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Chickens Home to Roost: The Climate is most Foul

Published: November 6, 2009, Author: MHirch

“If we don’t take urgent and ambitious action, the reality is that some small island developing states will not be around within a couple of decades – certainly not by the end of the century.”

So spoke Barbados Delegate to the climate change preparatory talks Selwin Hart expressing the frustration of island states’, developing states, Bolivia and indigenous peoples in Barcelona today. Powerful states including the United States of America, United Kingdom and other European countries (UUE) are lined up in opposition to developing states led by South Africa and Bolivia, island states and indigenous peoples (DSBII) on target reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  The US position presented by Ambassador Todd Stern calls for reduction targets of 9% to 10% by 2020 while the less developed world calls for reductions of 45%.  Fearing that lower reduction targets will fail to achieve climate change goals the DSBII have expressed profound frustration with the UUE that are seen as the primary producers of CO2 emissions and the main beneficiaries of wealth generated by such emissions. Echoing the “north-south” debate of a generation ago where rich post-colonial countries were called on to transfer wealth and technical help to former colonial lands the present clash requires developed countries to give up some of their privileges and wealth.

Noting that wealthy states (US and Europe) became wealthy and privileged as a result of colonizing other peoples and territories or outright stealing from what are now considered less developed peoples and countries.

The problem now faced by the UUE states is that they cannot escape the consequences of their profligacy and confiscatory practices anymore than can the DSBII countries.  Everyone is in the same boat and those who caused the problem will eventually have to face up to the consequences of their actions.  The chickens have come home to roost and now is the time for the privileged and wealthy to step back from their emphasis on accumulating more wealth and power in favor of pragmatism: establishment of a balance between the DSBII and UUE by sharing wealth and compromising in favor of survival.

The common wisdom is that there will only be a political agreement on climate change in December and no treaty that legally binds all states to a common set of goals and practices.  The obstacle to success is primarily caused by the United States and European Union failures to establish emission reduction goals compatible with the DSBII.  The US has in the Senator Boxer and Senator Kerry climate change and energy legislation proposed in September real possibilities for compromise, but the power brokers, corporations and coal producing states prevent consideration of a strong Bill that would put the United States in the Climate Change negotiations as a real player.

Indigenous peoples have only two alternatives and they are to ally themselves in the negotiations with the BSBII in an effort to win small concessions; and to act on their own to obstruct state actions aimed at creating more CO2 and greenhouse gases. The chickens have come to roost. There is no room for pretending that there is more time to prevent catastrophic climate change.

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