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Millennium Post

Time to turn heat on global warming

The volatile situation sweeping across nations because of the devastating effect of storms, tsunamis, floods and other catastrophes is predominantly a direct impact of global warming. The last few years have seen the consequences of global warming perhaps like never before. From hurricanes like Sandy to typhoons like Bopha, modern day natural calamities have increasingly killed hundreds of people across the world and injured thousands. The tsunami in Japan, which claimed 15,700 lives, tops the misery chart in recent times. The death toll in the disaster created shock waves not only in Japan, but also across the world.

All these calamities have induced fear and panic among mankind across the globe. The fear and panic has also gifted developed nations a reason to meet every year and make policies that seem pro-environment but in reality are pro-rich countries and anti-poor nations.

One such global event that is organised under the pretext of addressing global warming is the UN Climate Change Conference. The latest conference, better known as COP 18 (Conference of Parties; session 18), which concluded in Doha last month is a case in point. Nothing can be more paradoxical! A summit on protecting the environment was held in a city (and a country) that in all probability is the largest contributor to global warming. Surprisingly, no renewable sources of energy are used in Doha, which has a per capita annual carbon emission of 50 tonnes that is three times that of US, eight times that of China and 33 times that of India! Moreover, this so-called Climate Change Conference, year after year, witnesses delegates flying down in their fuel-guzzling private jets from all corners of the world, parades of motorcycles plying through the streets for security checks, water supplied from state-of-the-art power consuming desalination plants (in a country where water is the most scarce resource), exotic food items being mobilised from various regions and delegates commuting in sedans and SUVs that guzzle tonnes of fossil fuel.
 
For around 17,000 delegates for the last conference, more than 21,000 rooms at 87 hotels and residences were blocked, which additionally wasted monumental energy while providing the most luxurious service. The amount of environment destruction can be gauged by the fact that a similar conference back in 2009 released around 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent!

The Doha COP 18 conference was also more of a freewheeling exercise where the delegates from across the globe gathered without any purpose, commitment or initiative in mind. Even with respect to the moribund Kyoto Protocol (which expired recently, and anyway represents only a meager 15 per cent  of greenhouse emissions, due to countries like US not being part of it), there was no sign of any major country coming forward to extend a token of consent for its extension. The rounds at the Doha conference brought nothing except some rhetoric and efforts to protect the public opinion in the home turf of concerned countries; and of course, big corporate lobbying drives. And appeals to developed nations during the conference were without any effect. Philippines, for instance, made an earnest plea to developed countries for some positive action – the most important being aiding poor nations to implement some tangible deals – but found its appeal falling on deaf ears.

And Philippines is not alone! There are a host of island states in the Asia Pacific and other parts of the world that are exposed to the vulnerability of rising sea levels. The minimum they demanded was $60 billion on the table for the next three years and commitment to scale the figure up from there till 2020 – but they failed to obtain even this from the rich nations, who had an alibi that they were holding on tight to their purse strings due to budget crunches.

In the Copenhagen Summit held in December 2009, in a pitched battle between the rich and poor countries, developed nations cleared a sum of $30 billion to developing countries as an additional funding in 2010-2012. However, many investigative agencies have enough evidence to prove that the funding commitment has not been kept. Either the promised funding was simply not disbursed or it was adjusted against loans, thus flouting their clearly written obligation to treat the funding as non-refundable aid.

Everything said and done, climatic changes are becoming a greater cause for worry than anything else and for the survival of the Earth itself, and we desperately need a seriously focussed platform that delivers results.

The much hyped COP 18 doesn’t really seem to be that. It has, at the most, been latently helping a few nations, besides allowing political leaders to showcase their oratory skills and allowing backdoor lobbying, notwithstanding the fact that the conference brings in a new wave of tourism to Qatar, which of course comes at a cost to the environment. And not to forget, the biggest climate change summit was organised in a country that itself earns around $7,000 million every month from the export of fossil fuel! Undoubtedly, COP 18 is a failure; it’s time for a serious rethink and action.

Arindam Chaudhuri is a management guru and director of IIPM Think Tank
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