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Naomi Klein and Martin Khor on the Growing North-South Divide in Copenhagen over Kyoto, Climate Debt and Emission Targets

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The secret draft climate agreement leaked to The Guardian newspaper yesterday sets unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050. This means that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much as those in poor countries. The document also proposes a $10 billion a year fund to help developing nations cut emissions and tackle the effects of climate change. But the fund is far smaller than what many delegates say is necessary to effectively combat the effects of climate change in the most vulnerable nations. [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined here in Copenhagen at the Bella Center by two people: Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre, a journalist; also Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! You’ve been watching this carefully. We’re going to go back to the Sudanese delegate talking, responding to this so-called secret Danish text. Martin Khor, explain further.

MARTIN KHOR: I think we all have been told that there is no plan B for Copenhagen and that we have to work very hard, you know, on the documents on the table. So the fact that we have this ten-page document shows that they have been working on a plan B. And most of the developing countries that I have spoken to do not know at all about this text. So they feel shortchanged, in that they had no say. They were not invited to contribute to a text that may be parachuted down on them later on this week by the ministers or by the presidents, and they would not have had enough time to look at it.

So the process is what is bothering many, but also the substance, because the text calls for a 50 percent cut in global emissions by 2050, and it says that the developed countries are willing to cut by 80 percent. So my calculations show that if this is being proposed, the developing countries would have to cut their emissions by at least 60 percent per capita, or about the same as the developed countries, and that will bring the per capita emissions of greenhouse gases to about two tons per person by 2050, whereas a country like the United States, which now has twenty tons per capita, would go down to about four tons. So this means that the US would still be able to have double the per capita emissions that poor developing countries have in 2050, when the United States is so superior in terms of income and technology, and they have contributed so much, you know, to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So this is what is outraging the developing countries.

ANJALI KAMAT: And Martin, what do you think developing countries are going to do? Do you suspect that there will be a walkout? What is the next step?

MARTIN KHOR: I don’t think there will be a walkout, but they would now, I think — in fact, they should now come out with their own text, you know, to say that this is our position on what we see as the Copenhagen decision and not something that somebody else is putting for us.

I think the other major issue for the developing countries is that this text implies the closure of the Kyoto Protocol. And that’s something that all the developing countries are united against, because the Kyoto Protocol is the legally binding international agreement. The only country not in it is the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, let’s go on from what Martin Khor is saying. The issue of the Kyoto Protocol, and the United States is always talking about, it sunsets, it ends in 2012.


AMY GOODMAN: But that’s not true.

NAOMI KLEIN: It’s one of the great misconceptions, and I actually didn’t fully understand it until Martin explained it to me, so he probably can explain it much better than I can. But there is no expiration date on the Kyoto Protocol. What it had was, was a first period of emissions cuts that ends in 2012. And the idea was that countries would come back together and increase their emission cuts and develop the agreement. But the idea that it just needs to be scrapped completely and replaced with a wholly new deal and that in addition to this there isn’t time to come up with a whole new deal, which is the position of the US negotiators here, is based on this faulty premise that the Kyoto Protocol expires.

But I think, you know, the real issue here is what they want to replace the Kyoto Protocol with is much weaker than the Kyoto Protocol. They want to — the Kyoto Protocol comes up with a goal for all the countries that they have to reach in terms of emissions cuts, and it’s legally binding. Here, what they want to replace it to is, all countries go off, come up with their own goals, and then it’s sort of mashed together into an agreement that really isn’t a multilateral agreement, because the whole idea of multilateralism is that countries agree on the same set of rules and they agree to a common monitoring mechanism.

So the great irony of what’s happening here in Copenhagen is that it takes place in this context of this huge global celebration of the US embrace — re-embrace of multilateralism. In fact, Obama is getting the Nobel Prize specifically for this. In the citation for the Nobel Prize, they talk about the reengagement with the climate talks, the embrace of multilateralism. He’s getting the Nobel Prize for it. But what’s actually happening here is that they’re using the tools of multilateralism, the infrastructure of multilateralism, to destroy multilateralism, to kill multilateralism.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break. Then we’re going to come back to this discussion. Naomi Klein, well-known journalist, author of The Shock Doctrine, and the tenth anniversary edition is just out of her first book, No Logo. Martin Khor with us, executive director of the South Centre. We’re live in Copenhagen. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with them. Then we’ll be joined by the chief climate change negotiators from two Latin American countries, from Paraguay and Bolivia. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: It is Climate Countdown. We’re live in Copenhagen at the Bella Center, the only global daily news hour broadcasting on television, radio and the internet from right here at the climate talks at COP15, the Conference of Parties.

Our two guests right now are Naomi Klein — she’s blogging for The Nation magazine, and she is author of The Shock Doctrine and No Logo — Martin Khor is with us, as well. He’s executive director of the South Centre. He is based in Geneva, comes from Malaysia. And then we’ll be joined by the chief climate negotiators from two Latin American countries, from Paraguay and Bolivia.

I’m Amy Goodman, with Anjali Kamat. Anjali?

ANJALI KAMAT: Martin, can you talk about some of the numbers in the Danish text, the text produced by the circle of commitment? They talk about $10 billion to be invested in this.

MARTIN KHOR: Ten billion dollars for developing countries to take all these actions to prevent climate change and to tackle the effects of climate change is too miniscule, you know? The United Nations recently —-

AMY GOODMAN: That’s ten billion a year?

MARTIN KHOR: Ten billion a year, but the UN estimated that we require at least $500 to $600 billion a year. And a new study in London shows that you need at least $500 billion a year. In fact, in my estimation, we need at least two percent of the GNP of the rich countries, and that’s about $800 billion a year.

AMY GOODMAN: What does it pay for?

MARTIN KHOR: You see, you have to allow the developing countries to continue their economic growth and, at the same time, to reduce their emissions. The only way in which they can do this is if we have massive transfers of finance and technology, you know, not for luxuries, but simply to get food production and housing and, you know, to build the seawalls and so on. If this amount of money does not come, then the developing countries are sunk or fried by climate change, and they won’t be able to take their own actions in terms of changing their technology in transportation, in energy, in industry, and so on.

NAOMI KLEIN: I think one of the things that’s so important about this is that everybody has -— we all have a vested interest in this. It’s not — first of all, it’s not charity. It is based on the principle that the polluter pays, that the rich world created the climate crisis. So it isn’t a handout. But in addition to it not being a handout, as Martin says, everybody in the world has an interest in helping the developing world to leapfrog over fossil fuels and develop using cleaner, but more expensive technologies, more expensive upfront, because the technologies are expensive at the start. Eventually they actually become cheaper than fossil fuels, but there is a heavy upfront cost. And that’s what these numbers would be covering, in part.

ANJALI KAMAT: And can you talk a little bit about the issues around the transfer of technology and how it ties into trade agreements and intellectual property rights?

MARTIN KHOR: Well, the thing is that technology will be required, if we are to change from, you know, the old patterns of energy in developing countries and that costs us trillions of dollars of cash, you know, and then all the machines in the industries, all the motorcars that are outmoded, and so on, they have to be totally refitted and re-changed. But for us to be able to obtain the technology to do this, it has to be at the cheapest possible cost, because each dollar of technology that we have must be able to do five times the work, because it’s five times cheaper.

And so, we come to this issue of intellectual property rights. When intellectual property rights attached to a technology becomes a barrier to its transfer, because it increases the costs and it prevents developing countries from making the same technologies, then we have to overcome this barrier in order to have the greater international global good. And this is one of the issues being discussed here.

Unfortunately, the developed countries seem to want to maintain their total control over intellectual property, which means technological dominance over such a crucial area as climate change. But the talks are still going on, and we hope that the United States, in particular, will relax their very rigid standard: we will have business as usual on intellectual property, whilst we ask you not to have business as usual in terms of your pattern of development.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask a question about — well, for example, very powerful statement of the representative of the Group of 77 and China, Stanislaus — Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping of Sudan. The representatives here — for example, of Sudan — I mean, will be discredited by many right away, saying, “Who is he to” — I mean, it was a powerful statement about imperialism, that this is a disgrace, that this secret Danish text is actually dangerous right now, that it’s a new Bretton Woods.

MARTIN KHOR: I think the outrage really is that we were told all along there’s no such text, there’s no plan B, we are not having a small group of people cooking up something. So when it is revealed by a newspaper —-

AMY GOODMAN: By The Guardian, right?

MARTIN KHOR: —- that indeed there is a plan B, you know, and that a few people have been looking at it, then those who are excluded feel very discouraged, because this is a United Nations — it’s a very democratic forum. People put forward their proposals, we fight and quarrel, but at the end of the day we reach an agreement. So I think the feeling is that there should not have been an exclusive group.


MARTIN KHOR: And if there is a plan to come out with a short version of a declaration, then each region should have been asked to have a representative and that we thresh it out together.

AMY GOODMAN: But that issue of the human rights abusers being the spokespeople, like the country of Sudan.

MARTIN KHOR: Well, Sudan does not speak for itself, in terms of the Group of 77. It is there to represent the entire group. This is an association of developing countries. And what he says is to represent the feelings of the 130 countries of the Group of 77. So he has that mandate to represent the views of these countries. It is not his personal view.

NAOMI KLEIN: I think it is really important, though, Amy, that you raise it, because we have to understand that this is part of a pattern, that whenever things happen at the UN that the US and other powerful players don’t like, the strategy in order to discredit the policies, no matter how many developing countries back it, is to single out a couple of governments with well-earned bad reputations and say, “Well, we don’t need to be” — if we think about the Durbin II conference, for instance, the Durban Review Conference, what was the line? It was, “We don’t want to hear about racism from Libya and Sudan.” Never mind that there were eighteen countries that were on the planning committee. So this will be, I think, one of the lines of attack against the fact that the Africa Group, as well as the G77, has been very, very strong throughout these negotiations. And we talked about it before, about how the Africa — the African negotiating bloc walked out of the negotiations in Barcelona. So, you know, when you start to lose political ground, you start to take other lines of attack, and this is certainly going to be one of them.

The other one is to claim that there’s no big deal about this text, everyone knew about it. That’s also not true. I interviewed Bernarditas Muller, who’s from the Philippines and is really the chief negotiator for the G77. She said that this was the first time that she had heard of the text, was when she read about it in The Guardian. And she also said that she’s been part of these negotiations since 1988 and that she’s never seen anything like this. So this is quite unprecedented, and these attempts to downplay it are, once again, you know, political lines, because they got caught.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama will be getting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo tomorrow. He will be addressing the escalation of war in Afghanistan, receiving the Peace Prize as he announces the escalation of war. Naomi Klein, your response to this and how the United States fits into this Danish text and President Obama coming here next week, agreeing to come at the end, not at the beginning?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, you know, on the one hand, it’s encouraging that he’s coming at the end; on the other hand, we have to understand how politics works. And I think probably this text, the existence of this text, has something to do with why Obama agreed to come to the end. I mean, most people here have observed that Obama wouldn’t come unless they had — there had been some sort of a guarantee of an outcome that would have been acceptable to the United States, and clearly they thought this Danish text was going to be adopted.

So — but, you know, if we think about Afghanistan, even coming back to the headlines that you read earlier about Zelaya, you know, one year into the Obama administration, I think that we’re seeing, on so many of the key issues that we really believed there would be change or where change was promised, that there was a new era of relationships with Latin America, that there was going to be a much less aggressive stand when it comes to the military, the financial sector and now climate change, we’re seeing some very, very — a series of very profound betrayals. And this is one piece of it, but a major piece of it.

AMY GOODMAN: Martin Khor, on that same issue?

MARTIN KHOR: I think that the US has a positive role to play in the climate negotiations, which it has yet to play, by allowing those countries who are in the Kyoto Protocol — and that’s all the developed countries except the US — to remain there and to take their commitments there and to take high commitments there to reduce their emissions by at least 40 percent. And the United States, even if it does not want to join the protocol, for whatever reason, can take a similar commitment inside the convention, because the US is a member of that convention, and do a similar commitment, do a similar cut.

Now, the reverse is happening, as we have seen in the Danish text, that those developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol with high commitments are on the verge of jumping ship to join the United States, where the US is not willing to commit to an international treaty at the moment and is giving a very low commitment figure of reducing its emissions by about four percent between 1990 and 2020, when the science says we have to do it by at least 25 to 40 percent, preferably 40 percent, and Europe is willing to do 30 percent. So it looks as if the other countries are watching the United States and saying that if the US is going to do so little and is not going to be internationally legally bound, then we are all going to follow the United States in a race, if not to the bottom, to very near the bottom. And this is what is at the heart of the crisis in the negotiation.

So, if Mr. Obama comes and he can — even if he cannot join the Kyoto Protocol, and we understand why, he could urge the other countries not to jump ship to the US, because one day the US is willing to jump up to their standard, and they can just wait for the US for another five years.

NAOMI KLEIN: Obama needs to hear this from the people who voted him in in part because they felt that there was going to be a new era on the environment. The Kyoto Protocol is not dying; it’s being killed here in Copenhagen. And Obama needs to hear from his constituents that they don’t want it to die.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us. Naomi Klein, author, blogger here for The Nation magazine and author of The Shock Doctrine and No Logo. Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. He’s based in Geneva. He’s from Malaysia.

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