A PAPER PRESENTED
AT THE SEMINAR ON
GLOBAL WARMING – THE CHALLENGE OF THE 21ST CENTURY : THE ROLE OF THE CPA

WEST BENGAL LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY       
KOLKATA, WEST BENGAL, 11 JANUARY 2010 

BY DR WILLIAM F. SHIJA
CPA SECRETARY-GENERAL

INTRODUCTION

Honourable Speaker, Honourable Members,

It is a great pleasure to be in West Bengal once again after my first visit in 2007.  At that time, among other things, I was able to meet a number of Parliamentary and Government Leaders such as yourself and the Honourable Jyoti Basu whom we find to be indisposed today.  On behalf of the Executive Committee and the Members of the CPA, I offer extensive prayers for the quick recovery of this great statesman of India.

I am delighted that you have given me the opportunity to present to you the contribution by the CPA Members in the ongoing global debate on global warming and climate change.  The CPA, as most of us know, was established in 1911 and is due to celebrate its Centennial in 2011.  It has close to 17,000 Members in national, state and provincial legislatures across the Commonwealth.  Their regional, geographical and cultural diversities make them ideal representatives in the robust exchange of ideas on global warming and climate change issue across the world.  The CPA usually runs a number of programmes at Branch, regional and national levels.  At these events, the issue of climate change has been discussed extensively and Members have contributed to the possible solutions through their national policies.  The CPA has been actively discussing global warming and climate change for the past three years now at its annual conferences; starting with New Delhi in 2007, Kuala Lumpur in 2008 and most recently Arusha Tanzania in 2009.   The Association has also discussed the issue at the level of the Executive Committee and has been able to formulate a Task Force on Climate Change for the purpose.

CLIMATE CHANGE AS AN ISSUE

For almost a decade now, the issue of climate change has had agreements and disagreements as to the cause of the problem.  The emergence of the problem in the 21st Century is manifested by extraordinary carbon emissions leading to effects such as rising sea levels, extra ordinary drought, over-flooding and other extreme weather conditions.  In general, some scientists have argued that the major cause for climate change is the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere which has led to the disturbance of the weather patterns across the globe.  However, there are other scientific observers who argue that the issue of climate change has been hyped by individuals who wish to take advantage of the situation for their own good.  This situation of agreements and counter-agreements on the issue has led to the present dilemma in arriving at conclusive global agreements such as what was witnessed recently at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in December last year.

The emergence of structured global discussions can be summed up by a number of phases since 1987 when the United Nations established the intergovernmental panel on climate change.
 

THE MAIN PHASES IN CLIMATE CHANGE DISCUSSIONS

1. Climate Change: Meeting the Challenge
1987 Report by a Commonwealth Group of Experts
In 1987, a year before the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific panel charged with evaluating the risks of global warming, Commonwealth Heads of Government commissioned a landmark scientific study in 1989 on the effects of variations to the world’s climate.

The study led by eminent British scientist Martin Holgate warned  of the calamitous risks of inaction, including ‘severe tropical storms, floods, droughts or extremes of heat’, concluding that the poor would be the ‘main victims’ of a rise in worldwide temperature.

Climate Change: Meeting the Challenge’ called for:

• Improved research and monitoring

• National and international adaption strategies

• Safeguards for biological diversity and natural forests

• Reductions in CO2 emissions and energy usage

• Improved coastal defences to manage sea level rise

‘First major intergovernmental report’
The Holdgate report called for a “major international initiative” to establish “global responsibilities” for preventing unmanageable rises in the world’s temperature. It also spelt out practical steps which poor and small countries like Guyana, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pacific islands, could take to monitor their changing environment.

Articulating the scientific consensus
Vince Cable, deputy leader of the UK political party, the Liberal Democrats, and a former economic adviser within the Commonwealth Secretariat, helped contribute to the Holgate study. Looking back, it was “arguably the first major intergovernmental report” on climate change and sea level rise, he said.

“The conclusions are not controversial now but, at the time, broke new ground,” Mr Cable recalled. “The group, which included developed and developing country representatives from a wide range of backgrounds, first set out in rigorous, and very qualified terms, the then scientific consensus and the consensus forecast for global warming and sea level rise.”

Dr Holgate and his colleagues in the expert group, explained Mr Cable, were able to highlight how climate change would “bear down disproportionately on the world’s poorest people – more exposed to the risks attendant on rain-fed agriculture, very often in the most marginal and disaster-prone areas, and with few resources to adapt to change.”

A call to arms for world leaders
The report followed another Commonwealth study, ‘Our Common Future’, which had developed a definition of the then controversial topic of ‘sustainable development’ for policy-makers. The Holdgate report led to the development of the small states grouping, the Alliance of Small Island States, which has lobbied against big energy producing and consuming countries in the climate debate.
 

2. Langkawi Declaration on Environment, 1989
In October, Commonwealth leaders agreed the Langkawi Declaration on Environment – a powerful statement which went on to influence the Rio Earth Summit Declaration of 1992, which still guides the agenda on environmentally sustainable development.

The Declaration noted that:

‘The current threat to the environment, which is a common concern of all mankind, stems essentially from past neglect in managing the natural environment and resources. The environment has been degraded by decades of industrial and other forms of pollution, including unsafe disposal of toxic wastes, the burning of fossil fuels, nuclear testing and non-sustainable practices in agriculture, fishery and forestry.’

 

3. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992
Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiated at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, nations committed to developing and implementing climate protection measures "appropriate for the specific conditions of each Party."

In addition, industrialized ("Annex I") countries agreed to voluntarily reduce their Green House Gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2000.

The Convention entered into force in May 1994 and has been ratified by 186 countries including the United States.

Very few industrialized countries, however, have met the voluntary target.

4. Kyoto Protocol, 1997

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol significantly strengthen the 1992 Convention, establishing binding emission targets for industrialized countries and establishing a range of mechanisms to encourage cost-effective compliance.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing green house gas emissions .These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.

The major distinction between the Protocol and the Convention is that while the Convention encouraged industrialised countries to stabilize GHG emissions, the Protocol commits them to do so.

Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”
 
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. 184 Parties of the Convention have ratified its Protocol to date. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh in 2001, and are called the “Marrakesh Accords.”

 
 
5. Lake Victoria Action Plan, 2007
In 2007, Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed the Lake Victoria Commonwealth Climate Change Action Plan, a statement of intent by governments to work both individually and collectively on climate change.

The plan highlights six areas for co-operation:

1. Strengthening quality and participation in climate change negotiations.

2. Promoting action through Commonwealth networks to deepen consideration of the economic and human aspects of climate change.

3. Improving land use management and sustainable use of forest resources (including widened international support for the Iwokrama Programme).

4. Studying the sustainability of fresh agricultural produce and exports from developing countries

5. Supporting natural disaster management in member countries.

6. Providing technical assistance to least developed countries and small states.

 
6.  The CPA Malaysia and Tanzania Deliberations
As mentioned before, the Parliamentarians of the CPA have been discussing this matter for some time now.  At its annual conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the CPA called for the establishment of a Task Force on Climate Change which was further enriched by the Executive Committee in Bermuda.  In Bermuda the Executive Committee provided for seed funds to be able to follow up on the issue.  This has enabled the holding of web conferences and research on the events surrounding the issue.  In Arusha, Tanzania the CPA Members continued to discuss the issue of climate change as it affects large, small, island and sub-continent states, as well as rich and poor nations.  The conference deliberated that Members of Parliament need to vigorously follow up the issue of climate change at the global level in order for Parliamentarians to be prepared to work on appropriate legislation when the time comes to do so.  The conference summary containing this recommendation was distributed to all our Branches and partner organisations, including the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations.  The purpose of the distribution was to disseminate what the CPA Parliamentarians thought about the problems and prospects surrounding the climate change problem.
 
7. Port of Spain Climate Change Consensus:
The Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration, 2009

Commonwealth leaders met in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago days after pledges by the US and China in November to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, amid concerns that the Copenhagen meeting on climate change could fail to agree substantial cuts.

Commonwealth leaders in their Declaration backed a multi-billion-dollar plan to help developing nations to deal with climate change and cut greenhouse gases.

The Commonwealth Climate Declaration does emphasise that "an internationally binding agreement is essential" but then concedes in the next sentence that "a full legally binding outcome" will have to wait until 2010.

Commonwealth leaders "welcomed the initiative to establish, as part of a comprehensive agreement, a Copenhagen Launch Fund starting in 2010 and building to a level of resources of $10 billion annually by 2012".

The Declaration noted that "fast start funding" for adaptation should be focused on the most vulnerable countries. "We also recognise the need for further, specified and comparable funding streams, to assist the poorest and most vulnerable countries, to cope with, and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. We recognise that funding will be scaled up beyond 2012."

 
8. Copenhagen Accord, 2009
An agreement dubbed the Copenhagen Accord drawn up by a limited group of countries was formally accepted by the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) during the closing session.
 

“The conference of the parties takes note of the Copenhagen Accord,” says a final decision.

The text is still strongly debated, and it remains to be seen how many countries will sign on to the Copenhagen Accord.
Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh called it a "good deal" and told Hindustan Times that India had "upheld the interests of developing nations" and their "national sovereignty".

Global warming: The Accord agrees that global temperature rise should stay below 2C (3.6F).

Reducing greenhouse gases: The treaty did not include any numerical targets for cutting pollution.
 
Measuring emissions reductions: China refused to accept international monitoring but agreed countries must measure their own emissions and report to the outside world.

Finance to help developing nations adapt: Rich nations will provide 30bn dollars in total by 2012 and 100bn per annum by 2020 to help poor countries adapt to climate change.
 
Forests: The Accord will set up a new fund that pays poor nations not to chop down trees.

Technology transfer: The world agreed to share information on new technology that will help countries adapt to climate change and generate clean energy.
 
Carbon markets: Markets are mentioned as a "cost effective way" to cut emissions.

 
THE WAY FORWARD
Similar to other global issues, the CPA will continue to work within itself and with other Parliamentary bodies, and with the international community to arrive at global agreements for tangible policies and legislation to implement climate change solutions.  It was for this reason that the CPA, represented in Copenhagen by a few Parliamentarians and Secretariat Staff teamed up with other Parliamentary bodies – Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA), GLOBE International, and Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNOWB) – to issue a statement on the Copenhagen Climate Change deliberations.  A Recommendation will be made to the Executive Committee to increase the funds with which the Parliamentarians in the CPA could participate in greater measure than before to ensure that their ideas and recommendations are considered at global level.

I thank you.