Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary

Priorities for an Equitable Future


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The Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary was developed by Mick Kelly and Sarah Granich on behalf of the Stockholm Environment Institute and the International Institute for Environment and Development, with sponsorship from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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Andrew Simms

Andrew Simms describes the ac­tions which need prioritizing in the global climate change arena if progress is to be just and equitable.

The author is policy di­rector of the new economics foundation, based in London, United Kingdom.

Serious flooding hit parts of Argen­tina in November 2004, just as thousands converged in Buenos Aires for the tenth annual conference following the United Na­tions climate convention. Either God or Mother Nature was dropping a big hint. With the Kyoto Protocol now legally binding, the wider bat­tle lines are also more clearly set.

Firstly, it is clear that none of the painfully negotiated in­ternational targets for poverty reduction can be met without stopping dangerous climate change, which, for the most vulnerable, is already here.

Sec­ondly, the huge challenge to alter economic development models around the world so that they become both climate proof and climate friendly is apparent.

The new United Kingdom-based initiative of environment and development groups, coordinated by the new economics foundation and the Inter­national Institute for Environment and De­velopment, that produced the Up in Smoke report, will re-examine old approaches and could be a model for others to follow.

Thirdly, after twelve years of trying, dip­lomatic options for persuading a reluctant United States to take part in the international process have been exhausted. Now it is time to use economic pressure allowed within inter­national law and trade rules.

Then we have to ask the question: what price will de­veloping countries demand to participate in a solution to fol­low the Kyoto Protocol?

Such a solution must be based on a global framework and the as­sumption that we now live in a fundamental­ly carbon constrained world economy. Their reluctance to even have this conversation is fuelled by breathtakingly perverse priorities among the rich countries and real injustice.

The US$0.41 billion annual pledge by rich countries to help all poor countries adapt to climate change is less than one third of what the United States spent on advertizing sports utility vehicles (also known as axles of evil) in 2000, and 178 times less than rich coun­tries spent subsidizing their domestic fossil fuel industries annually in the late 1990s. France spent US$748 million alone adapting its health service after the 2003 heatwave.

Our challenge is to agree the right, per capita, equity-based framework to stop cli­mate change. This must work under a precau­tionary global emissions cap with tradable emissions permits. The longer the delay, the worse the deal for poor countries.

To ensure that resources are available for adaptation now, a full assessment of likely costs in poor countries is needed. We must remember that this is not aid, but the polluter paying the polluted.

You can comment on this article by visiting the Tiempo Climate Newswatch Forum.

Further information
Andrew Simms, 3 Jonathan Street, London, SE11 5NH, United Kingdom. Email: andrew.simms@neweconomics.org. Web: www.neweconomics.org.

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Updated: May 15th 2015