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Oxfam boss writes from Copenhagen

Oxfam boss writes from Copenhagen climate change summit

Pacific Scoop

By Oxfam NZ’s Barry Coates.

Greenwash or the real deal? 
It’s crunch time in Copenhagen

The Copenhagen conference has started with the intensity and sense of importance that it deserves. Already some people are wandering around ashen faced and exhausted – and it’s day one!

Part of the reason is that the gloomy prospects of a few weeks ago have been replaced by the realisation that a global climate change deal is entirely possible. There is nothing that over 110 of the world’s most powerful men and women cannot do to agree a deal. The expectations of millions around the world will make sure that leaders come to these talks with not only a mandate but bearing the expectations of their people.

The nature of a deal is also evident. All of the elements of a fair, ambitious and binding agreement have been on the table in negotiations over the past two years. It is almost inconceivable that Heads of State will walk away from this historic opportunity to protect our planet and its people.

The danger is that they will agree only an empty statement and then claim a huge success. The greenwash monitor is on full alert – repackaging existing aid programmes and calling them climate finance; using dodgy accounting to give a misleading picture of the impact of forest sequestration; fine words with no real commitments behind them; and replacement of public funding with promises of benefits from carbon markets. These are the tactics that can be used to give leaders something to announce when there is little real substance.

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But the world is watching
Many thousands of people have come to Copenhagen to ‘keep it real’ and many more are engaged from afar. One of my passions has been to try to help bring campaigners together across nations and sectors, uniting different groups around a few key demands for climate justice. Over the past year I have been a co-Chair and then a Board member of the Global Campaign for Climate Action, which has organised the TckTckTck campaign. Today, under the TckTckTck banner, a petition was presented with a staggering 10 million signatures calling for a fair, ambitious and binding climate treaty.

And there is more good news. South Africa made an announcement providing the kind of start to climate change negotiations that the world needs. They have undertaken to reduce their carbon emissions by 34% below business as usual by 2020. This follows similar announcements from China (40-45%), India (20-25%) and Indonesia (26%).

This further nails the myth that the major developing countries aren’t taking action. Although developing countries as a whole did little to cause climate change, they are stepping up to the challenges of the future. They were only a small part of the problem but they are prepared to be a major part of the solution.

A decent proposal
The South African proposal would develop clean energy sources such as 100MW of wind power generation, 100MW of solar power generation, 1 million household solar water heaters and the scaling up of energy efficiency projects. This is a prime example of how climate finance and other support from rich countries can help developing countries to make the shift from dirty to clean energy (or to low-carbon development).

This is in a country that faces serious developmental challenges – 20% of South African households have no access to electricity and the nation accounts for 35% of all people living with HIV and AIDS.

They have made it clear that short-term promises of repackage aid commitments will not be sufficient to seal a deal. Oxfam believes that the amount of required in this long-term finance package is US$200 billion by 2020, half for adaptation and half for mitigation.

The South African announcement throws a further challenge to the rich nations. Are they prepared to honour their commitments to move fastest and furthest? Are they prepared to provide the short and long-term funding to support actions by South Africa and other developing countries? As negotiations start here in Copenhagen, the focus needs to be on the US and other rich nations. It’s their next move.

New Zealand’s role
So far the action by countries like New Zealand have not given any confidence that they will offer proposals that will support the deal. One of my roles in Copenhagen is to report on what New Zealand is doing in the negotiations. Hopefully our diplomats were around in the weekend when climate change supporters broke the world record for the biggest number of people doing a haka.

The haka was organised by our Oxfam team. This morning when I was waiting to get registered for the climate change conference for two and a half hours in the FREEZING cold with hundreds of people around me, there it was on a giant screen. It was awesome. Check it out.

So many people stopped what they were doing and watched. It was a really powerful symbol.

In the next two weeks public pressure will be crucial, in the convention centre as well as elsewhere in Copenhagen and internationally. I hope this blog might provide some insights into what’s happening. And perhaps if you’re inspired you will join in the actions to make our politicians realise that delivering the real deal is exactly what they’re elected to do. More tomorrow…


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