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From Hopeless to Hopeful

By       Message Aneel Salman     Permalink
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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H3 7/21/12

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Rio de Janeiro, the birthplace of the United Nations Earth Summit (1992) became its graveyard since it seemed as if the giant "beast' of sustainable development negotiations had come here to die with the New World Vultures smelling the wounded and circling overhead. All nations had gathered here twenty years later with a hope to inject new life into the earth summit process, but the atmosphere turned into somber acceptance and even outright grief.

"Rio will go down as the hoax summit. They came, they talked, but they failed to act. Paralyzed by inertia and in hock to vested interests, too many [world leaders] are unable to join up the dots and solve the connected crisis of environment, equality and economy." -Barbara Stocking, Chief executive of Oxfam.

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"The epic failure of Rio+20 was a reminder [that] short-term corporate profit rules over the interests of people"They spend $1 trillion a year on subsidies for fossil fuels and then tell us they don't have any money to give to sustainable development." -Daniel Mittler, Green Peace.

With another sad closure I am curious and desperate to see the outcomes of COP 18. Last year Durban was a critical turning point for the future of the climate regime. G77+China and the EU were the catalysts and restored faith among developing nations. EU's agreement to sign on to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol kept alive the only legally binding agreement on mitigation. Developed countries and biggest polluters US, Canada, Russia and Japan, did not offer anything by way of compromise. They are also not planning to join the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, some jumped KP's ship.

This time COP 18 is landing in the Islamic region and Qatar is the host. It is going to be a huge challenge, demanding not only proof of climate diplomacy and but also hospitability of the Muslim world.   The job on hand seems impossible as countries have had less than a year to prepare. But then again we had 20 years to prep for the earth summit and look how that turned out so who knows maybe things just might not go so bad. We can only hope.

There are seven negotiating tracks taking place during COP18, including adopting an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, finalizing the mandate of the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) and agreeing on a work plan and milestones under the ADP for short-term ambitions and the global deal.  

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Leaders from the global South and emerging economies need to refocus their approach towards addressing local vulnerabilities and building resilience and adaptive capacity. Countries becoming the victims of climate change need to better understand the potential scale of losses and damages and develop sophisticated methodologies to valuate them. COP 18 should also address the infusion of financial resources in the existing frameworks like Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and the Cancun Adaptation Framework, climate-proofed disaster risk reduction and create innovative incentives for mitigation and adaptation.

The COP President will be on the hot seat. He needs to employ all his political capital and diplomatic talents to reach these agreements successfully. Will he be able to simulate the conflict resolution and mediation skills as proven throughout Arab history? Time will tell. There will be no second chances, as failure of Doha will be seen not only as a failure of the climate change talks, but also that of the Muslim world. This could be the perfect time and place for all Muslim countries, especially the Arab nations to unite and show the world just how serious they are in solving the problem of climate change for present and future generations.

The write is a climate economist and author of "A Coastal Ecosystem and a People in Peril:: The Story of Keti Bunder in Pakistan"

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Aneel Salman, a Fulbright Scholar, holds a PhD in Economics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. His current areas of research include public policy, institutional governance, climate change and the Pak Afghan security nexus. He (more...)

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