Bangkok Climate Talk 2012: On the Road to Repeat Copenhagen?
Particularly the ADP negotiations, which were established as an outcome of COP 17 in Durban last year, covered the vision of the ADP: guidance to increase reduction ambitions and strengthen the collaboration among parties and the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as the basis of the working framework of the ADP. This was particularly important as parties have strongly reiterated equity and common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) and respective capabilities. We have seen statements and interventions by parties reflecting these principles. Major economies like China and India addressed the significance of developed countries taking the lead in emission reductions and effectively complying with their commitments in terms of financial and technological support to developing countries. These are the commitments under the Convention. Historical responsibility must be the core.
In terms of responsibility sharing, major developing countries called for ambitious emission targets, according to science, by developed countries. The “when” issue in which “all countries” should be involved in emission reductions should be after 2020, based on science, equity, and CBDR. While the EU’s stance was that the new agreement should include the commitment of all countries, especially the major economies, it would have to take into consideration the CBDR and respective capabilities. Alternatives that would contribute to emission reduction efforts according to the EU included hydrofluorocarbon reductions, greenhouse gas reductions under the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Maritime Organization, alternative sources of energy and energy efficiency, and the UN’s REDD+ program. The United States attempted to take both reduction efforts within and outside the UNFCCC framework into consideration, and urged those not making their emission reduction pledges to do so.
The UNFCCC declared the Bangkok Talk a success that made concrete progress in the run-up to COP 18 in Doha, Qatar, late November to early December 2012. However, we have not seen more ambitious emission reduction targets that would keep temperature rises below 2 °C or 1.5 °C. Official estimates from the UN itself show that even if all countries delivered on their pledges and did not use offset mechanisms and loopholes, this would still lead to a temperature increase of between 2.5 °C to 5 °C before the end of the century. And science has indicated that in order to avoid climate chaos, a maximum threshold of 2 °C should not be breached. The impacts of climate change are real and are happening now all over the globe. Extreme weather of too much rain or of drought has damaged crops, livelihoods, and people’s homes.
While the political negotiations were conducted mostly in closed rooms, the real impacts of climate change were shared among communities in the ASEAN region. In the event, which was held by the Forest and Farmers Foundations and the Heinrich Böll Foundation Thailand on September 4, 2012, farmers and fisher folks reported that the impacts have already been strongly felt. Unpredictable rainfalls and floods have made it difficult for communities in Phitsanulok Province, Thailand, to maintain the same cropping patterns. Some communities have had to change their housing structures and move them higher above the grounds. Intensified storms/tornados have caused tremendous loss for communities in Myanmar. Cyclone Nargis caused flooding in approximately 43 percent of extended areas in Myanmar. Severe droughts have caused severe agricultural losses in Cambodia. An increase in sea levels has reduced rice production in Indonesia. It is predicted that by the end of this century, the total size of lost area will be around 12 times the size of the current area, meaning hundreds of islands of Indonesia will be lost. Unpredictable winds, abrupt storms, and changes to the sea currents (surface and underwater) have cause injuries and loss of marine yields among Thai fisher folks in Nakhon Sri Thammarat Province. As it has more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines and its communities are very vulnerable. The People’s Survival Fund was recently set up as the Philippines’ first legislated, direct access-driven climate finance mechanism, dedicated to support adaptation programs and projects of local governments and communities.
Communities in the region are vulnerable to impacts that they have not caused. They have been adjusting themselves to survive amidst those changes with their own limited resources. The continuing rise in temperature will mean more unpredictable, intense, and frequent impacts, for which their limited resources will not be sufficient. The delay in reducing greenhouse gases in the short term will mean their lives are at even more risk.
Climate negotiations ended in Bangkok and will start again in Doha at the end of the year. The different positions of countries – particularly the developed and developing countries, and even those in the same negotiation groups – signal the complications and complexities of achieving a new global agreement in 2012. Generating the ambition to reduce emissions will still be the core of the negotiations. Communities in the ASEAN region have great concerns and do not want to see a repetition of Copenhagen. If so, there might be no second chance.
Sakhon Songma is a member of the Forest and Farmers Foundation, Thailand.
Wanun Permpibul and Jost Pachaly are employees of the Heinrich-Boell-Foundation Thailand.