In listening to the “Climate Justice from Copenhagen” side event, two philosophies are discussed to approach climate change challenges in countries of need. The first is one of urgency emphasizing the need to “start over” and have every nation participate in changing their future behavior to discontinue practices that contribute to global warming. The urgency attitude is meant to cause thinking of present and future actions not leaving time to point fingers for past polluting practices (speaking specifically of CO2 emissions). A complete opposite approach is speaking very loudly at COP15 as non-Annex I members, those who in many cases are suffering the most from impacts of climate change, are demanding compensation for damages that have already been committed. This approach emphasizes the need to focus on identifying those responsible for current damage. Compensation may not only exist in financial assistance, and Dr. Habtemariam Abate, who is from the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, says that Africa is expecting:
1) to survive
2) mitigation by polluters
3) compensation, both financial and technological, for damage which has already been created
From the second perspective, Annex I countries are viewed to have a dual obligation to the developing world: reduce domestic emissions and provide financial assistance and technological support to developing countries. How do you determine how much assistance and support? Tom Athanasiou, founder of EcoEquity, emphasizes that these obligations should be determined by capacity to help. These are subjective issues where power has historically resided with those in better economies, but COP15 has shown that the voice of the developing world is being heard despite these boundaries.
There are obviously conflicting interests between the developed and developing – this is not new. The fact that portions of the developed are joining the developing in voice will be interesting to observe if they also join on large scales in action.
Written by LAURA BELL.