By Stephen Leahy
BONN, Oct 22 2014 (IPS) – The 410,000 people who took to the streets for climate action in New York City during the U.N. Climate Summit would have been outraged by the 90-minute delay and same-old political posturing at the first day of a crucial round of climate treaty negotiations in Bonn at the World Congress Center.
Countries blatantly ignored organiserspleas to keep their opening statements short in order to get to work during the last week of talks before COP 20 in Lima, Peru Dec. 1-12.
COP 20 is where a draft climate treaty intended to prevent catastrophic overheating of the planet will take form. One year later, the leaders of nearly 200 countries are to sign a new climate treaty in Paris. If the treaty is not strong enough to ensure that countries rapidly abandon fossil fuels, then hundreds of millions will suffer and nations will collapse.
The current draft treaty is nowhere near strong enough, and country negotiators are “sleepwalking”in Bonn while “the climate science only gets more dire,”Hilary Chiew from Third World Network, a civil society organisation, told negotiators here.
Delegates are used to one or two official “interventions”by the public which are strictly time-limited and often no more than 90 seconds. Despite the passion and eloquence of many of these, few officials are moved and most can do little but follow instructions given them weeks ago by their governments.
“Sticking to positions is not negotiating,”meeting co-chair Kishan Kumarsingh of Trinidad and Tobago reminded negotiators.
There are very few members of the public and civil society in Bonn to witness how many countriesstuck to their short-term, self-interested positions than in facing humanitys greatest ever challenge. After 20 years, these negotiations have become ˜business as usual themselves and seem set to continue another 20 years.
“Only a global social movement will force nations to act,”said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
Schellnhuber, a leading climate expert and former science advisor to the German government, is not in Bonn but participated in Septembers U.N. Climate Summit in New York along with leaders from 120 nations. The Summit was all rhetoric and no commitments to action, yet again, he told IPS.
Without the Peoples Climate March, the U.N. Summit was a failure, while the march “ with 410,000 people on the streets of Manhattan “ was “awesome”and “inspiring”, he said.
The two-degree C target is the only thing all nations have agreed on. Although a two-degree C rise in global temperatures is “unprecedented in human history”, it is far better than three C or worse, he said.
Achieving the two C target is still possible, according to a report by leading climate and energy experts. The Tackling the Challenge of Climate Change report outlines various steps, including increased energy efficiency in all sectors ” building retrofit’s, for example, can achieve 70-90 percent reductions.
An effective price on carbon is also needed, one that reflects the enormous health and environmental costs of burning fossil fuels. Massive increases in wind and solar PV and closing down all ineffecient coal plants is also crucial.
Most important of all, governments need to make climate a priority. Germany and Denmark are well along this path to creating low-carbon economies and benefiting from less pollution and creation of a new economic sector, the report notes.
Making climate a top priority for all governments will take a global social movement involving tens of millions of people. Once the business sector realises the transition to a low-carbon world is underway, they will push governments to create policies needed for a low-carbon societies.
“Solutions to climate change are the biggest business opportunity in history,” Schellnhuber said.