Copenhagen, Cancun, Doha… Are climate change conferences losing their relevance?

Climate change conferences are increasingly becoming a charade and losing their relevance in a world marred by recession. The environment movement that began in the 60’s and 70’s seems to be running out of steam which has serious consequences for all of us. It took Rachel Carson’s book (Silent Spring) to jolt a population in slumber and ignorant of the dangers of pollution. The environment movement can be traced back to the Stockholm conference which brought the concept of development to the forefront. Development must not be for the sake of growth and progress alone or for making the rich, richer. It should be for the sake of improving the quality of our lives and should make a meaningful positive contribution to our lives. This development for the sake of improving our environment is what sustainable development has at its core.

The concept of equity and fairness; precautionary principle; polluter pays principle are some of the core themes that have emerged from the environment movement. Equity ensures that the marginalised sections of the society are taken into account. The rich always have a voice, their concerns are always heeded to but to ensure inclusive growth, we must take into account the poorest of the poor. Fairness will be ensured when all nations get a right to develop equally without infringing upon the right to development of less affluent nations.

The developed world took advantage of liberal laws and absence of global environment treaties to pollute to its heart’s content and is responsible for the degraded environment today. To demand lesser developed nations which at present cannot afford to cut emissions is not fair. But nations such as the BRICS which are developing rapidly and increasing pollutions can be expected to shoulder some responsibility.

As I write, it is quite evident that the Kyoto protocol is not going to return in its present form. Even a withered version of Kyoto Protocol seems to be losing hope. Even though climate conferences come up with grand declarations, there is little follow up action being undertaken. There is still no consensus with regard to the funding of the climate fund promised before.

There is little consensus at present and where we go from here would depend on international consensus.  A go it alone policy for each nation is not beneficial as environment is not something that respects man made boundaries. Climate change negotiators need to keep in mind that no nation is isolated. The emissions from North can cause an Ozone hole in the south. Let us hope the Doha outcome is positive and worth writing about.


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