Stakes High At Global Climate Conference

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[Global Analysis: Climate Conference]

The much-awaited United Nations Climate Control conference opened in Copenhagen Monday with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen warning that many people in the world today are facing "the dire consequences of  global warming."

Expected to last two weeks, the conference is being attended by 192 countries whose heads of state and government will meet at the end of next week to sign what will be a historical global agreement meant to reverse the rise of climate change. The nightmare facing Danish security in ensuring the safety of such a big number of world leaders that will include U.S. President Barack Obama is just unimaginable.

Interest the world over, especially in media houses is almost unprecedented. It has led the Climate Change Secretariat to suspend the accreditation of journalists wishing to cover the event until this Thursday in an attempt to secure more room for the world press.

At last month’s Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said contemplating failure of this Climate conference was simply unthinkable. Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Control (UNFCCC), told a press conference Monday that world leaders must deliver when they meet Friday next week. He said: "The clock has ticked down to zero. After two years of negotiations, the time has come to deliver."
He said that only a when ‘significant and immediate action that begins the day the conference ends’ is delivered, will Copenhagen be deemed successful. 

In an attempt to limit what he called "the carbon footprint of the conference," Rasmussen announced that there would be no bottled water at the conference, only tap water and that all the food provided will be organic. To the amusement of many of his listeners, the Danish leader said his government had decided to cut back on gifts usually given out at such conferences and instead chose to invest in 11 scholarships from students around the world attending a fully financed two-year Master of Arts degree in Denmark.

Speaking at the same opening ceremony, Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Director General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Director of Yale Climate and Energy Institute (YCEI) warned that the absence of mitigation policies would most likely lead to a possibility that there would be no sea ice by the latter part of the 21st century, there would be an increase in the frequency of hot extremes, there would be heat waves and heavy precipitation and that an increase in tropical cyclone intensity and a possible decrease in water resources due to climate change in many semi-arid areas such as Western United States, Southern Africa, North-Eastern brazil and the Mediterranean Basin would also be inevitable.

Dr. Pachauri further warned that if nothing is done, there was a likelihood that the Greenland ice sheet would be eliminated and that this would contribute to a rise of about seven meters of sea level. "Without mitigation, future temperatures in Greenland would compare with levels estimated 125,000 years ago when palaeoclimate information suggests four to six meters of sea level rises," Dr. Pachauri said.

Indeed, this can be billed as this year's most prestigious conference given the fact that for the first time in 20 of its meetings leaders of CHOGM meeting in Port of Spain last week, allowed three non-member heads of state to  address them on the peril of failure at this week's Copenhagen summit. The presence of President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Rasmussen and UN boss Ban Ki Moon rejuvenated the Trinidad summit to the extent that most leaders --at least those that agreed to speak to the press during and after the summit-- declared it a great success.

While the question of climate change and green gas emission is without doubt important to the human race at this time, one wonders whether problems arising from the lack of doing anything to stem climate control is the foremost thing on the mind of millions of people, especially in the developing world who are facing starvation due to lack of rain and whose immediate thought is where their next meal is going to come from.

One also wonders whether the dangers of green gas emissions are the things on the minds of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in Darfur, the northern part of Uganda, Ethiopia, Iraq and the battlefields of Afghanistan.

It is also questionable whether families experiencing utter poverty with no idea where to get the money to pay for their children’s education and where families are being destroyed by the scourge of the HIV/AIDS pandemic will be looking forward to a positive outcome of the Copenhagen summit.

The host country Denmark is one of the smallest of the Nordic countries most of whose citizens know what it means to be poor and barely understand the problems indicated above. With a population of just about five and a half million people, the Danes are said to be the happiest people in the world, enjoying the world’s highest level of income and are said to have the best business climate. Denmark is also ranked only second to New Zealand as the most peaceful country in the world.

While countries like Afghanistan, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, and many others are described as the most corrupt in the world, Denmark shares top position with Sweden and New Zealand as the least corrupt country in the world. No wonder it saw no problem in hosting such a conference for two weeks with almost 200 world leaders accompanied by what is usually a high number of their security details as well as thousands of Non Government Organizations and hundreds of several other interested parties.

One cannot fail to take a glance at the many well-known corrupt leaders who will be shaking hands with Rasmussen while their officials are busy exploiting the openness of the Danish people by opening bank accounts in which to deposit their countries’ hard earned currency and their spouses making a bee-line for the most expensive shops in Copenhagen while their countrymen and women are starving back home.

As was the case with last week’s CHOGM, it is a pity that corrupt and dictatorial leaders attending this Copenhagen conference, will not avail themselves to the scrutiny of the media who would have very much liked to ask them a question or two with regard to the points made above.

At CHOGM, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd displayed what it means to be a democratically elected leader when he faced hostile questions from members of the media from his country and answered each and every question thrown at him. No leader from the developing world dared to stage a press conference in Port of Spain .

Gombya is The Black Star News' Europe Editor based in the U.K.

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