Photo by IHA Central Office via flickr
Even though the COP 18 talks closed late on Friday, December 7, they proved to be a failure to the global community experiencing the impacts of climate change first hand. 2012’s Conference of Parties was hosted in Qatar, the nation with the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
During the last week of the summit, typhoon Bopha devastated the Philippines, killing at least 650 people. It was a category 5 and made landfall farther south than is typical for a typhoon. This prompted an emotional plea from a lead negotiator from the Phillipines. Holding back tears, he pleaded for the delegation to act – “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?”
As the tragedy of typhoon Bopha unfolded amidst talks, progress stalled. Efforts focused on an 8-year extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which legally binds member nations to meet emission reduction targets. 192 nations signed and ratified the protocol; the United States is not one of them. The extension will reportedly pave the way for a new global U.N. pact that could be enforced in 2020, even though the KP covers a fraction of greenhouse gases.
The United States delegation failed to represent President Obama’s promises to combat climate change. It refused to pledge to reduce emissions or increase aid to suffering nations. It also requested that the new deal no hold the most egregious polluters accountable for damage caused by climate change.
Overall, environmental groups were disappointed in results of talks in Doha, Qatar. During a press conference, a spokesperson for the Union of Concerned Scientists declared a victory for the fossil fuel industry due to the power of its “short-term profit motivation” and its ability to “dominate the governments of the world”. He called it a “trade fair”, not a serious conversation regarding the global impacts of climate change. Similarly, the executive director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, called the summit an overall failure and a betrayal to the people of the world.
In an interview on Monday with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, Samantha Smith of the World Wildlife Fun’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative said the agreements made “will do nothing to make sure emissions go down, and not up; will do nothing to bring finance over the long term to countries that are suffering from climate change; will do nothing to pave the way for the global deal we have all been promised in 2015.” Smith went on to call for activists to make a moral connection to climate change in order to influence national governments. We are facing a global food crisis, which will inevitably impact the poor the hardest and threaten global peace and security.
This year’s summit was staged in front of a backdrop of tragedy. Less than a week after typhoon Bopha hit the Philippines, an historic snow storm stranded hundreds of motorists in the Balkans. Over the weekend, the area was hit with the largest snowfall in 57 years. At least six people are dead.
Do we really need more of a moral case than that to act?