Posted 9 months ago on Nov. 25, 2013, 6:24 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Understanding Warsaw: Capitalism, Climate Change and Neocolonialism
Monday, 25 November 2013 10:23 By Chris Williams, Truthout | News Analysis
"The old Imperialism levied tribute; the new Imperialism lends money at interest."
The War of Steel and Gold: A Study of the Armed Peace, Henry Noel Brailsford, 1914
The contradictions of world affairs are shifting into sharp relief in Warsaw. As the denouement of the climate conference approaches, political fissures are appearing that even the most diplomatic and experienced of civil service soothers are unable to paper over. The fractured lives and incendiary event of Typhoon Haiyan have been tossed into the most business-friendly COP yet.
The pain and suffering of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, and the anger of the Filipino delegation, screams for a rebalancing of global priorities for which the rich countries, intent on securing more get-out clauses than there are exits to the Norodowy Stadium, had not bargained. Commenting on Barack Obama's supposedly positive climate action plan, Lucille Sering, secretary of the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines, disputed its impact: "Somehow, when they negotiate, they always find some way to excuse themselves from doing anything. ... It's always either they can't do this or they can't do that."
On one side, images from the aftermath of record-breaking Super Typhoon Haiyan, which UN head Ban Ki-moon and others have said is connected to climate change, are giving a new sense of moral urgency, in particular to national delegations from developing countries.
On the other side, despite the horrifying extent of the humanitarian disaster, and the fact that Haiyan is just one of many hurricanes since 2000 that has broken strength and intensity records, rich nations seem to be going out of their way to water down expectations over finances and a climate deal, even as we know we are falling farther and farther behind in our ability to address global warming.
A new scientific study by Climate Analytics at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Ecofys shows that, even if countries stick to their current emissions reduction targets - a big if - planet Earth is headed for 3.7 degrees Celsius of warming; almost double the 2.0 degrees that is required to keep the global climate within safe limits.
With greenhouse gases already higher than at any point in the last 800,000 years, an increase in average temperatures of this magnitude would mean that our only home would be unrecognizable to any person living in the past 10,000 years, be catastrophic for many existing ecosystems and irreparably damage human agriculture and civilization.
In light of Canada, Australia and Japan all downgrading their previous commitments to emissions reductions, Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, remarked, "We are seeing a major risk of a further downward spiral in ambition, a retreat from action and a recarbonization of the energy system led by the use of coal." Despite the absolutely obvious and clear urgency of discussing how countries least responsible for creating climate change and simultaneously least able to respond, even as they are hit the hardest, might gain new financial help from richer nations, the United States, the European Union and Australia all came out with statements in Warsaw saying that finance for extreme weather events would not be discussed until 2015 at the earliest. Similarly swept off the table was an immediately rejected Brazilian proposal for a scientific study to determine the amount of historical emissions for which each country is responsible.
Two people are clearly observing a conference different to the one taking place in Warsaw - which is alarming because one of them is supposed to be running it.
Lord Stern, now a professor at London School of Economics and former chief economist of the World Bank, who published the influential mainstream British government report known as the Stern Report on Climate Change, and Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), published a joint article on Tuesday, a week into the talks. In comments that would put Dr. Pangloss himself to shame, they claim that a universal deal on climate change is "within our reach" because of a "renewed sense of urgency" alongside "a renewed sense of optimism" because "the political will among our leaders to act is growing."
In contrast, inside the talks, and notwithstanding the fact that they claimed to be taking the issue seriously, Australian negotiators came to talks "in T-shirts and munched on snacks throughout the negotiation" according to a spokesperson for Climate Action Network. As tension and frustration mounted,132 nations, organized through the 77-plus China Group of developing countries, walked out on talks Wednesday in protest at the lack of serious discussion and the intransigence of powerful countries to address financial issues, which were supposed to be at the heart of this year's COP.
Speaking to this issue, spokesperson on disaster risk for ActionAid International Harjeet Singh commented, "The US, EU, Australia and Norway remain blind to the climate reality that's hitting us all, and poor people and countries much harder. They continue to derail negotiations in Warsaw that can create a new system to deal with new types of loss and damage such as sea-level rise, loss of territory, biodiversity and other non-economic losses more systematically."
Poorer countries in the developing world rest their case on "seeking redress for climate damages from sea-level rise, droughts, powerful storms and other adverse impacts", as noted by a leaked US document opposing such a discussion, on the very reasonable basis that rich nations have put off serious action on emissions and finance for 20 years. By that inaction, they have imposed costs on developing countries for which they are neither responsible nor able to pay.
To compound the legal, political and moral case, as of 2000, over the previous 30 years, the poorest countries have paid $550 billion in principal and interest to Western financial institutions, on a total debt of $540 billion - yet they still manage to owe $523 billion. For every dollar received in grants, the developing world commits $13 to debt repayment.
Developing nations are therefore fattening the coffers of institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and other Western financial houses by draining funds from desperately needed projects to address poverty, the lack of infrastructure development, agricultural facilities and their ability to adapt to climate change.
What should be happening is the immediate cancellation of all "Third World" debt, just as the US government forgave far larger sums and bailed out its own banks after the 2008 financial crash. Moreover, developed nations actually have to add money for climate change induced "loss and damage" to the balance sheets of developing countries, rather than subtract it.