agreed upon nearly universally (including the United States) 16 years ago.  What we need is some show of good will from Annex 1 (industrialized) countries to address the technology transfer and finance needs of developing countries in the coming year of intense negotiations.  In an attempt to work productively in the negotiations to achieve a new global deal, the G77+China have already made proposals in these two key areas, but Annex 1 countries refuse to engage or respond.  Annex 1 countries must begin by engaging the substantive concerns and proposals of developing countries so that we can move forward in 2009.

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