Initial Reaction to Copenhagen

Disappointment all around after the end of the Copenhagen climate change talks. More reaction to follow, but credit has to be given for the tireless work by Gordon Brown & Ed Miliband at these talks, if only Obama and others followed their lead.

We have no option but to carry on, and push on and on for a legally binding deal that will keep the world from warming more than 2oC. And we must make sure the aid money agreed for adaptation is new money, not just diverted from existing aid budgets.

Here are a few links you might find useful to reflect on Copenhagen on Saturday morning:

More reaction to follow on Monday, when we will be appearing on Labour List thanks to our friends at SERA. Now off to campaign on the doorstep with Young Labour as part of our Big Campaign Day – join the Facebook group to get involved!

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

Douglas Alexander on Copenhagen – Progress Article

Article by Douglas Alexander on Copenhagen for Progress.

For the world’s poor an agreement in Copenhagen is not a window of opportunity but a window of necessity

Last weekend tens of thousands of progressives took to the streets in London, Glasgow and Belfast and this weekend the Global Day of Action showed again the strength of public feeling.

Today, I am in Copenhagen to meet with representatives from the developing world and European Development Ministers to give political momentum to the climate change talks. More than 180 countries are represented at the talks and the stakes, especially for the world’s poor, could not be higher.

Global poverty and dangerous climate change are issues of progressive concern that are fundamentally intertwined. Climate change is a defining political test of our era and getting the right global deal on carbon could be more vital to tackling global poverty than even the Gleneagles summit of 2005.

The question is not just ‘deal or no deal?’ – it is what kind of deal we can get. Our aim is a comprehensive and global agreement that is converted quickly to an internationally legally binding treaty. We want an agreement to put the world on a path to no more than two degrees of global warming.

That means at least halving global emissions by 2050 and securing the necessary financing to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries to adapt to those climatic changes that are now inevitable.

Drought in parts of Africa could reduce harvests by 50% by 2020. Glaciers could shrink by up to 60% and the rivers they feed could dry up, affecting the drinking water of around a sixth of the world’s population. Increases in global sea levels could cause severe flooding, with 94 million people across Asia facing the threat of losing their homes.

But climate change is not some future possibility for many of the world’s poorest people, it is a present reality. The Global Humanitarian Forum estimated recently that more than 300 million people are already seriously affected by climate change.

I have seen for myself the impact that climate change is having in the developing world. In Kenya I met a man who told me that the seasons he remembered as a child have gone. He told me that in the summer there is drought and in the winter there are floods. In Bangladesh I met families who have had their homes swept away by the rising waters. In Ethiopia, I met women who had been forced by drought to walk further each day to collect water until they were walking 5 hours simply to drink from a watering hole shared by people and animals alike.

It is a tragic reality that the people who have done least to contribute to climate change – the global poor – are being hardest hit. By 2035, the Himalayan glaciers, which provide water for up to 750 million people across Asia could disappear. By 2050, some 25 million more children may be malnourished. By 2080, an extra 400 million people could be exposed to malaria.

Progressives came together in 2005 to make poverty history but climate change now threatens to make poverty the future. That is why we have not only a self-interest, but also a moral responsibility to the developing world to work for a fair deal.

While the historical responsibilities of the west in relation to climate change are unarguable, it is in the emerging economies that we will see the greatest rise in emissions over the coming decades. So a climate deal must include both developed and developing countries.

Of central importance in getting developing countries to the table will be agreeing a consensus around the financial support that the developed world will provide for poor countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change – and take low-carbon development paths. I believe that we can lead the way here as we did in 2005, ahead of the G8 summit at Gleneagles.

The Tories refuse to match the commitments Labour have made. I believe that it is not only right for developed countries to provide significant finance but it will be essential to securing a deal at Copenhagen. Given that climate change will affect all of us, it is in our own interests to help developing countries ‘leapfrog’ dirty technologies and find a low carbon path to growth.

Climate change is a defining challenge for our generation. It is not a future threat but a current crisis. Taking robust action flows naturally from our core progressive beliefs. It demands a progressive response because it is the world’s poorest people who are least responsible for the problem and it is they who have both been affected first, and will ultimately be affected worst. For many of the poorest people in the world, this final week of negotiations in Copenhagen is not a window of opportunity but a window of necessity.

by Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development

Join the Global Poverty Promise campaign to make 0.7% aid spending UK law.

Population v Climate Change

River in Delhi

Flats back on to a litter-choked river in New Delhi. Photo: David Taylor

Interesting article by Duncan Green, Oxfam’s Head of Policy, in the New Statesman this week.

“People cause climate change, therefore cut the number of people. Right? Not really. A closer look shows that the conventional view is wrong, or at least a gross over-simplification.”

“The population debate matters, especially in these two Copenhagen weeks, because it risks becoming a massive distraction. We need to focus on curbing consumption and emissions, not babies and women’s rights. Otherwise we risk blaming the victims and letting the climate villains off the hook.”

In short, Duncan argues that:

a) Population growth is slowing anyway and will peak in 2050.

b) Carbon footprints are what matter – it’s the few of us in rich countries consuming too much that is the problem, not the billions of poor people emitted very little

c) Population growth should be addressed through women’s rights, access to education and family planning services (contraception and safe abortion facilities).

Duncan as ever talks a lot of sense and he is right in warning that population must not be a distraction from the cut in emissions that need to be agreed this week in Copenhagen.

However, a concern would be around India & China’s growing middle classes, who are acquiring Western-style consumption patterns as they aspire to and reach standards of living similar to us. Of course, in development terms, we want to see a country develop, people lifted out of poverty and their working and middle classes grow. But at the moment, the carbon footprint of a person in India or China is small in comparison with a citizen of the US or EU. What happens when India & China attains billions of middle classes with similar consumption patterns to us? Does that not make limiting population vital to our efforts to stop climate change?

The answer is probably more about curbing consumption and emissions than it is about limiting population. We need to lead by example and show it is possible to have a high standard of living without excessive consumption and cut our own emissions, whilst also helping India, China and other developing countries make their own transition to a low carbon economy (through technology transfer etc).

That said, if the Chinese and Indian governments addressed population growth through an approach that strengthened women’s rights, access to education & family planning based, would that not benefit everyone in India and China, and help the planet?

What do you think?

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

Fabians expose Tories “We were against the Copenhagen development deal before we were for it” say Tories

The Tories International Development spokesperson slags off new Brown’s new Copenhagen pledge, only for Greg Clark, Climate Change Shadow minister, to back it 8 minutes later.

Thanks to The Fabian Society General Secretary, Sunder Katwala, on Next Left, for highlighting this:

“Tory DFID spokesman Andrew Mitchell has attacked the EU’s pledge on Copenhagen development assistance fund as ‘fiscal incontinence‘, speaking to the climate-sceptic ConservativeHome website.

While, within eight minutes, Tory environment spokesman Greg Clark seems to have backed it as “important and necessary“.”

Read the full post here.

Update – Thanks to Sunder for writing about us on the Next Left blog!

Climate Change Adaptation Fund proposed by Brown, Britain to contribute £500M

Brown and Sarkozy

Credit: Yves Herman/Pool/EPA

A global ‘Tobin’ tax on financial transactions should be used to pay for the long battle against global warming, Gordon Brown announced in a joint statement with Nicolas Sarkozy today. The UK would be the biggest contributor, giving £500m pounds a year.

The statement came alongside a European Union commitment of €2.4bn a year from January to immediately help the world’s poor countries cope with climate change.

Read Gordon Brown’s joint statement with Sarkozy in full.

Read The Guardian report.

Copenhagen is an opportunity for International Development too

The problem with climate change is that it and its consequences are still somewhat esoteric. But, for the developing world the consequences will come sooner and cause hardship beyond belief, the effects of which will also hit the developed world. There’s a lot at stake at Copenhagen for the developing world and it is this factor that provides a uniquely human angle to the, as yet, academic debate around climate change.

There is welcome news of a $10 billion fund to support countries to develop their capacities to deal with climate change and it is vital that this fund becomes properly entrenched in the climate change regime. But why do we need it? Why do we, in the West, have to bail out ‘third world’ countries when we are struggling to meet the challenge ourselves?

The problems that developing countries will face are well documented: rising sea levels, desertification, and extreme weather will all cause disproportionate hardship in the developing world. Industrialisation in many developing countries is dispossessing traditional communities, eradicating swathes of forest land, and destroying the biodiversity of complex ecosystems.

But, to put it frankly, why should we do anything now?

The first point to note that climate change is a commons issue: emissions do not respect national boundaries. Therefore, if China, India, Brazil or any other industrialising country pump out tonnes of carbon using older, non-environmentally friendly technology, it still hurts us and the rest of the world. But carbon-intensive production methods are still the cheapest. Clearly, if we are to save the atmosphere we all share, we need to support developing countries in adopting environmentally friendly methods.

The other main factor is the extreme societal breakdown that would occur. Thomas Homer Dixon creates a vivid picture of the global disruption that would follow from environmental breakdown. Not for the faint-hearted, The Upside of Down describes a world where energy-scarcity provokes war, food-shortages cause mass migration and famine, growing poverty provokes insurrection and unstable violent regimes seize power. The threats to peace and security are obvious. As developing economies collapse, trade will suffer and the markets that the global North imports from and exports to will cease to provide custom.

To put it succinctly, if we do nothing to help the developing world, cataclysm is a very real possibility. Initially, our suffering will be nothing compared to that of the developing world. People living in countries without a developed social safety net will suffer disproportionately as their developing industry bases are heavily hit by extreme weather, nor will those economies be able to fund redevelopment. This is the beginning of a downward spiral that only ends in global unrest and, yes, that includes us. But it does not have to be this way: if we support developing economies in an environmentally sustainable way, the future can be much brighter.

Copenhagen may not be the only chance to secure the proper support for developing countries and their citizens, but it is most certainly the best. Minds are now targeted on climate change and its effects and can provide funding on a scale that will not be easily achieved through bilateral or private industry arrangements. As Douglas Alexander said on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, “In terms of the affordability of dealing with climate change, Nicholas Stern’s own work – the most definitive work on the economics of climate change- begs the question can we afford not to take this action?” This question underlines everything that will go on at Copenhagen, which is no less true for developing economies.

And don’t forget, if you haven’t already, to show your support for the Government’s actions at Copenhagen: sign up to Ed’s Pledge.

by Tim Nicholls