Organised by Adrian Macey, Climate Change Ambassador, Environment Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Lambton Quay, Wellington, 16 August 2007.
Talk by Kay Weir, editor Pacific Ecologist
Global warming emissions are still rising in New Zealand, and they are still rising globally, contrary to best scientific advice over many years. If the trend is not reversed soon, temperatures will reach a dangerous level as early as 2035, the Stern report noted in 2006, and other reports note similarly. Unchecked greenhouse gases will lock us into terrible consequences, floods, droughts, hurricanes, and ultimately sea levels rising 25 metres higher than they are today, destroying the lives of hundreds of millions of people, mostly in vulnerable developing countries like Africa which have done little to create climate change. Even before the end of the century, small island nations, including many of our Pacific neighbours, who also have done little to create the problem, may well be submerged with a one-to three meter rise seeing to this.
Our historic responsibility for global warming pollution and damage to date morally obliges New Zealand and other rich industrialised countries to reduce emissions first, strongly and urgently. We can do this by being sharply aware of the harm we are doing to our fellow human beings and other species and by changing the way we do things, living cooperatively and equitably rather than competitively with divisions of great wealth and grinding poverty.
The fact is, if we don’t have a just over-arching, mandatory global plan, with all country’s responsibilities clearly defined, we will not achieve reduction of warming emissions to a safe level of 450ppm CO2e maximum atmospheric carbon concentrations in time to prevent catastrophes where the world is reshaped; millions of people die, and millions of other species are made extinct.
In view of the serious dangers being created with continually rising emissions both in New Zealand and globally, we should not wait until 2012 to develop a “new comprehensive arrangement.” This should be negotiated within the next year to 18 months with New Zealand initiating action and discussions nationally and internationally to incorporate the 450ppm CO2e maximum atmospheric carbon concentrations.
New Zealanders belong to a privileged industrial country, we also have a bent for social justice, giving women the vote first and creating the social welfare state. We should lead the way with climate action and discussions as we have done with the nuclear issue.
Global warming and global inequity are linked, as global warming exacerbates poverty. Even now it’s far more devastating globally than terrorism, which currently distracts western powers, the Oxford Research group finds. Trillions are found for weapons of war, when less than half that money would be enough to address many of the problems of the third world in just a few years. Inequity is growing, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, already badly hit by global warming, yet funds can’t be found to meet even agreed limited targets to help developing countries adapt.
Justice, equity and compassion are core principles treasured by all civilised nations. We must cherish them to restore our conflict-ridden global society. By applying the equity principle, enshrined in the UN Charter and the U.S. Declaration of Independence, we could avoid the tide of rising global warming calamities, and increasing inequity. Aubrey Meyer and the Global Commons Institute’s action plan of Contraction and Convergence is a globally inclusive, transparent framework, fair and equitable to all nations. Averting climate change means ending the global apartheid of the rich, less numerous, historically highly polluting, industrial countries and poor, populous third world countries with much lower per capita emissions who are only beginning to develop. Under the plan everyone gets a fair share of emission entitlements, with the total capped at a sustainable level and moderated by convergence to the global average of equal shares per capita over 20 to 30 years to ease the transition. Shares created this way allow poor countries to finance their defence against climate change and for clean energy by trading their unused emissions rights with rich countries. The sooner an agreement to converge to equality is set, the better prospect we have for a healthy, sustainable planet, where the goal of world poverty reduction has a chance of succeeding. Without equity and justice in the climate change forums, there will be no incentive for developing countries to want to reduce emissions when they know full well it’s the rich world, which industrialised much sooner, and is responsible for most of the global warming pollution causing the havoc being suffered to date. If the issue of equity in the climate forums is not taken up by New Zealand, then the question is, how many millions of people are we prepared to let die to keep our country “competitive?”
[It’s not so difficult to accomplish a just, sustainable world as many seem to assume. A very useful plan to deal with the linked problems of global warming and peak oil, based on equity principles of contraction and convergence, tradeable energy quotas and an oil depletion protocol has been devised by Ian T. Dunlop, former international coal and gas executive. Interestingly he says, a Tradeable Energy Quota System could be quickly established within 12 – 18 months using existing financial and banking sectors and it would be built on work already undertaken by the Australian Greenhouse Office and others in developing greenhouse gas metrics, monitoring systems etc.
Such a plan could be useful for New Zealand to adopt. – See Pacific Ecologist issue 14, Climate Change & Peak Oil and integrated Strategy for Australia by Ian T Dunlop for an article on this, or type into Google Climate Change & Peak Oil: an Integrated Policy Response for Australia by Ian T. Dunlop.]
- 1. Contraction and Convergence, Aubrey Meyer, The Global Commons Institute, London [external link] –see Pacific Ecologist issue 13 for article on this.
- 2.. If everyone on earth contributed as much global warming emissions as the average New Zealander or Australian, around 4 earths would be required; if the US is our model, 5 planets are require- ..see also Ecological Debt: The Health of the Planet & the Wealth of Nation by Andrew Simms
- 3.. Very useful article dealing with peak oil and global warming, based in equity principles, Tradeable Energy Quotas, and Oil Depletion Protocol is abridged in Pacific Ecologist, issue 14 and is also available at Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas [external link] or by typing the title in Google, Climate Change & Peak Oil: an Integrated Policy Response for Australia by Ian T. Dunlop.