ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Road to Mitigating Climate Change

Road to Mitigating Climate Change

After Bali, what is going to be the focus of “climate politics” over the next two years?

The United Nations conference on climate change at Bali in Indonesia during December 3-15, attended by representatives of the 192 signatories to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), together with observers from a host of intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, was supposed to agree on a “road map” to get multilateral negotiations off the ground so as to arrive at a successor to the Kyoto Protocol by 2009. The “Bali Action Plan” that resulted, encrypted as it is in the language of diplomacy, does not even mention an indicative range of the emission cuts that would be required of the developed countries or what might be the main concrete “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” by the developing countries. All that seems to have emerged is an acknowledgement by all the signatories of the UNFCCC that the evidence on global warming is “unequivocal” and that delay in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will significantly constrain “opportunities to achieve lower stabilisation levels and increase the risk of more severe climate change impacts”. So there is a sense of urgency in addressing climate change. Significantly, the conference had to be extended by a day, with the simmering tensions coming to the surface in the last hours. What were (are) the underlying contradictions?

The world is far from being “flat” – a place where all “players” are supposed to have an equal chance. What is in place is a worldsystem of dominance and dependency, one divided hierarchically into “centre” and “periphery”, with a fundamentally unequal international division of labour. It is the production and consumption patterns of the now developed countries (the “centre”) that are responsible for the deterioration of the Earth’s ecological conditions. Indeed, these countries have largely appropriated the carbon absorptive capacity of the biosphere, which is an integral part of the “global commons” – in other words, what we have at present is an unequal use of this absorptive capacity. It is the “centre” that has caused a large amount of emissions of greenhouse gases at a rate faster than natural systems can absorb them, which is leading to droughts, floods, etc, that have disproportionately affected the nations of the “periphery”. The “centre” has thus accumulated a huge “ecological debt” owed to the “periphery”.

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