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Climate change: preparing the path for Copenhagen 2009. Action is necessary

pdf mise en ligne :25 11 2008 ( NEA say… n° 57 )

IMMIGRATION > Droit de séjour

On 11 November the hemicycle of the European Parliament in Brussels hosted an important conference on the challenges of the present and alarming climate change.The need for a global approach to this theme has been clearly expressed throughout the debate. The Brussels conference ploughs the way towards the forthcoming United Nations Potsdam conference in December and the final UN conference scheduled by the end of 2009. How much does inaction cost to our pocket? How should a global contract be in this sector? How can the various States put together their efforts to face the problem?

Environmental issues such as climate change and global warming are more and more invading public debate nowadays. An unanimous vision of the problem is irreversibly growing: action is necessary. And any kind of action should be taken collectively, with a joint decision coming out of a meeting of almost all the States of the world. The 11 November conference entitled "A Global Contract Based on Climate Justice. The need for a new approach concerning international relations" is one of the stages that will bring us to the final conference in Copenhagen 2009 in which it is expected States will take a stand on the solution of climate change concerns. As Stavros Dimas Commissioner for Environment stated we "… must tackle climate change…" first of all reducing as much as possible emissions and preparing to "… achieve an agreement in Copenhagen".  Another eminent speaker such as Vittorio Prodi (MEP and brother of the ex President of EU Commission) emphasized that there is no room any more for unilateral approach. He called for a more democratic UN Security Council in order to listen to a wider range of requests from all over the word before every decision making process. After having considered "global warming" as the main challenge we must face, he quoted other important matters  we should tackle very soon, e.g. scarcity of natural resources.


               On-line consultation

The conference was enriched with a direct debate with the public. Besides the possibility to intervene with questions addressed to the various speakers at the end of each panel or session the public was given the faculty to answer precise questions proposed by the conference organizers using the computers dislocated in the hemicycle. It was often demanded to make proposals for the solution of specific climate challenges. This way the public had the possibility to have their say in real time. Moreover the answers were analyzed just after their formulation and a large debate followed the on-line consultation.

That is the best way of involve the public in the debate. Furthermore the proposal will be taken into account in the future formulation of policies in the field of environmental issues.



    Protecting the Earth, protecting our future…

The conference also saw the participation of a child in representation of the future adult generations. This emotionally excited child, encouraged by the public, addressed a pungent reproach to all those who are in the position to act and decide in the field of climate issues. "Politicians, nations must act… we can take a revenge on you for not acting" -he said. And we can say everything but he is not right. Decision makers have the burden to act now and to remedy to damages already made.


     How much does inaction cost?

As long as Earth becomes warmer and warmer, as much as greenhouse effect grows we surely pay a cost of these damages. How much is their cost? Lord Nicholas Stern (from the London School of Economics) tried to make an attentive analysis and to warn us on how much serious the situation is. He underlined that emission are growing rapidly.

It's untenable to go on this way without doing anything, continuing global business as usual. The cost of inaction –here is the core of his speech- is much more than the cost of necessary action. Moreover "…delaying action on risks can magnify the damages…" Acting, then, is not only a duty, it is also a convenient strategy. Politicians know it very well. So, what is it lacking at the current stage? The establishment of a global deal, the will of progressively reducing the emissions. Emission targets are indicated in quantity of tons per capita. It is absolutely necessary a radical cut. There is no alternative way out!


   Other issues

Many speakers concentrated on specific issues. For example Vesile Kulaçoðulu (Director of the Trade and Environment Division of WTO [FR]) stressed the intersection themes between trade and climate change. Most of the pollution emissions come from transport activities. This is to underline the impact of trade on emissions. A good solution could certainly be the imposition of emission  standards in the transports area. Franz Radermacher (University of Ulm) proposed to take advantage (relatively speaking) of the present financial crisis, which is the most evident paradigm of market failure, as occasion to change in global climate issues. In a few words this is for him a particularly favourable moment to bend in global decisions. We need "chaos control" as well as eco-social economy. Big and powerful States should give up their inflexible way to conceive world economy.


   What could a global contract look like?

The second session of the conference concentrated on the characteristics a global contract on climate change should have. As Gunilla Carlsson stated, we often forget to put a human dimension into climate change policies. She proposed an early warning mechanism for the protection of the environment. Anders Wijkman foreshadowed a long-term investments device as the basis of a global contract. He firmly hoped that "…we will manage climate change [rather than] consenting climate change manage us". But it is in the conclusions of the debate that we find the real core of the proposal for a new management of climate change. The words of the vice-President of the European Parliament Gérard Onesta clearly get to the point. "What is law without judge or police? We have Kyoto, Montreal etc… but the judge, where is the judge? Who forces the States to comply legislation? Politics and the institution are the very guilty!" And after all, we must remember that "citizens are the victims of climate change, not the Member States".

In the very conclusion Onesta stressed that the rare thing in the world at the moment is not petroleum, gas or any other natural resource, but it is the time. We must harry up to find a solution. We can't tergiversate any more. And the help should also come from NGOs and global citizenship as well as national governments.







Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research website (EN) (DE).


Commission on Climate Change and Development (EN).


Summary of the background paper entitled " A Global Contract on Climate Change" (EN). Source: website of the conference


Fabio Putortì

Università degli Studi di Firenze (Italy)