s/r home  | issues  | authors  | 15 contents
[During October and November, 1997, Greens in several continents worked on a proposal for a joint global Green statement on climate change to present to the Kyoto conference in December, 1997. The proposal was originally drafted by Patrick Mazza and developed in a close dialogue with the European Greens and other Greens around the globe. On November 5, 1997, Ralph Monoe, Secretary General of the European Federation of Green Parties, wrote Green Parties around the world asking for endorsement. After Patrick Mazza accepted two wording changes, the Coordinating Committee of the Greens/Green Party USA endorsed the statement on November 12, 1997. (See correction from the next issue.)]
Humanity stands on the threshold of fundamentally destabilizing the climate it has known throughout recorded history. The unprecedented consensus reached by the world's leading climate scientists through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1995 has clarified the issue. No longer does any serious question exist as to whether humans are altering the climate. Only how much and how quickly remain uncertain.
The succession of record-breaking hot years since the 1980s, the increasing frequency of severe weather events across the globe including the latest El Niņo, and the spread of tropical diseases to higher latitudes and elevations, are strong indications climatic disruption is already upon us. Response equal to the challenge is utterly imperative. The costs of not acting or acting insufficiently are incalculable. No country, no matter how rich, would be able to insulate itself. Consequences would intensify in our children's generation, and resound for centuries and millennia to come. The climate change negotiations in Kyoto represent a vital juncture in world affairs where humanity has a real opportunity to avert ecological, human and economic disaster. Yet, in truth, even the best proposals put forward for Kyoto fall short of the mark. The European Union proposal for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 15% below 1990 levels by 2010 should only be the starting point for discussions on far deeper cuts. A recent Japanese study shows that emission cuts of 21% by 2010 would be quite feasible. The US and Japanese proposals, even weaker than those of the European Union, are simply unacceptable.
The Greens believe legally-binding reduction targets should minimally be set at 20% below 1990 levels by 2005, 25% by 2010, and 50% by 2025. Targets must only be set for gases that can be adequately monitored-A gas-by-gas approach should be used.
To be effective, this protocol must secure legally-binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by the industrialized countries.
It is of utmost importance that an ambitious and coherent Kyoto protocol be adopted at the Third Conference of the Parties. To be effective, this protocol must secure legally-binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by the industrialized countries. The protocol must be clear and straightforward with incentives that promote early action. Clear, numerical targets must be set, with the first to be reached by 2005. Regular reviews and a satisfactory compliance mechanism must be established.
It is obvious that the Kyoto Protocol will only mark the beginning of global action against climatic disruption. The view must be toward successively strengthening commitments for greenhouse gas reductions. Credible scientific authorities maintain that greenhouse emissions must ultimately be reduced by 60-80% if we are to avert severe consequences.
As political leaders throughout the world face climatic destabilization, the contrast between what is seen as politically feasible, and what is understood to be ecologically necessary, is stark. Prior civilizations crumbled under the weight of ecological deterioration ignored for too long. If we fail to adequately respond to climatic disruption, we are vulnerable to a similar fate.
True leadership requires stepping beyond the safe terrain of what appears politically feasible at the moment, onto that risky ground where global necessity is truthfully proclaimed. We must undertake a rapid shift from fossil fuels, which will be one of the most difficult yet rewarding projects humanity has yet undertaken. We must transition into highly efficient economies reliant on renewable and climate-friendly energy.
Distorted statements spread by interests attached to the fossil fuel status quo frame adequate response to climate change as an economic threat. Rather than giving credence to these poorly conceived and backwards arguments, the Kyoto Summit must instead focus on the economic menace posed by inadequate response to climatic disruption and the unprecedented economic opportunity that climate-friendly economic transformation represents. Consider the millions of jobs and widespread global prosperity to be gained by:
- Reconstructing human settlements in compact forms that reduce reliance on the automobile.
- Converting the world's electrical generation to renewable sources and the world's homes, businesses and industries to highly efficient lighting, appliances, equipment and motors.
- Replacing and retrofitting the world's vehicle fleets for propulsion by electricity, fuel cells and alternative fuels.
These changes can be spurred and financed by shifting taxes from income and labor to pollution and resource use, particularly fossil fuel burning. Tax incentives should be provided for energy efficiency and alternatives. No matter what takes place at Kyoto, local and national governments should and will implement such policies. In fact, if the European Union implements its proposed greenhouse gas reductions through a shift in taxation, it stands to gain 2-4 million jobs.
Nuclear plants require 25-30 years of operation before they deliver more energy than is needed to built and maintain them.
At the same time, nuclear power is not a feasible alternative. Accident risks are much too high and the waste disposal problem remains unsolved. Indeed, the energy requirements of constructing nuclear plants impose a greenhouse burden of their own. Nuclear plants require 25-30 years of operation before they deliver more energy than is needed to built and maintain them. For fossil-fuel powered plants the equivalent figure is 6-8 years. Renewable energy comes out by far the winner. Photovoltaic solar cells require less than three years, while wind turbines yield net energy after only 4-6 months.
If status quo interests have distorted the economic debate surrounding climate change response, they have also skewed the discussion in another highly significant respect. They have argued that newly industrializing and non-industrial countries of the South must immediately bind themselves to any greenhouse gas reduction treaty made by the industrial countries. This position has already had a tragic impact in countries such as the U.S.
Of course, response to climate change must be truly global. All nations have responsibilities. But the industrial countries, which have dumped a far larger measure of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and gained great wealth in the process, must act in good faith and take the lead. Asking for commitments for developing countries too early would torpedo the process. After all, the Framework Convention on Climate Change states, "The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties...".
...tropical countries stand to lose around 5% of their gross domestic product if climate change is allowed to continue unabated, compared to 1-2% for temperate zone countries.
It should not be doubted that the South will find reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in its own interest. The South is particularly vulnerable to drought, severe storms and disease outbreaks associated with climate change. Studies show that in the medium term the tropical countries stand to lose around 5% of their gross domestic product if climate change is allowed to continue unabated, compared to 1-2% for temperate zone countries. Of course, in the longer term, the effects would be far worse for all countries.
As a first step in good faith after Kyoto, a global-level system under UN supervision must be put in place to transfer climate-friendly technologies to the South and financially assist them in climate stabilization actions. This must be the topic of a new worldwide meeting of the Parties of the Convention that should follow closely on the heels of the Kyoto Summit.
The industrial countries must help the newly industrializing and non-industrial nations leapfrog over climate-disrupting technologies, even as the industrial nations move beyond their own wasteful ways. Direct financial and technical assistance for preservation of tropical rainforests, in recognition of their vital role in stabilizing world climates, must also take a far higher priority. Assistance from the North to the South should be viewed not as a burden, but as an investment in a new era of mutual, global prosperity.
Militaries across the world are still absorbing unconscionable sums of money despite the end of the Cold War. Unquestionably, a significant portion of the transition to climate-friendly economies in both the North and South should be funded by a redirection of budgets away from armaments to the greatest security threat now faced by all nations-environmental disruption.
The people of this planet, attentive to the world they will be leaving their children and their children's children, will be watching the Conference of the Parties as you meet in Kyoto. The future of humanity and the many other species affected by climatic disruption requires that you take profound steps to preserve the stability of the climate on which generations both present and future depend. Green parties and federations of the world thus call upon you to:
Set legally-binding greenhouse gas reduction targets for industrialized countries of at least 20% by 2005, 25% by 2010, and 50% by 2025, with regular reviews and a satisfactory compliance mechanism.
Schedule a new, worldwide meeting at an early date to put in place a global-level system that financially and technologically assists developing countries in climate stabilization actions.
Set the stage for global transformation to climate-friendly energy, production and transportation systems, in order to ensure that all nations have an economically prosperous and environmentally secure future.
A response from the Conference of the Parties equal to the fundamental challenge posed by global climatic disruption demands that you do no less.