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November 4, 2009

Copenhagen, road to failure?

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

Dr. Mohamed ElmasryIn December, in Copenhagen, 192 countries will attempt to hammer out a new global climate treaty.

The optimists are counting on one man, Barak Obama, to offer a blue print for a good plan to save our planet, our home, for future generations.

Developing nations including China, India and Brazil are rightly advancing the thesis that the mess has been created by the developed countries in the first place and they should shoulder most of the burden to clean it up; cutting emissions by the same percentage is not fair.

And, moreover, most of the costs of the cleanup, including those associated with switching to alternative energy and energy conservation programs, must be paid by the developed countries.

Poor and emerging economies have largely refused to set their own hard targets and call for rich nations to make deeper cuts.

If Obama does not lead the West to commit to providing financing and at least a 40% reduction in emissions by 2020, there will most likely be no deal in Copenhagen.

The United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen (December 7-18) is being billed as the climax of two years of international negotiations over a new global treaty aimed at addressing the causes and consequences of greenhouse-gas emissions. Between 12,000 and 15,000 delegates are expected to attend.

Southeast Asian leaders are urging developed nations to make deeper cuts in carbon emissions, saying rich countries have a "historical responsibility" to act as well as the economic power to do so.

Last week’s statement by ASEAN urges industrialized countries "to take the lead" in making "deeper and earlier cuts on their greenhouse gas emissions to enhance implementation of their commitments".

It stresses that rich nations should "not negatively affect the sustainable economic and social development of developing countries" through their unilateral policies and "market-based mechanisms" to address climate change.

The ASEAN statement also urgently calls for the support for developing nations in dealing with the impact of climate change: for example hundreds of people were killed and millions affected when Typhoon Ketsana tore through the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, causing massive flooding.

The ASEAN group includes Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia.

And youth everywhere have a vested interest in preserving the planet for themselves and their kids.

“Young people all around the world are working locally and internationally for genuine solutions,” says Gemma Tillack, a youth from the Australian Wilderness Society. “We are building a strong civil society and working in our communities and will not give up on a strong and fair climate agreement. We will never give up, because it is our future at risk.”

A declaration of “No Confidence in the Road to Copenhagen” was announced by the International Youth Delegation attending the pre- Copenhagen UN climate change talks.

The delegation cited the failure of reaching a commitment from developed countries on strong targets, a growing concern that a second commitment period in the Kyoto Protocol will not be secured, and a lack of guarantees for protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests.

One young person from each continent, who are organizers from an international youth climate movement of hundreds of thousands, addressed those attending the UN talks.

“My people are experiencing the severe effects of climate change,” said Anil Rimal, from Nepalese Youth Climate Action. “This is happening now, not in 2050; and people are losing their lives, homes and livelihoods. We cannot afford to delay global action.”

Obama certainly must offer what is needed for the Copenhagen meeting to succeed. The world, especially its youth, are waiting.

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry can be reached at

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Dotan Rousso. Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. Currently working as a college professor in Canada.

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