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Rich-Poor, North-South Divide Marks COP15’s Opening Week

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As debates between rich and poor nations over emission cuts and funding continue on this fifth day of the COP15 climate summit here in Copenhagen, we begin with an overview of the week’s developments. The rich countries have proposed a climate fund of $10 billion a year from 2010 to 2012 to help developing countries adapt to climate change. Poor countries say that is too little. We hear from the climate negotiators from India, China, and Association of Small Island States, and get analysis from Kate Horner of Friends of the Earth. [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Climate Countdown.

    PROTESTERS: We are watching you! You know what to do! The number has been set! Pay the climate debt!

    SUBHANKAR BANERJEE: We live in a connected planet, whether economically or ecologically, but we don’t pay much attention to the ecologic side.

    NAOMI KLEIN: We are seeing a redefinition of “environmentalism.”

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Resist, mobilize, transform!

    YVO DE BOER: Well, I think the fact that we’re talking here about very significant money…

    SABER HOSSAIN CHOWDHURY: We are suffering the most, but we have not caused the problem in the least. So, for us, it’s a justice issue. It is also a human rights issue.

    LUMUMBA STANISLAUS DI-APING: Developed countries have a historical responsibility.

    CONNIE HEDEGAARD: Most speakers who took part in the discussion today emphasized the importance of the Kyoto Protocol.

    ASHWINI PRABHA: One-point-five degrees, that’s enough for our little islands in the Pacific to drown. So, people, wake up! Climate change is real!

    PROTESTERS: We are watching you! You know what to do! The number has been set! Pay the climate debt!

AMY GOODMAN: This is Climate Countdown. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from Copenhagen here in the Bella Center, what many may consider at this point the “Bella of the beast.”

As debates between rich and poor nations over emission cuts and funding continue on this fifth day of the COP15 climate summit here in Copenhagen, we begin with an overview of the week’s developments.

Inside the Bella Center, the divide is between the rich and poor nations of the world. The rich countries have proposed a climate fund of $10 billion a year from 2010 to 2012 to help developing countries adapt to climate change. Poor countries say that’s too little. Meanwhile, US climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing said the Obama administration is willing to pay its fair share, but added that donors, quote, “don’t have unlimited largesse to disburse.”

The lead climate negotiators for India and China addressed some of these concerns, along with the European Commission’s Director General for Environment at a news conference on Friday morning.

    CHANDRASHEKHAR DASGUPTA: The question is not whether it is desirable to reduce the rate of growth of emissions in developing countries. Of course it is. The question is, who pays for it?

    KARL FALKENBERG: It would just be an enormous waste if we were to leave from Copenhagen not understanding that economic growth in developing countries — that is crucial, a fundamental right, recognized by everyone — needs to be achieved in different forms in which economic growth has been achieved in the past and that this is possible.

    YU QINGTAI: For the developed countries, when it comes to emission space, their fundamental attitude is that what is mine is mine. What I’ve taken away from you, I’ve got to keep. For us, the developing countries, our position is, our emission space is under occupation, and we want them back.

AMY GOODMAN: That was China’s top climate negotiator Yu Qingtai, preceded by Karl Falkenberg of the European Commission and Indian climate negotiator Chandrashekhar Dasgupta.

Debates have also emerged over the Kyoto Protocol itself. On Friday, the forty-two-member Association of Small Island States announced its proposal for the summit. Dominica Ambassador Crispin Gregoire explained their demands at a news conference.

    CRISPIN GREGOIRE: We are on the front lines of the climate change crisis. Some of our islands will disappear. We accept that. But we want an agreement that will address our survival. That is why we’re here. We want two legal treaties: an amended Kyoto Protocol and a legally binding treaty for the long-term cooperative action under the convention.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on what’s been taking place this week here at the Bella Center, I’m joined in Copenhagen by Kate Horner, policy analyst with Friends of the Earth.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Explain what we have just watched and listened to. What’s going on here? A lot of people, even inside the Bella Center, let alone the thousands of people who are gathering actually for protests beginning in the next few days, don’t really understand what is being negotiated.

KATE HORNER: Well, I think that’s in part because there are profoundly different conceptions of what’s actually being discussed here. For the wealthy world, this is about taking moderate deviations in their emissions, where they take on slightly reduced emissions targets. For the developing countries, they recognize that this is about how to share the atmosphere fairly.

We have a limited global carbon budget that has been used up by the wealthy world, and they have grown prosperous on the backs of dirty energy over the course of the last 150 years, and they’ve used up the space that should be made available to developing countries to develop. And so, what we’re talking about right now, on the table, is how do we share the remaining space fairly amongst the whole world? How do we ensure the survival and the dignity and the livelihoods of everyone on this planet?

And there’s a lot of different ideas about how to do that, but I think that across the board — and just as you said, Jonathan Pershing and Todd Stern, who lead the United States delegation, say that they recognize the role that they’ve played in emitting carbon, but they take no responsibility or culpability for it, which means that they’re not providing any space for the rest of the world to develop, which is abhorrent, really, when you think about the rest — you know, as a number of these delegates and civil society have said, it’s not just about carbon emissions. These are their lives on the line. It’s their survival. It’s the survival of their families. And it’s not just in the small island states.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean not giving space to — for these countries to develop?

KATE HORNER: That’s a good question. Basically, what they’re talking about is, instead of taking the remaining space and sharing it, they’re talking about locking in future emissions. So, for example, the US, they’ll say that they’re going to reduce their emissions by 17 percent. That’s not good enough, period. But what that also means is that they’re going to lock in the rest of their emissions over the future period. And because they’re locking in their pollution means that there’s no space for the rest of the world to develop.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s just clarify the 17 percent term —-

KATE HORNER: Sure, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —- since the US is using a different standard —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- than everywhere else.


AMY GOODMAN: Explain — 1990, the rest of the world; 2005, the United States.

KATE HORNER: I mean, this is a great example of why it’s difficult to understand. It’s because we talk about different percentages and different base years. The US proposal is — that’s currently on the table through the legislation, is 17 to 20 percent below 2005 levels. The rest of the world uses 1990 levels. But again, that doesn’t really reflect the historical emissions that have used up the atmospheric space that are causing the problem.

AMY GOODMAN: And the 20 percent that the rest of the world is saying should be done, based on the 1990 levels, sum up to 49 percent, like Evo Morales of Ecuador —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- is calling for that.


AMY GOODMAN: In 2005 terms, that’s what? Like four percent the US is proposing.

KATE HORNER: Three and four, depending on — yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Three to four percent.

KATE HORNER: Yeah, minimal.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the Danish text, this secret text that was leaked a few days ago — The Guardian put it out, and then everyone responded —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- and then, what the text is today.

KATE HORNER: Sure. So, let me just talk about the process of this. This is not the World Trade Organization; it’s the UN, where all countries should have a fair and equal voice at the table. And what the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen has done is totally betrayed the UN process of multilateralism, and he has betrayed the Danish people in their long history of being fair and balanced in international affairs. And he has consulted with a rich select few countries and created a text that is essentially a marriage of the EU proposal and the US proposal.

So, regardless of the fact that the text is abhorrent and reflects the needs and desires of the rich world and totally ignores the rest of the world, the fact that he’s even created a text is unacceptable. And I think that’s — on both counts, developing countries have been very clear that it’s unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: And the text now?

KATE HORNER: And the text now, we don’t know. Hopefully the Danish prime minister has heard the message that the process needs to continue under the negotiations ongoing. But it’s entirely possible that they are continuing to draft new versions of the text to be issued next week, as ministers and heads of state arrive.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the arrival of the ministers and heads of state. We’re talking about more than a hundred of them, including President Obama —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- who will arrive on the last day, on Friday.


AMY GOODMAN: What kind of pressure is being exerted? What is going to happen in this next week? In the rest of the show, we’re going to talk about what’s going to happen outside, and maybe inside, the Bella Center.


AMY GOODMAN: But what’s going to happen with the delegates?

KATE HORNER: So, ministers are — right now we have delegations here. These are negotiators. These are often technocrats who are coming here to lobby on behalf of their countries. Ministers, who are going to come on the weekend, are going to have to engage on some of the political questions. They may answer them, or they may defer to their heads of state.

I think that the concern here is that these folks who are in political positions may come under extraordinary pressure from the wealthy world. We are talking about a situation in which the wealthy world recognizes the stakes on the table, and they have brought their considerable economic and political influence, like the early days of colonization, to bear in this process.

We know of a couple of examples already. In Barcelona, the Algerian delegate led the African Group in a very strong demand to focus the negotiations on emissions reductions, what’s at the heart of this, and he was lambasted. And we don’t know exactly what happened; this is all speculation on my part. But he was called home halfway through the meeting, because one of his family members was sick. What we hear is that he was under pressure, that there were European capitals calling home and asking them to rein in their delegates.

We also know that another strong negotiator, who speaks — who formerly spoke on behalf of the Philippines, was kicked off the delegation. She is one of the lead voices of developing countries in trying to secure a just and equitable outcome. And we see that she’s come under pressure and has been kicked off. It’s kind of amazing, but these are the tactics that we see.

One of the things that I think has been incredible — I know that you reported earlier on African civil society demanding more aggressive targets earlier this week. One of the things that they said is that they intend to stand boldly behind those countries that are supporting the strong demands of Africa, and they will not accept any of these kind of pressure tactics. So they’re really acting very strongly to support their delegates, which is a great thing.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to get your reaction to President Obama, to his address yesterday, the Nobel acceptance speech just 300 miles away from here in Oslo. I believe he mentioned the word “climate” just once. This is President Obama.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: True peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want. It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security. It is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food or clean water or the medicine and shelter they need to survive. It does not exist where children can’t aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.

    And that’s why helping farmers feed their own people, or nations educate their children and care for the sick, is not mere charity. It’s also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement, all of which will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and environmental activists who call for swift and forceful action; it’s military leaders in my own country and others who understand our common security hangs in the balance.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama in his Nobel acceptance speech yesterday in Oslo. Kate Horner, final comment on his one mention of climate change?

KATE HORNER: Well, I think President Obama should talk to his negotiating team and ask them to support a stronger position. What they’re supporting right now is a very weak, bottom-up agreement that isn’t going to get us where we need to go. As one of my colleagues said, you know, you can receive your Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, but you’re going to have to earn it in Copenhagen.

It’s simply not enough to secure a deal. The imperative here is to not get an agreement. The imperative here is to secure the lives and livelihoods of everyone on this planet. And frankly, the rest of the world needs to be mindful of what happened in Kyoto, where everyone weakened the terms of the deal to accommodate the US, and it wasn’t good enough. And we need to make darn sure we don’t do it again.

AMY GOODMAN: Kate, finally, the protests that are going to beginning tomorrow that Friends of the Earth is involved with, there are many different groups here. It is unusual, the lingo. ENGO, the Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations.


AMY GOODMAN: BINGO, the Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organizations. YOUNGO, the Young NGOs. TUNGO, the Trade Union NGOs.

KATE HORNER: And that’s just civil society. You’re not even talking about the negotiations. It’s acronym city: SBI, SBSTA, UNFCCC, AWGLCA. It’s totally pervaded my language, and it is difficult to understand. But I think —

AMY GOODMAN: Well, what’s FOE involved with tomorrow? That’s Friends of the Earth.

KATE HORNER: Yeah, FOE is involved tomorrow. On the outside, we have a number of our Friends of the Earth activists from Europe, joined by activists from throughout the rest of our network. We will be engaging in a flood, where a number of folks dressed in blue will flood onto a set of carbon traders, who will be trading, profiting off of climate policy, and wash over them, turn them into the good guys, and join the rest of the action that will be marching from the Parliament center here to the Bella Center, tens of thousands of people.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on protest, we’re going to go to Naomi Klein after break and then our underground tour of the convergent spaces. Kate Horner, thanks so much for being with us, policy analyst of Friends of the Earth.

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