Development Countries to Suffer as Kyoto Protocol is Abandoned
15 January 2000
By Tinashe Madava
A series of meetings involving the United States and the European Union to hammer out conclusive concessions tailored to safeguard the Kyoto Protocol on emissions reduction programme fell through, raising concern in developing countries that the north is not prepared to reach a deal that "safeguards the world".
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, named after the Japanese city, proposed pollution cuts of 5.2 percent by 2012.
Christian Aid, a London-based NGO says that a new international agreement on climate change is needed to replace the flawed Kyoto Protocol, which the US and the EU have once again failed to agree upon.
According to a recently published report by Christian Aid, Kyoto Climate Fraud-What's wrong with the Kyoto Protocol- A developing country perspective, a new agreement should set a framework for reducing global emissions over an agreed period of time. It would recognise that everyone has an equal right to use the world's atmosphere.
While SADC countries are participating in efforts to reduce global warming, a Norwich (UK) Climate Change Research Unit working in southern Africa, observed that carbon emissions from the region remain very low. And the contribution of SADC to total global warming is less than four percent for all greenhouse gases, but that is not to say there is room for further pollution.
A conference held in The Hague in November last year sought to necessitate ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto talks on new emissions commitments addressed issues mainly in developed countries, leaving the matter of emissions limitation by developing countries to future negotiations.
"It's time to forget the Kyoto Protocol. It is too full of loopholes which would allow the developed world to avoid effective cuts in pollution and it could well trap poorer countries in a position where they would not be able to undertake essential industrial development in future. We need a new model that is both effective and fair," says Christian Aid's Environment Policy Officer, Kevan Bundell.
Bundell, who attended the November conference, says that the developing countries are bound to suffer most as industrialised nations wring their hands over essential cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, a country such as Mozambique faces the real prospect of increased flooding as water tables are still high from the devastating floods that occurred earlier this year.
Ninety-six percent of those who die as a result of climate-related disasters live in poor countries, whereas 80 percent of the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming are emitted in industrialised countries like Britain and the US.
"Strong action is needed to save countries such as Mozambique from the humanitarian and economic disasters caused by climate change and global warming," he adds.
Last year, most of southern Africa was hit by devastating floods which left tens of thousands homeless and hundreds dead.
Calls for more public pressure on governments to help people already suffering from the effects of climate change in developing countries have increased recently. Bundell states that these are the countries least able to cope with the storms, floods and droughts which cause humanitarian disasters and wreak economic havoc.
Mozambique, the hardest hit by last year's floods still requires international help to recover. Threats of more floods this season make point to the need for urgent action on the emission reduction front.
"Developing countries face increasing disaster and disruption as a result of storms, droughts, rising sea levels and changing weather patterns without any agreement on help either to prepare for disasters or to adapt to the climate changes that are already on their way."
Environmentalists hope that a further meeting can be held this year at which an agreement can be reached. But, unless the US position changes substantially, any agreement is going to be largely ineffective in tackling global warming.
"Any agreement must be both effective and fair. The Kyoto Protocol is neither. It contains loopholes allowing industrialised countries to avoid reducing emissions and could result in no significant drop in global pollution. Furthermore, developing countries could end up being robbed of their rights to use the atmosphere in future," reads the report in part.
Both governments and communities in disaster-prone areas must urgently prepare for disasters caused by global warming.
"It's time to face up to the inescapable fact that climate-related disasters are becoming more frequent and more intense. It's crucial to work on a global initiative on disaster planning and preparedness. People in some of the world's poorest nations are dying as a result of climate-related disasters," says Dan Charlish, another Christian Aid official.
The Christian Aid report says industrialised countries must provide aid and investment to developing countries to help them avoid future dependency on a fossil fuel economy and to prepare for climate change-related changes and disasters. (SARDC)