M. D. Nalapat
Manipal, India — Those intent on ensuring that the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is free of the worst sufferers of climate change -- the poorly-heeled participants from the developing world with the exception of a few vetted and sanitized samples -- did well to fix the venue at one of the most expensive cities in the world.Holding COP15 in Copenhagen during the Christmas season was designed to ensure that airfares were high enough to scare away almost all participants from the developing world and that the developed world got a large share -- over 80 percent -- in conference participation, which is their share in global emissions.
Naturally, almost all the designated voices at COP15 are from the developed world including the chairperson, as indeed are the overwhelming majority of those representing non-official groups.
Now that pavements in Copenhagen have been declared off-limits by the local police, and low-cost student and youth accommodation has almost entirely been taken up by visitors from developed countries, those unable to get a European Union visa or afford a two-week stay in an expensive hotel in Copenhagen are sitting at home while decisions that could cost them their lives are being taken up by opaque bodies.
The few from the poorer corners of the world who managed to arrive in the Danish capital have found to their dismay, several of their accreditations cancelled without being assigned any reason. Others have been excluded from access to the high level Plenary Room because such access is arbitrarily cut off once the capacity at the Bella Centre crosses 15,000 observers, or less than even half of the 36,000 accredited participants. Such a cutoff favors those who had the finances to come early to Copenhagen, usually groups that include an army of lobbyists for business purposes intent on harnessing the conference to their advantage.
Interestingly, organizers have told delegates that the prized "Third Level Badges” will be issued to the entire business community to access high-level segments of the conference. Such measures ensure that the rich and the business world hear the major voices of the Conference.
As Dec. 13 was a holiday at the conference, serpentine queues are likely for the photo badges when the conference restarts on Monday. For those from poorer and generally warmer countries, queuing on the uninviting streets of Copenhagen must bring home the irony of holding a conference on global warming in a city that consumes vast amounts of energy to keep the indoor population warm.
While several organizations from poorer countries run the risk of not gaining access to the more important segments of the conference, several others have found out that only one from their group would be allowed access to important discussions. This means others would have to watch the proceedings on television, defeating their purpose of traveling all the way to Copenhagen.
Such bias favoring the well heeled was not expected from a country that has an international reputation for defending human rights. This columnist has long admired Denmark because its people protected almost all their Jewish neighbors from capture by the Gestapo between 1940-1945 during World War II, something that went unrepeated - to put it mildly - in countries such as Poland, Hungary and even France.
So, it is surprising that the Danish are silently witnessing the use of their capital city to foist a carbon trading regime on the planet that would enrich only a few financial entities. Interestingly, one of the main architects of the now-infamous "Credit Default Swaps," Blythe Masters, is a key strategist in the effort to create a carbon trading market, which would legitimize pollution the way Papal indulgences legitimized excesses in the Dark Ages.
Should carbon-trading end up as the effective monopoly of the same financial entities that caused the crash of 2008 due to their greed, then creating "carbon derivatives" would also quickly result in speculators setting the price similar to oil in international markets. However, try telling that to those looking to make billions of dollars in bonuses in what is expected to balloon into a US$2 trillion market within a decade.
According to scientists at NASA, any concentration of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in excess of 350 parts per million in our atmosphere is incompatible with survival conditions on earth for civilization. That figure is now closing in on 400ppm, which means global warming will almost certainly have major effects on the planet. However, genuine remedial measures that account for the entire gamut of dangers to the climate may prevent this phenomenon from reaching levels in the next 150 years that are fatal to life on earth.
It is in such a context that some influential voices in the United States speak of climate science as being based on voodoo and have ensured that the offer presented to the world by the U.S. administration envisages a cut of only 4 percent in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels, or ten times less than what is needed to save the planet.
Of course, the U.S. record is better than Australia, a country whose prime minister never fails to remind the world that they must "do more to save the planet," yet presides over a society that is incredibly prolific in its emissions.
Are Sweden and Finland serious about saving the earth? If so, they must stop their companies from destroying vast areas of forest in order to feed the timber industry.
Is Canada serious about global warming? If it is, then it needs to look at methods of methane extraction from fuel feedstock rather than go in for production of oil from tar sands.
Does the United Kingdom want to be a global leader in the search for solutions? Then, Prime Minister Gordon Brown must stop cosseting the city of London and instead trawl the abundant brainpower of his people to find solutions that are both effective and affordable, unlike many of those now on offer.
Indeed, even if US$10 billion were made available to the poorer countries to buy expensive technologies, the running and maintenance costs of such systems would soon make mincemeat of their general budgets.
The rest of the world has gained enormously from Western ingenuity even while parts of it are choking at the emissions created within such societies. The people of Denmark need to raise their voices at Copenhagen in favor of the poorest of the poor.