Climate Change Summit Opens with Call for Global Solidarity at Poznan, Poland

By Joydeep Gupta

Poznan (Poland), Dec 1. Lech Walesa started the Solidarity movement in this country 25 years ago. Monday, at the inauguration of the annual UN summit on climate change, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk called for a new global solidarity to combat the menace.

As nearly 11,000 delegates from 186 countries, NGOs and the media gathered for the Dec 1-12 summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), leaders from around the world emphasised that the ongoing financial meltdown should not take money away from developing countries to help them move to a greener development path as well as adapt to the effects of climate change that are here already.

Poland's Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki, the newly elected president of the UN conference of parties who will guide negotiations to a new global treaty on climate change by December 2009, underlined the need for industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He also called for much money to help developing countries adapt to climate change and reduce their own GHG emissions, and development and transfer of technology for the purpose.

But Nowicki was obviously aware of the reluctance of industrialised countries to put money on the table in an atmosphere of economic doom and gloom, as he talked of his intention to convene a special group of ministers from around the world to cut through negotiations bottlenecks, a full 10 days before such a group would start functioning.

"Do not let particular interests change the ultimate goal," Nowicki warned the delegates gathered at the main convention hall of the Poznan International Fair complex. "We have to change the development path taken by humanity."

The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, underlined why the change was essential. With climate change occurring at the current rate, the number of people living in river basins such as the Ganga and under threat of displacement would go up from 1.4 billion worldwide in 1995 to 4.3 billion in 2050 - about half of humanity.

Pachauri lamented that parts of the 2007 benchmark report of the IPCC "had not yet received adequate attention". He rued the fact that GHG emissions from industrialised countries had risen 70 percent from 1970 to 1994 despite all the warnings by scientists.

"We have to cut back on global GHG emissions by 2015," Pachauri told the government representatives assembled for the opening session. "Please listen to the voice of science and reflect on it. Action is a must."

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said as time for finalising a global treaty was running out, "we must move from 'we must' to 'we have'."

Developing countries, under the umbrella of the grouping called G77 and China (though it actually has 132 member countries) also pleaded at the opening session for faster action for a new global treaty, pointing out that action in 2008 for this treaty had been too slow.

Greenpeace India member K. Srinivas pointed out to IANS that large developing countries such as India and China already had their national action plans to combat climate change in place, but needed technology transfers and financial flows.

Apart from industrialised countries trying to evade their responsibilities by pushing India, China, Brazil and South Africa to commit to capping their GHG emissions, technology transfers and financing are the likely sticking points over the next 12 days as the world grapples with an ever-smaller time window to combat climate change.

Climate change, mainly due to increase in GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, is already affecting farm output, leading to more frequent and more severe droughts, floods and storms and raising the sea level worldwide, but mainly in developing countries, with India at the forefront of those affected.

The increase in GHG concentrations since the start of the industrial age is mainly due to increase in fossil fuel use for energy generation and transport, partly due to more intensive agriculture and partly due to deforestation.