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Views of Bolivia, SIDS and lessons learnt

December 10, 2010

The president of Bolivia started off the joint high-level segment yesterday day with a passionate speech, with passionate being an understatement. With brows furrowed and hanky constantly being swiped to his face to wipe sweat or tears, it was clear that he was aware of the complexity of the problem, but perplexed on why countries are still cradling their national interests when some countries are fighting for their very survival.

Equating lack of action with genocide, he called for the establishment of an international tribunal for climate justice. Claps from the NGO section of the audience rang with approval. This writer thinks that it is indeed an infringement of human rights, that is the fundamental right to life, and it is ironic that countries like the United States of America can espouse human rights on the international arena, yet turn its back on climate change. One may argue that the lack of action causing climate-related deaths and other difficulties is a tenuous link that cannot be drawn but the facts are real and deaths from freak weather conditions like floods and droughts have been increasing over the years. It is for us, civil society, to bold that link and hold such countries accountable to the rest of the world.

Also, Bolivia is against the current form of REDD+ which includes market mechanisms. Carbon credits allow capitalism to perpetuate, he argues, and we need to find a new solution which solves the root problem.

Many countries expressed their disappointment in the lack of follow up from the Copenhagen Accord, specifically the statement of a collective commitment by developed countries to provide developing countries funding for adaptation, especially the most vulnerable developing countries, such as the least developed countries, small island developing States (SIDS) and Africa. This was to take the form of USD 30 billion for the period 2010-2012, rising to $100bn annually by 2020.

However, they have yet to see a cent of this funding and the criterion of vulnerability has yet to be established too. The US has backed out on its promise, being one of the key drafters of the Copenhagen Accord.

This is also true for SIDS (Small- Island Developing States) who also mentioned this repeatedly in another plenary I attended. These states have signed on to Copenhagen Accord reluctantly, but did so because of mention of the adaptation fund, which they have not gotten either. Such adaptation funding can be accumulated through carbon taxation in developed countries, trading permits, and the shift from subsidies for fossil fuels the fund as the president of Kiribati suggested.

The president of Kiribati also brought to light the severity of the issue by stating that they may not even survive the negotiations if the agreement were only to be made in the next decade.

Many may feel that such representatives may just be trumpeting rhetoric instead of advancing the negotiations. However, it is of my belief that what has been solely lacking in Cancun especially last week was the sense of urgency and the true appreciation of the gravity of the situation and it is of importance that high level people like head of states bring up these issues at segments like these.

Despite the impasse in negotiations, SIDS aim to be carbon-neutral by 2020. They have been aided by countries like Italy through a direct approval process, especially in the area of the development of renewable energy sources. Such alternative energy sources include harnessing wind energy and biofuels through coconut. A great advantage of a direct approval process is that it enables a partnership to be established without having to go through a third-party organization which increases paperwork and slows down action, especially with the remote geography of the islands. The process is based in New York such that face to face meetings can take place.

A lesson that Singapore can (and should) learn from the SIDS countries is that they implement many educational initiatives, incorporating climate change education into current subjects as part of the formal curriculum. This would confer upon the climate change issue acknowledgement of the severity of the issue, knowing that us youths will have to cope with the consequences. Simply stating that Singapore is ‘clean and green’ and mentioning in passing that we should adopt more environmentally friendly lifestyles does not cut it. The focus on actions has to be underpinned by the rationale, driving home the pressing issue that is climate change which will adversely affect us, as with our fellow AOSIS (Alliance Of Small Island States) nations. Links should be drawn between our consumerist culture and the impact it has on the environment, empowering youths with the awareness to change our lifestyles.

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