The Primate Diaries


Kyoto would be replaced with a protocol run by the World Bank, says Guardian.
Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

[updated below – Update II – Update III (Thurs.)]

The Guardian newspaper last night published a leaked draft of a climate agreement entitled only Draft 271109 but known as the “Danish Text” by UN delegates in Copenhagen. The revelation has driven a wedge between rich and poor nations as the draft proposal makes significant changes to the Kyoto Protocol and would place undue pressure on developing nations who had little to no role in the climate crisis to begin with.

As The Guardian’s John Vidal reported from the UN Climate Change Conference:

The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as “the circle of commitment” – but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark – has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalised this week.

The agreement, leaked to the Guardian, is a departure from the Kyoto protocol’s principle that rich nations, which have emitted the bulk of the CO2, should take on firm and binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, while poorer nations were not compelled to act. The draft hands effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank; would abandon the Kyoto protocol – the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions; and would make any money to help poor countries adapt to climate change dependent on them taking a range of actions.

The document was described last night by one senior diplomat as “a very dangerous document for developing countries. It is a fundamental reworking of the UN balance of obligations. It is to be superimposed without discussion on the talks”.


The draft has been understood to remove the UN process from any future climate decisions and place it within a framework that benefits wealthy nations. It would further force developing nations to curb their emissions at 2.67 tons of carbon emissions per capita, while poorer countries would be limited to 1.44 tons. This would effectively stifle the growth of poor nations while allowing wealthy nations to continue their disproportionate levels of carbon pollution.

The World Bank: Serving the Interests of Wealthy Countries

The suggestion that the World Bank would be primarily responsible for managing the new climate protocol is deeply troubling. As the Council on Foreign Relations has pointed out, the Bank is strongly biased in favor of wealthy nations. While the Bank represents 186 member governments, the Bank itself is governed by a Board of Executive Directors which has only 24 members. Like any corporation, voting power is determined by shares. So, for example, because the United States is the largest shareholder, it controls 16.5% of the vote. Since any changes to the Bank’s Articles of Agreement require an 85% majority, this means that the United States has veto power over the Bank’s decisions.

The Board itself is made up almost entirely of treasury department officials from the member countries (and presumably have no background in science). The Board must approve all of the projects that the Bank finances and they are also in charge of appointing the President. The United States, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom always have one member on the Board and, in an interesting holdover to the gentlemanly days of colonialism, it is traditionally an American who serves as Bank President. The US President selects their candidate and these are usually rubber stamped into approval (in a “one hand washes the other” gesture, the International Monetary Fund is allowed to elect a European).

Climate Change Disproportionately Affects the Poor

This leaked proposal is even more imbalanced considering that it will be poor nations that are hardest hit from climate change. Consider the following:

  • A World Health Organization study calculated that 27,000 deaths from malaria in 2000 were due to climate change which has already taken place. A further 47,000 were due to diarrheal diseases and 77,000 to malnutrition.
  • The study further estimates that around 800 million people are currently at risk of hunger (or about 12% of the world’s population), and that malnutrition causes around 4 million deaths annually, almost half in Africa. Temperature rises of 2 to 3°C will increase the people at risk of hunger, potentially by 30 – 200 million.
  • The Stern Review (Ch. 3) predicts that Southern Africa and South America may have as much as a 30% decrease in annual rainfall if there is a 2°C global temperature rise and 40 – 50% for 4°C.
  • Furthermore, in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush region, meltwater from glaciers feeds seven of Asia’s largest rivers, including 70% of the summer flow in the Ganges, which provides water to around 500 million people. In China, glacial runoff provides the needs for 250 million people. Virtually all glaciers are showing substantial melting that will cause floods in the short term and droughts in the long term.
  • The World Development Movement estimates that one-sixth of the world’s population will face water shortages because of retreating glaciers and more than 200 million environmental refugees will be created by 2050 because of rising sea levels, erosion and agricultural damage.

The Economics of Climate Justice

It should go without saying that the nations primarily affected will not have the resources to manage such domestic crises. What these realities would suggest is that reparations are in order, rather than any agreement that primarily benefits wealthy nations. Ironically, these very realities make even the World Bank acknowledge the incredible imbalance. As Naomi Klein reported in November’s issue of Rolling Stone:

Justin Lin, chief economist at the World Bank, puts the equation bluntly: “About 75 to 80 percent” of the damages caused by global warming “will be suffered by developing countries, although they only contribute about one-third of greenhouse gases.”

However, according to the Financial Times, poor nations should happily accept any climate agreement the wealthy nations deign to grant them:

The poorest countries, on the other hand, have little to offer the rich nations in return. No one will bother to do bilateral deals on emissions with them, and they will be left reliant on aid programmes from the rich world to help them cope with the dangerous effects of global warming – and these countries tend to be located in the regions that will suffer worst from warming. . .

To return to the “Danish draft”, does all of this mean that developed countries are exerting pressure, financial and political, on the developing world, as some NGOs allege? Yes. That is what negotiations mean. The rich countries are demanding something in return for the dollars they are promising to spend, rather than doing what some developing countries and many NGOs demand, which is to give that money for free as “reparations” for the damage they have already done to the climate.

If you are an NGO, you might call that demand for a quid pro quo unfair and yet another example of the rich world squeezing the poor. If you are not an NGO, you might call it political realism.

What some call political realism, others call extortion. Speaking to The Guardian in Copenhagen, Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the group of 132 developing countries known as G77 plus China, stated:

This text destroys both the UN convention on climate change and the Kyoto protocol. This is aimed at producing a new treaty, a new legal initiative that throws away the basis of [differing] obligations between the poorest and most wealthy nations in the world. . . We will not walk out of the talks at this late hour, because we will not allow the failure of Copenhagen. But we will not sign an inequitable deal; we will not accept a deal that condemns 80% of the world population to further suffering and injustice.

As the UN Climate Conference heads into Day 3, it’s still an open question as to what way the talks will go. However, if past negotiations of this sort are any indication, it will take popular pressure from outside the proceedings to force wealthy nations to modify their position.

UPDATE: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon responds to the “Danish text”:

But in an important shift, Ban acknowledged that rapidly emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and Indonesia, which will be the major sources of future emissions, no longer slot neatly into the Kyoto view of the world. Kyoto divided the world into the industrialised countries, which were responsible for global warming, and the developing countries, which would suffer its worst effects.

“China, India and South Korea have made it quite clear that they will have domestic regulations,” he said. “This is quite important even if they will not be internationally bound I am sure they will be domestically bound.”

UPDATE II: The Guardian reports that the least developed nations have presented a climate protocol sponsored by the island nation of Tuvalu that challenges the wealthier developing nations (such as China, India and Saudi Arabia) to participate in deeper emissions cuts as Ban Ki-moon has suggested.

UPDATE III: The analysis that determined wealthy nations would be allowed twice the carbon pollution as developing nations has been independently confirmed (by an advisor for Shell Oil of all people).

Comments

  1. #1 Greg Laden
    December 9, 2009

    Huh. Bad. Make it go away.

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    December 9, 2009

    If I were in Copenhagen now, I’d be cashing in by making & selling Barack Obama dartboards. :-P

  3. #3 Jeremy
    December 9, 2009

    This is shoddy reporting of a non-news story.

    “It would further force developing nations to curb their emissions at 2.67 tons of carbon emissions per capita, while poorer countries would be limited to 1.44 tons.”

    I’ve read the entire draft and don’t see anything that mentions these figures or anything that could be used to calculate these figures. Where do they come from?

  4. #4 EMJ
    December 9, 2009

    Those particular numbers come from the analysis done by developing countries that were shown to the Guardian. They have been supported by David Hone, Climate Change Advisor to Shell who wrote on his blog:

    Assuming that emissions from deforestation are in developing countries and that international marine and aviation fuel use starts off largely allocated to developed countries but shifts increasingly to developing countries over 60 years, then my quick analysis shows a similar outcome – by 2050 developed country energy emissions are still nearly double per capita compared to developing countries, even though the developed countries have reduced emissions by 80%. The end result is that developing countries get a 16% increase in energy emissions by 2050 compared to 1990, but must reduce by about 45% compared to 2007 levels – and this can only happen if big reductions are made in areas such as deforestation. Hence the problem of “fairness”!

  5. #5 EMJ
    December 10, 2009

    See this post for more on the carbon pollution numbers, as well as a critique of the coverage by the Financial Times.

  6. #6 Gerard Harbison
    December 10, 2009

    The World Bank is controlled by wealthy nations because it is wealthy nations that fund the World Bank. The US has a 16.5% vote because it has subscribed that percentage of the backing of World Bank bonds since its inception.

    Personally, I’d prefer we subscribed zero dollars and got zero share, and let other governments borrow money unsecured by the US treasury.

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