A Global Duty in Copenhagen

A Global Duty in Copenhagen

Last week, Nepal held the world's highest Cabinet meeting, at the height of 5,250 meters at a base camp region of Mt. Everest, to send a message about the impact of global warming on the Himalayas, where glaciers are already melting at an alarming rate.

Earlier, the Maldives' Cabinet met underwater, again to send a message about the impact of climate change on the Indian Ocean archipelago, which could disappear if sea levels keep rising.

Both events were to get the world's attention ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, that begins Monday.

The conference brings together representatives of more than 180 countries, as well as thousands of participants from media and non-governmental organizations. The outcome of the climate change summit meeting will determine the follow-up agreement to the Kyoto protocol, the commitments of which end in 2012.

However, judging from progress so far, it's quite hard to expect a new global agreement to emerge immediately from the Copenhagen meeting as official negotiations seem far removed from normal global reality, like those special circumstances in the Himalayas and the Maldives, with positions of many delegations dictated by national interests, and especially the interests of the most powerful.

The outcome of the Copenhagen meeting would be very much influenced by the United States, the world's number one polluter that refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol but this time wants to join the new global effort to help arrest global warming, which is good and welcome.

As the US Senate needs more time to agree on a climate change bill, the US administration also needs more time to finalize a deal, and is thus proposing a two-step solution for the climate summit in Copenhagen by which countries would express their commitment to a legally-binding agreement that would be finalized subsequently in the next meeting after Copenhagen.

That seems to be the expected outcome of the Copenhagen meeting. However, as world leaders, including US President Barack Obama and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, intend to gather in some numbers in Copenhagen, it's only fair for us to expect more.

Despite the expected two-step outcome from Copenhagen, there are still many unresolved issues, including those dividing developed and developing countries.

To avoid deadlock and to move forward, developed countries must first breathe in hard and make commitments to offer generous financial support for developing countries and least developed countries to help them finance technology changes and adapt to the impacts of global warming.

Only then, can they expect developing countries, especially the big ones like China, India and Brazil, to commit themselves to major climate mitigation efforts by voluntarily reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Yudhoyono, who successfully led the global climate meeting in Bali three years ago that produced the Bali Roadmap to Copenhagen, should play a more bridging role between the interests of developed and developing countries, especially since Indonesia now plays a key role in the new G20 group, which the rich countries depend on to push economic recovery.

Yudhoyono therefore has enough political capital to lead in Copenhagen. He has committed to reducing Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2020 compared to business as usual. Therefore, he should also join with others to press world leaders to improve the proposals currently on table.

According to some informed people, the current proposals under negotiations would still result in an increased global warming of more than 4* C during this century - double the 2* C limit endorsed by the G20 leaders. If that were to happen, many islands in the Maldives and also here in Indonesia would disappear under rising sea levels.

It's the duty of all negotiators currently meeting in Copenhagen to negotiate based on the realities around us, based on the future of our planet, not solely based on national interests.

We all share this planet and the responsibility to keep this earth safe and sustainable for human life. We cannot afford not to implement effective global measures to mitigate climate change and keep rising temperatures in check.

Copyright © 2008 The Jakarta Post - PT Bina Media Tenggara. All Rights Reserved.

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