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As a context to the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 1998, Weather Eye, presents excerpts from the book Rising Voices against Global Warming compiled by Azza Taalab.
The book presents a range of comments, criticisms, misgivings and hopes expressed by non-governmental organizations at the time of the Third Conference of the Parties (COP3) held in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan.
One of the most important tasks facing policy makers will be
to engage the energies of the business, industry, local governments
and the civil society. Industry leaders must adjust their investment
and marketing strategies and develop more energy-efficient vehicles,
consumer goods, and production processes. At the local government and
community level, the [Kyoto] Protocol should be seen as a harbinger of
increased pressure to make urban transport systems, public buildings,
and town planning more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
Most importantly, individual households must contribute to emissions
reduction through their powers of consumer choice and their personal
While ratification by governments is obviously essential for
the results of COP3 to take effect, it will be for non-governmental
actors, and in particular for business, to deliver the investments,
the programmes and the other actions that will lead to the limitation
and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Our business organizations believe that early and firm action
is necessary and feasible to limit climate change. There are many
technologies available today that are cost effective and whose greater
use will yield positive outcomes for the economy and the environment.
It is our opinion that solutions to the climate change challenge are
not technologically constrained but institutionally constrained.
Overcoming this requires continuing changes in economic and regulatory
Whatever agreements are reached here, business will be closely
involved in making them work. Our role in meeting the demands of an
expanding global economy is crucial in three respects: as generators
of capital investments, as producers of goods and services, and as
providers of employment. More than that: business develops much of the
technology essential to improved environmental performance. Thus, any
agreement reached here must promote innovation in technology. It must
also help business to make rational long-term decisions.
For five years we have listened to interventions from
countries explaining why they should do less and why others should do
more. For five years we have watched the fossil fuel industry
manipulate and damage these negotiations as carbon dioxide continues
to be pumped into the atmosphere. We all have been held hostage by
these special interests. Let us be clear the lobbying of
companies such as Exxon, Texaco and Mobil must not keep you from
acting responsibly and moving forward. Note that all of these
companies are from the United States. The worlds largest
polluter has the worlds most obstructive interests spending
millions of dollars to keep you from doing what they, in their heart
and soul, know is right..
Young people and youth NGOs have taken the lead in many countries in the search for new consumption and production patterns which are required to avert the disastrous consequences of climate change. Yet little progress has been made because of the failure of the richest and most powerful countries to act in the interest of present and future generations. The time since Rio has been a time of broken promises. Commitments were made to limit greenhouse gas emissions, but instead the opposite has taken place. Promises were made for new and additional resources for sustainable development, but instead we have experienced new and additional cuts. Some 85 per cent of todays youth live in the developing countries. They will be the first to suffer from the approaching disasters caused by climate change...
The single greatest threat to the global climate and survival of mankind would be the use of nuclear weapons leading to a nuclear winter. Therefore we reiterate the call for a convention on the abolition of nuclear weapons to be concluded by the year 2000... The question of climate change is fundamentally an issue of building a more just and equitable world. Without a fundamental change of course there is little hope to prevent further erosion of the global environment which is spurred by greed and shortsighted business interests...
We feel that the global public debate on climate change has
just started. It must now be vigorously pursued in all parts of the
world to generate public support for the sometimes hard and difficult
measures that are called for to safeguard our common heritage, the
atmosphere. It is our belief that young people and youth NGOs could
play a crucial role in this process.
Companies are... taking positive and responsible actions through voluntary programmes to address climate change issues. Voluntary programmes should outline actions to be taken so that results can be measured and demonstrated. These initiatives can also contribute to the development of innovative technologies and other options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Governments should be encouraged to incorporate voluntary initiatives in their national climate change policies.
Voluntary actions are most effective if they are undertaken
within a general framework developed by governments that allows
industry to contribute technological, managerial and entrepreneurial
expertise to the fullest extent. Governmental measures (e.g.
regulations, economic instruments) should not discourage voluntary and
flexible approaches and should not distort trade patterns or
The war of words that has raged for so long in the negotiations and recently in the mass media must end. But peace can only come through the signing of a strong Kyoto Protocol, that finally puts some teeth in the Convention.
We would be extremely disappointed if you, the Ministers
gathered in Kyoto, fail in this long overdue mission. We will not let
the World and your constituents forget this global failure. Let the
world judge you and hold you accountable!
The ICEM is a global labour federation consisting of 450 affiliated unions representing 20 million workers in 114 countries on all five continents...
We are the men and women who bring you the worlds energy that makes our economies run. Our members are the ones who work deep under the ground digging out coal, often, as the recent mine disaster in Russia showed once again, at great risk to their lives. They are the ones who are exposed to carcinogenic substances in the worlds chemical plants and oil refineries. They are the ones on the front lines of radiation exposure in the worlds uranium mines and nuclear power plants. They are the ones working at the natural gas wells and pipelines and in the electric power generating stations. They are the people who get up every day, work hard and play by the rules, pay the taxes that fund the governments who are represented here and, in those countries that allow people the right to vote, they are the citizens who elect you, the governments...
Simply put, without the sacrifice and hard work of our members and workers like them, society as we know it would grind to a halt. Yet, despite this fact, these negotiations have given almost no consideration to their fate and to the fate of their families and communities who depend on these jobs for their very survival...
We have a duty not to gamble with our members livelihoods and we make no apologies for defending our members jobs...
Time must be given to the developing countries to grow but to grow smartly and humanely. This protocol is as much an economic instrument, as it is an environmental instrument. As such, we must insist that social justice concerns be included, just as we would insist for any international economic treaty.
It is not sufficient for any of our economies to grow if the people at the bottom dont get the benefit from it...
The government delegates here have an awesome responsibility.
Your responsibility is both to the earth and to the people who inhabit
it. We in the trade union movement will do our part but we must be
allowed a seat at the table. We must be part of a social partnership
with industry, government, and other affected parties.
My presentation on behalf of the trade unions in the 137 countries that are members of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the written statement we have circulated focus on how a sustainable employment policy can help to build a credible international effort to reduce and arrest climate change.
Trade unions are concerned that few policy makers have considered the impact on workers and workplaces of meeting the challenges identified by the Assessment Reports of the IPCC. Working people around the world could well find themselves bearing a disproportionate share of the direct and indirect costs of either dislocation as a result of failure to arrest global warming or of large scale changes in employment structures as a result of action to reduce emissions.
Lack of research means we do not know enough about the effects on employment patterns and communities of continued climate change or of policies to counteract global warming. Precious time needed to plan for change is being lost.
Furthermore the underlying problem of the social and economic consequences of environmental policy is being ignored, thus leading to divergent views about what needs to be done and what is politically feasible...
Developing countries must be encouraged to participate in emissions reductions because firstly, their emissions are rising fast and will soon reach significant levels. And secondly, once locked into a high emissions development pattern, it becomes increasingly costly to break out of it.
As prime contributors to global warming, industrial countries have a responsibility to take the lead, both by cutting emissions and by providing financial and technical assistance. However it is vital to the development of a strong response from industrialized countries that the global dimensions of the challenge are fully recognized from the outset, by a recognition from developing countries that they too will need to join in the setting of binding targets even if they have differentiated goals and timetables...
The ICFTU, and the International Trade Secretariats like the
ICEM who are also represented here, will continue to press for an
international climate change strategy that is equitable to workers and
their communities. The disruptive and costly effects of both climate
change and measures to combat it can be reduced significantly if trade
unions are involved, through such tools as the workplace eco-audit. We
will also work to influence public policy by collaborating with other
sectors in society.
Rising Voices against Global Warming is published in French, German, Spanish and English with support from the Information Agency of the German Power Plants. It is available free with a small charge for postage: 11 Swiss Francs for European requests and 15 Swiss Francs for elsewhere, sent as an international reply coupon. To obtain the book or for further information, contact Azza Taalab at the address that follows.
Azza Taalab, 30 Avenue de Champel, 1206 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: 41-22-3461928. Email: email@example.com.