November 27, 2009
The following post was submitted to Blogactiv by Kriton Arsenis MEP, member of the environment and fisheries committees, substitute on the development committe:
The leaders of the planet gather to decide upon humanity’s future this December in Copenhagen. After the nuclear threat of the Cold War it is the first time that the very existence of humanity is threatened. This time the threat is not about pressing the button that will ignite the first nuclear missile, but about the button we press everyday to turn on our lights, the engines of the industries and our cars. Since the industrial revolution our civilization has been based on increasing productivity which is itself based on increasing energy and resource consumption. The benefits are shared amongst the richest parts of our world, although the resources come from all over the planet. We now know that in this way we not only are depleting the planet’s invaluable, finite resources, but we are simultaneously altering the planet’s climate to a much less hospitable one, if hospitable at all. In many places of the world this is evident more and more everyday. Ironically enough this is the case in the parts of the world that have contributed the least to this madness. Today’s’ 20 million climate refuges are expected to grow up to 500 million by 2050 if inaction is the decision taken in Copenhagen. In Africa, every year, people have to walk more and more kilometres to find water, and wood to boil the water so that they can drink it. Kilimanjaro`s ice cap may have disappeared by 2020. All of Africa’s ice caps are melting away, draining out rivers and lakes. And there are not the only ones. The source of water for much of South America, the Andean ice caps are retreating very fast. In 2007 the Amazon River dried out for days, while Lake Titicaca is expected to dry out by 2050. What’s worst? The Himalayan glaciers, source of the Yangtze, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Huang Ho, Hindus, Mekong and Salween, that provide access to water for 22% of humanity are melting down fast.
We have a principle in the EU that is called “the polluter pays”. We, the developed world are by far the most important carbon polluters of this planet’s atmosphere. The whole of Africa contributes 3% to global carbon emissions. That’s about double the emissions of the island of Manhattan in New York. Approximately 100 billion Euros or 150 billion USD is our annual climate debt to the developing countries, in order to address their immediate needs. Yet, the US climate bill that was approved by the House of Representatives commits to no more that 2 billion USD of annual climate financing for developing countries. The EU has been more “generous” by committing to 2-15 billion Euros. Needless to say that more is needed.
Crucial for our civilization’s survival will be whether we will manage to reduce carbon concentration in the atmosphere through increasing the ecosystems carbon intake capacity, while gradually halting Greenhouse Gas emissions. Three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is deposited in the terrestrial ecosystems. Halting deforestation and promoting afforestation might prove to be the most significant pillar of mitigation. US bill commits to 5 billion USD annually for forests. The EU 0. The annual global needs are 17-33 billion USD and should be directed to developing countries.
It is a long way to a just and adequate international legally binding climate agreement and we are just a breath away from Copenhagen. Many say we should compromise for a political agreement there. In other words wait and see. Can the planet wait for us any longer? And what are we about to see?