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2012-12-10

"Incredibly Disappointed": Civil Groups Decry Weak COP18 Deal amid Deadly Proof of Climate Change

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The United Nations climate change summit ended Saturday after negotiators agreed to a weakened deal that will do nothing to halt rising world greenhouse gas emissions. The so-called Doha Climate Gateway extends the Kyoto Protocol for eight more years and paves the way for talks on a new global U.N. pact to enter into force in 2020. Under the deal, the United States made no new pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions or to increase its aid to nations suffering from the impact of climate change. "We expected, going into Doha, that after the president mentioned climate change in his inaugural speech, after Hurricane Sandy, after discussions amongst high-level politicians in the U.S., we expected a pivot on climate policy, and we saw instead exactly the same kinds of tactics that we’ve seen for the last four years from the United States," says Samantha Smith of the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. "We think it’s time for President Obama to step forward to start a national conversation about climate change." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: "Mra," by Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath. And I can see my breath here in Oslo, Norway. It is 21 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! We’re broadcasting outside Oslo City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony has just wrapped up.

But we’re going to turn right now to another global summit that has just taken place. The United Nations climate change summit ended on Saturday after negotiators agreed to a weakened deal that will do nothing to halt rising world greenhouse gas emissions. The so-called Doha Climate Gateway extends the Kyoto Protocol for eight more years and paves the way for talks on a new global U.N. pact to enter into force in 2020.

Under the deal, the United States made no new pledge to cut its emissions or to increase its aid to nations suffering from the impact of climate change. But wealthy nations did agree to send funds in the future to poorer countries for so-called loss and damage incurred by climate change. But at the request of the United States, the deal does not make the world’s largest polluters legally liable for damage caused by climate change.

Greenpeace International’s Kumi Naidoo spoke in Doha soon after the deal was announced.

KUMI NAIDOO: Our governments must realize that this failure is a betrayal of the people in the Philippines and around the world that have faced climate impacts now, today, and will continue in the days to come. But what is at stake here is not some ethereal thing called the planet, the climate, the environment, but what is at stake here is selling down our children and grandchildren’s futures.

AMY GOODMAN: Ed Davey, Britain’s energy and climate change secretary, praised the outcome of the Doha talks.

ED DAVEY: It’s not just about paving the way for post-2020. It’s about increasing ambitions now in the run-up to 2020. And I think there’s been some—some steps in that direction. So, you know, I think that that is positive. And I know some people have been disappointed and would want more. The U.K. and the EU has always been on the ambitious side of things, but we’re moving as a world, and it’s important that the world moves in the right direction. And it did here in Doha.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, joining us now here in Oslo, Norway, is Samantha Smith, where she lives. But she was in Doha for the last two weeks. She’s leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. In the United States, it’s known as the World Wildlife Fund.

Samantha, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about the results of the Doha summit.

SAMANTHA SMITH: This was an incredibly weak deal. As you said, Amy, it will do nothing to make sure that emissions go down and not up. It will do nothing to bring finance over the long term to poor countries that are suffering from climate change. And it will do nothing to pave the way for the global deal that we have all been promised in 2015.

So, from the side of civil society, we are incredibly disappointed. And we are even more disappointed because this was the year of extreme weather events, when folks all over the world suffered from the impact of climate change. We thought negotiators would come with a mandate, including the team from the U.S., and instead they came with empty briefcases. And the deal that they left us looks just like that.

AMY GOODMAN: Why? I mean, in the midst of this, we saw the Typhoon Bopha in the southern Philippines. The death toll is still not yet in—hundreds of people dead, and many, many, close to a thousand, missing.

SAMANTHA SMITH: I think that there is just not yet enough of a sense of moral outrage about the impacts of climate change. Just to give it a broader frame, today is International Human Rights Day. We’re standing in front of the place where the Nobel Peace Prize has just been awarded. We need to connect this to climate change. Climate change affects the poorest people in the poorest country. Today—countries. Today, the FAO announced that we are just one bad weather event away from the third global food crisis since 2008. And when the food prices spike like that, poor people starve, it’s a violation of their rights, and it affects peace and security all over the world. So politicians need to take this on board. This is not just a problem for a few people.

AMY GOODMAN: Loss and damage was included in the convention. Talk about the significance of this.

SAMANTHA SMITH: It’s a good step forward in the sense that countries are finally recognizing that this is a global problem. And so, what you emit, how you pollute in your own country, that is affecting other people, and they have a right to some financing. But what it doesn’t do, and what the U.S. prevented it from doing, is establish a right to compensation. So all of the decisions about what exactly this means—will there be money, what kind of money and to whom—that’s all been pushed off into the future.

AMY GOODMAN: What role did the United States—really President Obama through his climate envoys—play?

SAMANTHA SMITH: An incredibly disappointing role. I mean, we expected, going into Doha, that after the president mentioned climate change in his inaugural speech, after Hurricane Sandy, after discussions amongst high-level politicians in the U.S., we expected a pivot on climate policy, and we saw instead exactly the same kinds of tactics that we’ve seen for the last four years from the United States. So, U.S. pushed back on long-term finance for developing countries. It refused to make any commitments itself, said that it couldn’t because of the budgetary process in the U.S. And it also refused to detail its commitment to cut its emissions by 17 percent.

We think it’s time for President Obama to step forward to start a national conversation about climate change. I think John Podesta was just out saying that the administration has spent four years taping its lips shut on climate change and not uttering the words, and folks are confused. But now there’s a chance for the president to leave a real legacy. Couldn’t this be the four years when the administration steps forward?

AMY GOODMAN: Canada pulled out of Kyoto Protocol.

SAMANTHA SMITH: Canada’s conduct was shameful. Canada made a commitment under a multilateral agreement, and it walked out of it showing no sign of remorse. And moreover, Canada helped the United States in blocking any discussion of long-term finance for developing countries. It also itself refused to give any finance to these countries, until there is a global deal applying to everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: European Union?

SAMANTHA SMITH: The EU would like to see themselves as leaders, but what instead we saw in these negotiations was an EU divided amongst itself, with one country, Poland, holding the rest hostage. But let’s just clarify what that means. When the EU wants to, it can move in concert, it can force through decisions. And ministers in the EU were just not willing to do that to make higher emissions cuts.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, civil society?

SAMANTHA SMITH: In civil society, something unusual happened. So, six of the world’s largest environment and development organizations got together, along with social movements from developing countries and with representatives from developing countries that were—that were present in Doha. And we agreed amongst ourselves that the deal that was being negotiated was just not enough. And now it’s our job to go home to try to mobilize people to understand that these very technical negotiations, they affect all of us. They affect our kids and our grandkids. And we also have an ethical responsibility to act on climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: Samantha Smith, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Samantha Smith is leader of the WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. She lives here in Oslo, Norway. WWF in the United States is known as the World Wildlife Fund. You can link to our week of climate change coverage directly from Doha at democracynow.org. And that does it for our special broadcast from Oslo, Norway, on this day, December 10th, the International Human Rights Day, the day the Nobel Peace Prize is given out.

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