13 November 2009

underwater governance

Yes, I know I'm late talking about this. But I still want to do a post about it to highlight the significance of COP15. As you may have already read, the Maldives government had a Cabinet meeting underwater to stress the consequence of global warming. As a low lying atoll, Maldives is especially at risk due to rising sea levels. Tourism and fishing are its main economies and it is deemed a developing nation.

The consensus of who should make cuts still has not been reached. Wealthy nations say that all nations should make emission cuts whilst poorer nations say that the wealthy ones should make cuts. This was the predominant argument even during the Kyoto negotiations. President Nasheed of Maldives had already announced plans for a fund to buy a new homeland for his people if the archipelago submerged. He has also announced plans to make the islands the world's first carbon neutral nation within a decade. With his ambitious plans, he certainly puts other richer nations to shame.

I'm not entirely convinced that COP15 is the answer to the current environmental problems we are facing. It is indeed an excellent effort and if a consensus is reached, will affect a small piece of the overall picture. What countries are failing to note is that environmental responsibility can be incorporated can fall within a country's own jurisdiction. What is stopping every country from taking a proactive step forward in ensuring a decent future for its citizens? Consensus reached in COP15 is not going to affect recycling programs within a country for instance. Focus on the relatively smaller matters add up to the big picture - this is not something an international treaty can mandate.

It is also unfair that rich countries are expecting poorer countries to sacrifice their own growth. It is especially unfair that most manufacturing of consumer goods used by people in richer countries are being manufactured in the third world. This imbalance of resource use needs to be addressed. Having enjoyed the environmentally expensive comforts thus far, richer countries should now lend a helping hand to the poorer nations to improve their infrastructure and manufacturing processes in an eco-friendly manner.

This is precisely what President Nasheed and many others want from the richer nations. A leg up, to compete fairly. The third world may be poor in economic terms but in terms of indigenous knowledge and natural resources, they are blessed. They are also plagued with mis-management, corruption and poverty -- all of which are hindrances to an environmentally viable future. It will the strength of COP15 if it recognizes that the fight is not between rich vs poor but a fight towards equalization. The time has come to do away with 'us' and 'them'.

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