Wednesday, June 4, 2014

'Alternate vision' sought on climate

Four hundred legislators from 66 countries are taking part in a summit billed as offering a 'new vision for an international climate agreement'.


The Globe summit in Mexico City is taking place in parallel to the latest round of United Nations-brokered climate negotiations in Bonn.


The delegates come from nations as diverse as China and Slovenia.


Small island nations suffering the effects of climate change are placing their hopes in the high-level summit.


Islands in the Micronesia region of the Pacific have lost faith in the ability of governments to negotiate an effective global treaty to tackle global warming.


However they believe that the Globe summit in Mexico City may produce more concrete results.


The focus is on helping each member state to pass its own climate change laws. Legislation will be developed and tailored to each country's own national interests.


The aim is to try to get difficulties ironed out ahead of the next UN summit in Paris next year. The mission is to achieve the agreed goal of limiting the rise in global average temperature to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.


The host country is Mexico, which passed a far-reaching national climate change law in 2012 that put in to legal force commitments on emissions reductions. According to Mexican Senator Alejandro Encinas, Globe legislators were 'critical to the passage of the bill'.


Their experience is now being shared with Costa Rica, Colombia and Peru. Senator Encinas believes that 'Latin America will now see a wave of national climate change laws'.


The expertise shared by lawmakers at the conferences have had a far-reaching impact. The vice-chairman of China's powerful economic planning ministry, the National Development and Reform Commission, recently described it as 'invaluable to the development of China's legislation on climate change'.


Island threat


A delegation of three people from Micronesia (the Federated States of Micronesia) is being sent to Mexico. Despite being seriously affected by sea-level rise caused by global warming, the government does not have the resources to send more than a handful of people.


The President of Micronesia told the UN that the 'very existence' of his nation depends agreements being reached on climate change. Many of the Micronesia's 600 or so islands are just one or two feet above sea level. Rising sea levels mean that salt water is contaminating drinking water and devastating farming land. Some islands are being abandoned.


However, with this lawmaking information-sharing, now Micronesia is devising plans to build sea walls, raise farmland and form evacuation plans.


Chief legal officer Lam Dang called Globe 'game changing'. He said: 'The traditional way isn't working. For the last 20 years we have been saying the same thing, and the sea levels have been rising and we are sinking. International negotiations have been going nowhere.


'It's what we have been screaming about for years.


'We in Micronesia are a very low emitter. So there's no point in focusing on mitigation. But now we can show what we are doing ourselves to deal with our own problems.


'We go to the executive branch and we say you come up with the policy and we will give you the legal tools. We will make legal obligations and we will set milestones and you report to Congress what you do.'


In Mr Dang's view, it is creating a sense of hope and optimism: 'The developed countries control the process of climate change. They are the big emitters. But this is existential - we are not taking this passively. If we go down, we go down fighting!'


The chairman of the Micronesian Congress is Senator Figir: 'Parliamentarians are much more advanced than governments. They can persuade governments to move forward. I have a lot of hope in Globe.


His view is that the last climate change deals - Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009 - were largely failures.


'For us in Micronesia, we are at the front line of climate change. It's something I am really frustrated with, because the emitters have been dragging their feet in combating climate change,' he said.


'I think they should take the lead in saving the earth for our future generations. If they are, they are doing it very slowly. They need to pick up speed. The longer they delay, the more it will affect us.


I find it amazing that people aren't doing more, I don't know how to convince them! People are used to their lifestyle and their luxury and no one wants to give up how they live their lives. We need Globe to influence governments to pass laws.'


However the question will be whether the resources and will be present to implement and enforce the legislation.